On the danger of assuming your “enemy” MUST be evil

FeindbildFormer US president Barack Obama and other left-wing personalities have negatively commented on what has come to be called “Cancel Culture”.
I believe this is an unfortunate name, as this is an umbrella term for different phenomena. Not all of them are equally problematic from a moral standpoint.

What I want to address here is the tendency of many people on the Left to believe that if someone ever said or wrote something they deem to be deeply offensive, then they can feel absolutely certain that this person is evil and wicked.
To be sure, many right-wingers reason and behave in this way too but since I’m a Socialist, I am mostly concerned by what I consider to be a very problematic and potentially dangerous attitude in my “own camp”.
Obama had this to say:

This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly.”
“The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.

There is this sense sometimes of the way of me making change is for me to be as judgemental about other people, and that’s enough“.

Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because ‘man, you see how woke I was, I called you out”.
To that, I can only loudly say “Amen!”. We do indeed live in an extremely complex world and most often lack the necessary knowledge and objectivity to understand what is truly going on and what ought to be done to rectify injustices. Given that, it’s impossible to expect that every decent human being will always agree with your most cherished ideas.

I also came across a video about Cancel Culture created by transgender woman Natalie Wynn, alias Contrapoints. She’s a radical Socialist and Leftist and one of her main goals is to counter the narrative of the far-right (including the Incel movement). And she’s also a very fair-minded person who truly tries to be objective and to understand her opponents’ viewpoints.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjMPJVmXxV8

Here are some important things she has to say:

The point is that sometimes people who seem ignorant or hateful just need to be given a non-judgemental space to learn and grow and think. And to just condemn them as hopeless bigots actually prevents that growth from happening.

She mentioned many examples of people having bigoted values who later gave them up and apologised.

Here is a touching comment someone wrote:

I’m an ex-homophobe, with this very YouTube account I’m using now I have argued in YouTube video comments about why gay marriage is bad and I’ve parroted transphobic rhetoric more than a few times. I changed because a gay man became my best friend. He wasn’t put off my my beliefs, he was simply kind. It made me see the real human beings behind what I had previously thought of as a distant abstract concept, human beings which my words and my beliefs hurt in real ways as he helped me see. Seeing how nervous he was to come out to me once we were friends made me question if I was really the good guy, and on the deepest possible level I changed. I now make a conscious effort to look different than I once did because I don’t want to be recognized as that person. I have to believe that people are redeemable because if I didn’t, what would that say about me?

She also emphasised one of the main problems of online activists: they ESSENTIALISE their “enemies”.

Essentialism is when we go from criticising a person’s actions to criticising the person themselves. We’re not just saying they did bad things. We’re saying they’re a bad person.

I had similar things in mind when I wrote the following Facebook post:

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“I’ve been watching the American culture for many years as a European Socialist outsider.
Conservative cultural warriors believe that progressive culture warriors are evil beyond measure and that you cannot have any rational conversation with them.
Progressive cultural warriors believe that conservative culture warriors are evil beyond measure and that you cannot have any rational conversation with them.
I’ve grown convinced there are good people on both sides who truly and earnestly seek to make the world a better place.
However, they badly misunderstand each other.
Most importantly, WORDS AND SENTENCES DON’T HAVE THE SAME MEANING to them.
To white Conservatives, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” means that other lives and their lives don’t matter.
To progressives, the phrase “All Lives Matter” is an outright denial of the systematic oppression black people suffer from and the consequences of historical racism.
What about using the Golden Rule and trying to first understand each other charitably before jumping to conclusions?
Instead of engaging in a productive discussion, the reflex of many online progressive activists who see this picture (showing a man with the “All Lives Matter” slogan) would be to try to contact this man’s employers to get him fired or to harm him in other ways.
I think it is utterly COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE.
Instead of improving the lives of people of colour, you’re making white people MORE racist and less likely to recognise the racial oppression black people are exposed to.
If this man had been my Facebook friend, I’d have written this to him:
“While you probably have good intentions, I think you misunderstand what the people you criticise mean by such phrases.
As a progressive socialist, I believe that #blacklivesmatter BECAUSE I believe that #alllivesmatter. If you look at the statistics, you’ll see that black people are statistically much poorer and more likely to live in bad neighbourhoods and to be arrested and killed by the police.
It seems very hard to deny this isn’t caused by the historical racism black people suffered from and compounded by the current racism they’re still exposed to. “Black lives matter” means that we ought to seriously acknowledge this and seek to change this tragic state of affairs. It doesn’t mean we should also ignore the suffering of other people. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, I also believe that poor white people have a rough life and that they ought to be helped by better-off people in a just society.”

I think that if progressives had consistently used this rhetoric, Donald Trump wouldn’t have been elected in the first place and that much more white people would recognise the reality of systematic oppression and feel less defensive while talking about race.
I can’t help but quote the words that a (probably brown-skinned) very brave and wise Jewish Palestinian prophet said 2000 years ago:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
*********************************

In one (European) progressive group, the answers were very positive.
In another (global) progressive page, the reactions were more mixed but we had some great and mutually enriching conversations.
However, in an American progressive group, the reactions were extremely negative.
I was not only told that ALL Conservatives posting “All Lives Matter” are racist and evil beyond any hope of redemption, but that I too must be racist and evil beyond measure for wanting to first give them the benefit of the doubt.

This made me realise I should have formulated and presented my ideas differently.
I originally posted a picture of the white Conservative holding the “All Lives Matter” slogan in his hands and that was bound to trigger negative feelings and thoughts.

I also came to the realisation that without intending it, I had formulated my sentences in such a way that they could sound very arrogant to outsiders not sharing my worldview.
I should have said, for example, that “without this online rhetoric, Donald Trump MIGHT NOT have been elected”, instead of confidently asserting he wouldn’t have been elected.

However, none of the answers I read convinced me rationally that I was wrong: I still believe that AT LEAST SOME people who write or say things such as “All Lives Matter” aren’t evil but just ignorant and/or irrational.
I can give you a personal example from a European standpoint.
I’m a Germanic Frenchman and one of the main important sentences of the German constitution is:
“Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar” which means in English: “Human dignity is inviolable“.

On the face of it, “Human dignity is inviolable” is very similar to “All Lives Matter” in that it is a universalistic statement including every human being. However, in Germany it is used very differently than in the US.

I recently reacted to an article describing the horrific chronic abuse of a Black German man living in Leipzig in Eastern Germany.
I wrote this as a comment (which I just translated into English):
While I believe that accusations of racism can sometimes be exaggerated, no sensible person can deny that the writer of this text has been the victim of horrible racist misdeeds which could very easily lead to a severe post-traumatic disorder.
This poor black German man has been persecuted, spat on, bullied, hated, rejected by customers at work, and harassed by white police officers just because of his skin colour.
Is it really a coincidence that the AFD (a far-right political party in Germany) is so strong in Saxony where this happened?
Because I believe that human dignity is inviolable and holy, I believe we must absolutely support this man and wage a war on racism in our midst.
For any collective silence in the face of injustice is always a grave sin“.

My post was liked by almost all left-wingers and Leftists who read it.
And yet, I used a universalistic phrase very similar to “All Lives Matter” to make my point!

If a German or a French person mostly ignorant about the current American culture war were to interact with American progressives, I could very well imagine him or her tweeting “All Lives Matter” or even “All Lives Matter, and that’s why we must fight for marginalised people!”.
It would be extremely hard for him to understand why everyone suddenly calls him a white supremacist or a bigot.
The same points can be made about Conservative or apolitical Americans: you cannot automatically assume that by “All Lives Matter”, they mean: “We know that Blacks suffer much more than Whites on average but we don’t care and don’t want to do anything for them!“.

They might, for example, live in a Conservative bubble and honestly believe the lies of Fox News and other crazy stuff such as Young Earth Creationism.

A commenter to my post made an interesting remark:

While productive conversations are possible, it is particularly difficult in this climate. There are a few things people can do to help ratchet down the vitriol, but even the best approaches are unlikely to have much effect. One possible approach is to clarify definitions. In this meme, I seriously doubt the person with the sign has the same definition of “racist” as most progressives. It would not hurt to ask him how he understands the term “Black Lives Matter.” It’s also good for him to ask those same questions of someone with whom he disagrees. Agreeing on what one is talking about is an important first (baby) step.

A thought experiment: the infinite sequence of bigotry

I want to make clear I am NOT trying to defend MYSELF against accusations of racism and white supremacy and to save my own honour here.
First of all, it’s completely impossible and pointless to prove to Internet strangers that you aren’t a racist.
Second, I know all too well my own heart. I have lots of irrational prejudices about many things that I must constantly hold in check in order not to treat some persons unfairly.
Instead, I want to criticise the very logic of the accusation because I think it can have bad real-world consequences on the interactions of people who have very different worldviews.

As I said, many folks thought not only that all Conservatives writing “All Lives Matter” are racists and white supremacists but also that I too must be a racist and a white supremacist because I am willing to first give them the benefit of the doubt and consider they acted out of ignorance or irrationality rather than malice.
Interestingly, Natalie Wynn (Contrapoints) had a similar experience she describes in the video linked above. She self-identifies as a transgender Lesbian and a woman but once had a video with an older transsexual who doesn’t identify as a woman.
Many followers of Contrapoints assumed not only that the older transsexual was a transphobic bigot but also that Natalie Wynn herself was a transphobic bigot, despite the fact she spent an enormous amount of time defending Trans Rights!

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Now comes my thought experiment.
Suppose that Person 1 says something that can be interpreted as racist.
Person 2 says: “While I believe her remark was incredibly harmful, I believe this could possibly be due to her ignorance and irrationality“.
Person 3 says: “I know that Person 1 is racist, but Person 2 might be simply ignorant or irrational instead“.
Person 4 says: “I know that Person 1 is racist and Person 2 must be racist too because she gave her the benefit of the doubt. However, Person 3 might simply be ignorant or irrational instead“.
Person 5 says: “Person 1, 2, 3 are racists, but Person 4 might simply be ignorant or irrational instead
Person 6: “Person 1, 2, 3, 4 are racists, but Person 5 might simply be ignorant or irrational instead

I think you get it now. This could go on and on until the heat death of the universe.

index

Would you say that Person 1,000,000 is every bit as racist and bigoted as Person 1?

Or would you rather say: “Person 1, 2, …, 500″ are racist and ignorant.
Person 501 could possibly be only stupid. Person 500,000 is okay, I could drink a beer with her on some occasion“.
I don’t mean this as a rhetorical question or as a “Gotcha!”.

I sincerely want to know how you would draw the line (if at all).

Can false memories explain mass sightings of the risen Christ?

Summary

It is widely recognised that the Christian religion could not have emerged without the first Christians experiencing the risen Christ after his death on the cross. These appearances are considered as hallucinations by secular scholars. Mass sightings of Jesus are problematic, however, as collective hallucinations are unknown to clinical psychologists. The world-renowned Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman proposed they can be accounted for through one person hallucinating Jesus and thereafter inducing false memories of having had the same experience in the mind of all other people present at the event. I argued that the experimental evidence presented by Ehrman is totally inadequate to show this is a plausible scenario. It is very unlikely that the testimony of the hallucinating person would be sufficient to make hundred of other persons “remember” having seen and heard Jesus if they had had no such experiences at the time of the gathering.

Introduction

Those of us who have an interest in unusual, paranormal phenomena that seem to question and event contradict the modern scientific paradigm know there are incidents where a whole group of people pretend to have witnessed something that isn’t supposed to exist.

One good example are the visions of Fatima where groups of people saw on several occasions strange phenomena they attributed to the Virgin Mary.

Fatima_Sighting

One other example of great importance to the philosophy of religion is the sightings of the risen Jesus after his humiliating death on the cross.

jesus-resurrection

According to the apostle Paul, Jesus “appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

The problem is that we have no evidence whatsoever that two (let alone 200) brains can produce the same hallucination at the same time. The corresponding psychological literature just doesn’t exist. In that case, I think that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. If collective hallucinations were real, we would have (in 2017) many reports from mental health specialists describing their occurrences in their patients.

What is more, all examples of putative mass hallucinations beg the question by assuming from the outset there are no paranormal phenomena.

 

Can a person’s hallucination create false memories in other people’s mind?

Bart Ehrman is a renowned secular Biblical scholar who aims at explaining the beginning of Christianity in purely naturalistic terms, i.e. without appealing to any miracles he views as incredibly improbable by definition.

Whilst he seemingly first defended the idea that Jesus’ apparitions were due to collective hallucinations, he backtracked from this position in a later blog post.

Instead, he proposed that such alleged mass sightings (and the reports thereof) are produced from a combination of  a single individual experiencing a hallucination with the false memories stemming from the contamination of the minds of other people who were present with him at that time.

For starters, false memories are seemingly real memories that actually do not correspond to what truly happened.

Following the great psychologist Elisabeth Loftus, I find it useful to make a distinction between “ordinary” false memories and “big” (or “radical”) false memories.

“Ordinary” false memories are basically your misremembering things about a real event without distorting its main features. Examples can concern the colour of a car that sped away from the police, the physical appearance of a rapist or having watched a movie about a real catastrophe even if you didn’t.

“Big” false memories, on the other hand, mean that you have memories about an event that never happened, neither to you nor to anyone. Examples are memories of being the victim of satanic rituals, alien abductions, or more mundanely of having been sexually abused by one’s parents even though this never happened.

false-memories

Granted, that distinction is not sharp and there is certainly a smooth transition between both categories. But I find it useful nonetheless. As I argued in another post, whilst “banal” false memories are widespread, “radical” false memories are much less likely to emerge spontaneously. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the latter are spawned by (conscious or unconscious) psychological manipulation such as the assertion by a person of authority that the event (e.g. getting lost in a mall as a child) happened and that she is in a position to know this.

Bart Ehrman’s argumentation

Bart Ehrman begins by presenting a well-known Dutch study exemplifying the emergence of spontaneous false memories.

On October 4, 1992, an El Al Boeing 707 that had just taken off from Schipfol Airport in Amsterdam lost power in two engines.  The pilot tried to return to the airport but couldn’t make it.  The plane crashed into an eleven-story apartment building in the Amsterdam suburb of Bijlmermeer.   The four crew members and thirty-nine people in the building were killed.   The crash was, understandably, the leading news story in the Netherlands for days.

Ten months later, in August 1993, Dutch psychology professor Hans Crombag and two colleagues gave a survey to 193 university professors, staff, and students in the country.  Among the questions was the following:  “Did you see the television film of the moment the plane hit the apartment building?”    In their responses 107 of those surveyed (55%) said Yes, they had seen the film.   Sometime later the researchers gave a similar survey with the same question to 93 law school students.  In this instance, 62 (66%) of the respondents indicated that they had seen the film.   There was just one problem.  There was no film.

These striking results obviously puzzled the researchers, in part because basic common sense should have told anyone that there could not have been a film.   Remember, this is 1992, before cell phone cameras.   The only way to have a film of the event would have been for a television camera crew to have trained a camera on this particular apartment building in a suburb of Amsterdam at this exact time, in expectation of an imminent crash.   And yet, between half and two-thirds of the people surveyed – most of them graduate students and professors – indicated they had seen the non-existent film.    Why would they think they had seen something that didn’t exist?

Even more puzzling were the detailed answers that some of those interviewed said about what they actually saw on the film, for example, whether the plane crashed into the building horizontally or at vertical and whether the fire caused by the plane started at impact or only later.   None of that information could have been known from a film, because there was no film.  So why did these people remember, not only seeing the crash but also details about how it happened and what happened immediately afterward?

Obviously they were imagining it, based on logical inferences (the fire must have started right away) and on what they had been told by others (the plane crashed into the building as it was heading straight down).  The psychologists argued that these people’s imaginations became so vivid, and were repeated so many times, that they eventually did not realize they were imagining something.  They thought they were remembering it.  They really thought that.   In fact they did remember it.  But it was a false memory.   Not just a false memory one of them had.   A false memory most of them had.

The researchers concluded:  “It is difficult for us to distinguish between what we have actually witnessed, and what common sense inference tells us that must also have been the case.”   In fact, commonsense inference, along with information we get by hearsay from others, together “conspire in distorting an eyewitness’s memory.”   Indeed “this is particularly easy when, as in our studies, the event is of a highly dramatic nature, which almost by necessity evokes strong and detailed visual imagery.”

plane-crash

This was a memory of a large group of people who all remember seeing the same thing (or nearly the same thing) at the same time, even though none of them saw it.  If you don’t want to call that a group vision, that’s absolutely fine with me.  What I’m saying is that a group of people thought they saw something they didn’t see.  (The difference in this example, of course, is that the people in this study were not all standing together at the time when they had the vision – but we have records of that sort of thing happening as well.)

At this point, it is important to realise that what Ehrman describes is not what I would call a “big” false memory of a totally fictional event. The plane crashing into the building and the tragic death of 39 persons certainly did occur. The test subjects’ mistake was their confusion of their imagining the accident (which they certainly did back then over and over again) with their watching a film capturing it. What is more, the false memories did not emerge spontaneously but through the deliberately misleading assertion of the researchers there was such a film.

As I said in my earlier post, I don’t actually think groups of people all at one and the same time saw Jesus after his death, any more than I think groups of people actually see the Blessed Virgin Mary at one time today.  What I think does happen is that someone has a vision (non-veridical – that is, a hallucination or, as one reader of the blog has suggested, possibly an illusion).   He tells someone else who tells someone else (e.g., someone else who was there at the time) who tells someone else, and soon they all remember seeing it.  Only one of them saw it.  But the entire group remembers seeing it.  Vividly remembers it.

Here, I think that Ehrman makes one hell of an extrapolation. The participants in the Dutch study did not remember a supernatural event that did not happen. They mistook their imaginary visualisation of a plane crash with a movie capturing the drama.

As false memory researcher Giuliana Mazzoni pointed out, the emergence of false memories depends on the initial plausibility/probability you attribute to the event.

And merely believing in the reality of a supernatural world does not suffice if you also believe that miracles happen relatively rarely.

Put it yourself to the test

To understand what I mean by that, consider the last time you participated in a party with your friends. Go to them ten months later and tell them:

Do you remember the male exhibitionist who showed us his genitals, disturbed the whole celebration and had to be driven out of the room by the security personal?”

whereas in fact there was no exhibitionist who interrupted the festivities.

How would your friends react to your assertion?

Would they spontaneously say: “Oh yeah, I do remember him! This was crazy!” ?

I bet you 1 million of Euros that virtually none of them would say this.

They wouldn’t even say: “Ah okay! Actually I don’t remember this but it’s  quite possible.

No instead, it’s very likely they would stare at you in utter disbelief and tell you: “Did you take LSD back then?” or perhaps somewhat more politely: “No, that definitely didn’t happen. You must confuse this with another party you took part in“.

Of course, all your friends believe in the existence of exhibitionists.

exhibitionist

The problem is that merely mentioning this to them does not suffice to radically change their reliable memories of the real event and they know they would remember it clearly if something that unusual had truly happened.

At this point, it is important to realise that most experiments about “big” false memories (such as those of getting lost in a mall as a small child) don’t make you radically misremember an event you really experienced but make you remember an event that never happened altogether (most often at an undetermined date).

Application to the sightings of the 500 “brothers”

Suppose that the 500 brothers (and most likely sisters) were gathered in a meadow while listening to a talented preacher. They felt deeply emotionally moved by the words he spoke. 499 of them did not experience anything supernatural and returned to their family’s homes after the end of the event. One person (perhaps with a schizoaffective disorder) sees the resurrected Jesus speaking to the crowd for 15 minutes and sharing bread with them before rising back to the clouds and disappearing.

Now suppose that this person talked to twenty of the brethren two years after the event and told them: “Do you remember that while Brother X. gave us this amazing sermon, the Lord appeared and stayed with us for more than ten minutes?“.

For the same reasons I gave above regarding the exhibitionist interrupting the party, I think it is very unlikely they would answer: “Oh yeah, that was fantastic!” or even “No, but you’re probably right”. Instead, chances are they too would stare at him in disbelief. Or they would consider he was experiencing a private revelation.

When Bart Ehrman writes: “What I think does happen is that someone has a vision (non-veridical – that is, a hallucination or, as one reader of the blog has suggested, possibly an illusion).   He tells someone else who tells someone else (e.g., someone else who was there at the time) who tells someone else, and soon they all remember seeing it.  Only one of them saw it.  But the entire group remembers seeing it.  Vividly remembers it.”

he is going far beyond what the experimental evidence warrants.

Perhaps, ten years later, some people who believed that the person’s hallucination of Jesus was a private revelation mistakenly believed that their own experience of a private revelation happened at the same time. But I consider it very unlikely that all 500 brethren would come to radically misremember the event in this way.

 

Conclusion

I am not perfect and my PhD is in chemical modelling, not cognitive psychology. Nevertheless, based on my knowledge of the appropriate literature, I consider it very unlikely that the hallucination of one person would be enough to convince 499 other ones they experienced this as well at the same time even though they actually didn’t see or hear anything.

The Dutch study quoted by Bart Ehrman is a false analogy as it concerns a source monitoring error about a real event.

To prove me wrong, you would need to show me the positive results of experiments involving a radical false claim similar to the interruption of a (real) party by an exhibitionist who had to be driven out of the room. I strongly doubt this is possible.

That said, it is quite possible that false memories played some role in the emergence of the Christian religion. But there are limits to such explanations.

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

The reincarnation of a WW2 pilot?

Summary

The case of the alleged reincarnation of James Houston Junior, an American pilot being shot down in Japan during WWII, is often seen as the strongest evidence for reincarnation. In this long article, I investigated this claim. While many putative pieces of evidence can have come about through foreknowledge, leading questions and false memories, there are a number of inconvenient facts that remain. Whilst they aren’t sufficient for proving reincarnation, they certainly make this case anomalous.

Introduction

If any alleged case of reincarnation proved to be genuine, both Christianity and Naturalism might be gravely undermined.

In what follows, I sought to investigate one famous such incidents with the mind of an open sceptic, i.e. someone who carefully investigates the evidence without having a prior belief in the plausibility or implausibility of the phenomenon.

A good summary of the peculiar story involving James Leininger and his parents Bruce and Andrea can be found here.

This is an interview of the parents.

Psychologist Dr. Jim Tucker wrote a concise report here.

I base my analysis of the facts on the book “Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot” written by Bruce and Andrea Leininger, while, of course, considering the possibility they might misremember some things or get certain facts wrong.

I’ll start by quoting the “explanation” of two naturalistic philosophers John Martin Fischer and Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin in their book “Near-Death Experiences: Understanding Our Visions of the Afterlife

Unlike Internet Sceptics, they are moderate and respectful and their text is a pleasant read.

They start by summarising the case:

“At the age of two, James Leininger began having frightening dreams that caused him to yell out and to kick, and claw in his sleep.
He’d dream that he crashed in an air-plane and was trying to escape. The details James shared about these dreams were astonishing. He demonstrated encyclopaedic knowledge about World War II aircraft, and he recounted facts about a particular aircraft carrier, the Natoma Bay, and its flight crew, including naming a fellow pilot, Jack Larsen.
Jame’s fascination with these aircraft and events in the war was not confined to his dreams. He drew pictures, acted out scenes, and talked frankly and in great detail about the battle of Iwo Jima. He signed his pictures “James 3” because he was, in his words, “the third James.”
As Jame’s parents began looking more deeply into their son’s behaviour and interest in the war, they noticed some astonishing coincidences. The details young James was relating matched historical facts. The Natoma Bay was an actual ship that fought in the battle of Iwo Jima. The names of people James talked about in his dreams were members of the flight crew on that ship. One of the pilot shot down had been named James. They began to suspect that their son might be the reincarnation of that pilot. With the help of Carol Bowman, a therapist known for her work on cases of reincarnation in young children, the Leiningers began to listen empathetically to their son. What they saw and heard in his words and behaviour only further supported their suspicion. They became convinced, even if reluctantly in the case of Jame’s father, that their son had lived a past life as James Huston, who was shot down in his plane over the Pacific during the battle of Iwo Jima.
This brief synopsis should be enough to give you a sense of why many have thought that the best explanation of Jame Leninger’s dreams and behaviour is that his is a case of reincarnation. This was a very young child demonstrating a fascination with certain kinds of aircraft and an apparent knowledge of particular historical people and events in ways that suggested that he was personally and deeply attached to them. It will come as no surprise, we’re sure, to learn that we are not convinced by the reincarnation hypothesis. It may be one possible explanation of things, but it is not an especially compelling explanation. This becomes clear once we take account of the full range of factors, including both details of James Leininger’s life and the overall explanatory context.

First of all, a young boy’s fascination with airplanes, even airplanes of a very particular make and model, should strike no one as remarkable in the least.
In general, and as every parent knows, young children become obsessed with people, places, and things. Often, these obsessions are often explained by exposure to the person or things…But sometimes, these obsessions should seem to come out of the blue. It would be rash, however, to claim that just because one cannot understand how a child came to be fixated on something, the explanation must be supernatural. It is better to think, instead, that one has simply missed or forgotten something relevant to explaining how the obsession began.
Jame Leininger’s obsession with WWII airplanes may strike one as an outlier, perhaps, because it is coupled with extensive knowledge of facts about both the aircraft and historical people and events. But before we jump to the conclusion that the best way to explain what is going on here is to appeal to reincarnation, we should consider whether there are any promising avenues for explaining things by more conventional means. And there does seem to be some possibilities here.

Consider the fact that the Leiningers visited a flight museum when James was eighteen months old. During their visit, James walked around the very type of planes he later claimed to have been flying in his dreams, Corsairs. His parents have even claimed that he looked like he was conducting a flight check. Noting this detail about James’ life seems like a promising start for providing an explanation of his obsession with ww2 aircraft, and his fixation on Corsairs in particular. By all accounts, James was a very bright child. It is possible that a bright 18-month-old could absorb many details at the air museum, especially in conjunction with listening to his parents or tour guides or others discussing the displays. James may not have had the ability at 18 months to put these experiences into words and express them verbally, but many of the details might have registered. Later, when he developed the capacity to verbalise, James would have been able to express the information that had registered earlier. We can thus begin to make sense of why James Leininger was so obsessed with World War II aircraft and how he knew what seemed like an uncanny amount about them. And we can do so without appealing to anything supernatural.

Even if James Leininger’s detailed knowledge of WW2 aircraft were to be explained in this way, it may still seem as though the case presents a serious puzzle. How could James have known the names of the people he recounted as being there within his dreams?

We are not at all sure how the explanation of these facts is supposed to go.
But it does seem possible to explain them without invoking reincarnation. Perhaps James heard these names somewhere. Maybe they were mentioned in a television program he saw (the Leiningers admit to conversing with James about a television program on World War II aircraft on the History Channel) or a book or museum panel someone (perhaps his parents) read to him. Perhaps his parents mentioned them in conversations at home. Children are incredibly perceptive, and their memories often outstrip those of adults. Given that he was obsessed with WWII aircraft, it’d be no surprise if James soaked up titbits of information that went in one ear and out the other for those less intent on the subject.

Once his parents and other adults began to ask him about these things, it would not be surprising if Jame’s interest in them increased. He may even have begun to seek out more information about these matters out of a desire to please his parents or other authority figures, such as Carol Bowman and Jim Tucker (another expert on reincarnation), who interviewed him in relation to the possibility that he was reincarnated.
The presence and interests of these people would be powerful influences on a young person at an age when the desire to please an adult authority figure is great. So there might have been a symbiosis between young Jame’s desire to please and his parents’ and certain researchers’ beliefs and prior assumptions about what was happening in his case. This could have led to Jame’s telling a story that suggested he was reincarnated, when in fact he was not.
Indeed, it would not be surprising if James Leininger came to “remember” events from a past life due to repeated, and possibly leading, questioning from his parents and other adults. It is a commonplace that the testimony of children is quite suggestible, and three- and four-year-olds have been shown to be more suggestible than even five- and six-year-olds.
Among the factors thought to explain the phenomenon of suggestibility in children are, first, that their memories are not as firmly implanted as those in older people and, second, that the mechanism for protecting and monitoring memories against suggestive intrusions are not as robust in young children as in older people. If James was repeatedly questioned about his dreams and his claims about a past life, especially by people who were themselves of the opinion that he had a past life, it would be consistent with psychologists’ understanding of how memory works in young children to suppose that he came to falsely remember and report various facts and events..

We stress that we do not take ourselves to have provided adequate explanation of the Leininger case. That is not our aim. What we hope to have done is to have shown how the approach we’ve been sketching in this book may be applied to this case.
*******************

Now, the authors themselves admit it is hard to account for the specific details given by James.

Systematic investigation of the case

In what follows, I shall examine different elements that have been claimed to show that James had memories of a past life.

At two-year of age, James was described as being “the centrepiece of a loving family of three living on the soft coastal plane of southern Louisiana” and Andrea’s “first and only child”.

But Bruce Leininger had four children from a previous marriage.
They didn’t live with James’ half-siblings so that the latter could hardly have contaminated their little brother’s memories.

Natoma’s bay

We know that the parents hadn’t consciously heard of “Natoma” before and that the father had to search the Internet for that name before finding it.

How likely is that little James took in the name “Natoma Bay” while visiting the Cavanaugh Flight Museum when he was 18 months-old?

USS_Natoma_Bay_(CVE-62)_at_Tulagi_on_8_April_1944_(80-G-235018)

Before 2001, there is only one obscure book “USS Natoma Bay (CVE 62), VC 63, VC 81, VC9” written by the “Natoma Bay Association” dedicated to the plane carrier.

Otherwise, the boat is only mentioned in one or two lines of books dealing with WW2 planes.

In the great scheme of things, the Natoma Bay was really insignificant so far as the description of WW2 history was concerned.

Could “Natoma Bay” have been mentioned in a TV show James listened to and the parents overlooked?

As the carrier was far from being famous and only mentioned in very specialised books for historians, this is  implausible. If the Natoma Bay was noteworthy enough to be mentioned in a TV show, it would play a significant role in books.  I am open to challenges if some reader can found documentaries where it is mentioned.

Now what about the possibility that Natoma Bay was part of the WW2 aircraft show?
This cannot be dismissed out of hand as the Cavanaugh Flight Museum mentions an equally (and perhaps even more) obscure aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Cape Glouchester.

That said, we must bear in mind the fact that James was 18 months old back then. What is the statistical probability that a kid of that age would be able to grasp concepts such as the fact that an aircraft has to take off from a big ship?

I think that if you take many children of that age and send them to an aviation museum also dealing with World War II, only a small (if not very small) number of them will take in the name “Natoma” and correctly consider it an aircraft carrier.

It follows from all of this that it is rather unlikely that James would have come up with the aircraft carrier Natoma.

Jack Larsen

The next puzzle concerns “Jack Larsen”. Of course, James had no idea that there was a “Jack Larsen” on the “Natoma Bay” and neither had his parents at first.

As Larsen was still alive and wasn’t famous in the least, it’s extremely unlikely he would have been mentioned in the museum, in a documentary or in any common book.

The probability of correctly identifying Jack Larsen depends entirely on the ease with which James would come up with such a name (or unconsciously absorb it into his memory).

If a close friend of the parents was named “Larsen” or “Larson”, they would most likely have mentioned it in the book.

Let us now assume that the probability that James would absorb the name “Jack Larsen” equals its frequency in the American population. “Larson” and “Larsen” are the family names of 0.065% of all Americans. If we assume that 10% of all those Larson/Larsen are called “Jack”, we find a relative frequency of 0.0065%, i.e. 6.5E-05.

Jame’s “finding” Jack Larsen is not beyond the reach of chance but it isn’t an easy guess either.

I found out that there is a rather famous Jack Larson who recently passed away. He played the role of cub reporter Jimmy Olsen on The Adventures of Superman. But he wasn’t such a celebrity as Clark Kent (the actor of Superman), either. Since little James couldn’t read anything at that age, he must have somehow heard the name.

The probability of his choosing the name could be approximated as p(hearing)*p(choosing|heard), that is the probability of his hearing the name and of choosing it out of the names he heard.

 

It is possible but quite unlikely he would have listened to an interview of Jack Larsen while his parents were watching TV and picked up the name.

 

 

 

James’ GI Joes.

Jamees had three GI Joes with peculiar names.
“Hey, how come you named your GI Joes, Billy and Leon and Walter?”

Bruce’s parents knew no Leon and Walter.

“Because that’s who met me when I got to heaven.” James answered.

Then he turned and went back to play.

Bruce snatched a piece of paper and read it. He read it again but couldn’t bring himself to say what was on his mind.

He was holding the list of names of the men who were killed aboard Natoma Bay. He handled it to Andrea. On the list were James M. Huston Jr., Billy Peeler, Leon Conner, and Walter Devlin. Bruce gave her a flat look, then started shuffling and tossing papers around again. He had files with dates and details and could conjure up the records in a flash.
“They were all in the same squadron”, Bruce said. “VC-81.”

The three men were already dead when James Huston was killed.

Leon had blond hair exactly like James’ namesake GI Joe according to his cousin Gwen.
“He was an ideal boy: six feet tall, blond, blue-eyed, a football star who also played the violin.”

The final action figure [Walter] had auburn, almost red hair.

He was described as “Irish, with all that big red hair.”

The action Figure Billy himself was Brown-haired as Billy Peeler based on his photo.

Little James had no plausible way to find these names and these pieces information.

Could it be that James read the names in his father’s documents?

Since the father only got the list of the names of those killed in Natoma Bay after that James got the two first G.I Joes, this cannot explain how he chose “Billy” and “Leon”.

He baptised his third G.I. Joe “Walter” as he was fourth-year-old, at an age he wasn’t supposed to be able to read. It is possible but unlikely he looked into his father’s belongings, found the document, read and was able to understand it and picked out the name.

It is also very unlikely that the father would have read the names aloud and forgot about it.

Given that, it is a fair bet to suppose that James must have guessed the name by chance.

What is the probability of this occurring?

Once again, we have no better choice than to  assume that the probability of choosing a name equals the relative frequency of the name in the American population.

The proportions of Walters, Leons  and Billies (William) are 1.3374E-04, 4.615E-05 and 8.8894E-04. The probability of giving them the right hair colour equals 1/(3*2)  = 1/6.

Overall, the probability is equal to 9.15E-13.

If these were nothing more than false memories, it is very astounding that James correctly found these names along with the right hair colours.

Given that only 21 men attached to the Natoma Bay died, this is really a remarkable match.

James Huston Junior’s sister Annie

Andrea Leininger discovered that James Huston had two sisters, Anne and Ruth, through the census record. Later on, Andrea contacted one of Houson’s cousin’s Jean who confirmed he had an older sister named Ruth who died and a sister Anne who was still alive.

James’ place in the family

James correctly called James Huston Junior’s sister “Annie”, as only her brother called her that way.

He told Andrea that he had another sister, Ruth. Only he pronounced it “Roof”. She was four years older than Annie and Annie was four years older than James. When Andrea checked with Anne Barron, she said it was all accurate. Ruth was the oldest by four years, James the youngest by four years”.

Of course, this relies on Anne’s memory but the year of birth of one’s sibling is something almost all of us remember very well.

James’ knowing the name of the older sister Ruth might be attributed to sensory clues, namely to his overhearing the mother’s phone conversations but this is by no means certain.

We might further speculate that James’ Huston’s cousin Jean mentioned the year gaps between the siblings on the phone while the loudspeaker was activated but that doesn’t seem very likely.

Personal detail about the Huston’s family life

Things get a bit more ambiguous here.

We read: “Five-year-old James knew about their father’s alcoholism. He knew all the family secrets with a familiar intimacy.”

Here, we might envision that “Annie” asked leading questions to James.

“For instance, James recalled in surprising detail when his father’s alcoholism got so bad that he smashed things and had to go into rehab, he knew all about that”.

On the other hand, it also seems unlikely that Anne would herself take the initiative to mention such traumatising details to a five-year-old boy.

According to Jim Tucker, James already spoke of the alcoholism of his “father” when his real mother Andrea entered into his room with a glass of wine.

Given that, it appears likely that James did recall such details on his own, but this isn’t very evidential as this cannot be strictly shown.

James 3

James signed some of his drawing “James 3“. When he was asked why he signed them “James 3“, he said simply “Because I am the third James. I am James 3“.

If the parents recalled correctly, this would be a remarkable coincidence as the other James was James Houston Jr.

However, they might also have unconsciously put this into their son’s mouth in hindsight but that doesn’t seem very likely.

According to Jim Tucker, James continued to produce the same drawing even when he was four-years-old.

Bob Greenwalt

Bruce brought James to a meeting of the veterans of the Natoma Bay.

The man looked down at James and asked in a hearty, robust voice,
“Do you know who I am?”
James looked him in the eye, thought for a second, and replied,
“You’re Bob Greenwalt.”

“How did you know that?” asked Bruce.
“I recognised his voice,” he told his father.

Now, if James had never heard the name “Bob Greenwalt”, this fact alone would strongly point toward a paranormal phenomenon.
But is this the case?

No.

One night, Andrea received a call from Bob Greenwalt she transferred to Bruce.
“A Bob Greenwalt want to talk with you” she said.
“I know who Bob Greenwalt was…” answered Bruce.

It cannot be conclusively ruled out that James heard half-consciously the name and some strong features of the voice because the mother might have activated the loud speaker.

Prenatal choice of his parents

One of the most puzzling episode concerns little James “choosing” his parents shortly before his birth.

“One day, after raking leaves together, Bruce told James how happy he was to have him as a son. James replied, “That’s why I picked you; I know you would be a good daddy.” Bruce did not understand. James continued:

When I found you and Mommy, I knew you would be good to me.”

“Where did you find us?”

“Hawaii. . . . I found you at the big pink hotel. . . . I found you on the beach. You were eating dinner at night.”

Bruce was dumbfounded. In 1977, Bruce and Andrew indeed went to Hawaii and stayed at the Royal Hawaii, a pink hotel on Waikiki beach. On the last evening, they had a moonlight dinner at the beach. Five weeks later, Andrea became pregnant with James.”

We cannot entirely rule out the possibility that James saw the picture of the pink hotel and of the dinner at the beach somewhere in the house.

This doesn’t appear particularly likely because the parents would have remembered the pictures but this cannot be dismissed out of hand either.

Misidentification of the corsair

We now finally come to the only argument AGAINST the reincarnation hypothesis.

An exception was that Huston was shot down in a FM2 Wildcat, not a Corsair: veterans could recall no Corsairs on Natoma Bay. Nor could the details of James’s account of the plane being shot down be confirmed. However, a visit to Huston’s sister Anne Barron uncovered a photograph of Huston standing in front of a Corsair, confirming that at one time he flew this aircraft.

But even if James Leininger was really the reincarnation of James Huston Jr., we don’t have to expect that his memories would always be clear and precise.

What is more, Tucker contacted the Cavanaugh Flight Museum and learned that it had no Corsair on display between 1999 and 2003, the time period of James’s first two visits, so that this description cannot come from his early visit to the museum.

Under the hypothesis of reincarnation, it is not unreasonable to believe that James could confuse the plane he died in with a plane he was also familiar with and was proud to fly, as a photo revealed.

Battle of Iwo Jima

Iwo-Jima

As the battle of Iwo Jima was very famous, it is not astounding that James Leiniger would be exposed to it or claimed he had died there.

That said, it is certainly curious that the only member of the Natoma Bay who died there was James Huston Jr.

Conclusion

The James Leininger’s putative reincarnation case is a complex one.

Many elements can be well explained through foreknowledge, suggestion and false memories.

It is, for example, conceivable that James was able to correctly identify Bob Greenwalt’s voice and describe his parents’ evening at Hawaii before his birth thanks to sensory clues and foreknowledge.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that little James would have come up with “Natoma” as that ship was rather insignificant and hardly mentioned to the general public. It is rather unlikely he would, by chance, utter the uncommon name “Jack Larsen” who appears to be a member of that very ship’s crew. It is unlikely he would have christened his three GI Joes according to the names and appearances of his real colleagues Billy, Walter and Leon while remembering having seen them in Heaven and it is really dubious he could have gleaned that information by sneaking into his father’s documents.

In light of this, other less evidential elements (such as James’s mentioning the alcoholism of his former “father” to Annie, his remembering his former sister Ruth, “James 3”, his death at the battle of Iwo Jima and his seeing his parent before his birth ) reinforce the credibility of the case.

Does that mean we must believe in the reality of reincarnation?
No. Unlikely combinations of events are bound to happen according to the law of large numbers. And if that proves to be insufficient, information gain through parapsychological means is (at least) as good a paranormal explanation as the reincarnation hypothesis.

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Turning machines into angels

Okay, this isn’t gonna be a deep philosophical analysis of the problem but the very first poem I wrote in English 🙂

Lost wanderer by firepaved

Take heart, hopeless wanderer!
Before your eyes are so many wonders.

You’ve been living like a worthless worm for all these years
But you shall die like a god when everything is made clear.

The feeling of your breath through your nostrils can only be a divine gift
The atoms dancing around in your head could never bring about your bliss.

You cannot know if the world you’ve been so assiduously studying is real.
But there can be no such doubt about the pain of your heart you constantly feel.

So are you an obsolete machine that will trail off into nothingness?
Or are you an amnesiac angel that shall at last experience fullness?

 

Copyright Lotharson 2017.

 

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Healing from toxic group thinking

I recently stumbled across an article written by Establishment Liberals.

images

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Everyday Feminism presents:

Healing from Toxic Whiteness 

~ an online training program for white people commited to racial justice ~

If there was ever a time in recent history for white people to take action to end racism, this is it.  

Trump’s presidency has shaken white people’s understanding of racism to its core. It’s revealed what many people of color have known and been naming for generations – that the US has deeply normalized white supremacy and is built on a foundation of systemic oppression.

As a white person dedicated to social justice, you knew how racist Trump’s campaign was – but perhaps you didn’t know how capable so many white people, perhaps including your own family and friends, were of electing him.

You may be finding yourself coming to terms with just how prevalent and harmful white supremacy is – and how your white privilege has kept you ignorant and in denial of this reality in the first place.  

So with Trump’s policies starting to roll out, you know you want to be fighting alongside people of color. But you also know that you may feel frozen in place by the feelings of shock, confusion, denial, and guilt that many white people have been dealing with since the election.

It’s understandable for white people to have those feelings as they begin to notice we don’t live in a post-racial society as we’ve been taught and how pervasive systemic racism actually is. 

You just don’t want those feelings to stop you from taking action. 

This starts with not running away from the racism that exists both within yourself and your communities. Instead, it means acknowledging it – and that is a painful process. 

With our unique Compassionate Activism approach, you can learn how to hold that pain of racism in a way that’s healing and comes from a place of love and justice. 

That way, you become increasingly free to take action against white supremacy – from a sense of wholeness and shared humanity.

Once you notice just how insidious and ingrained racism really is – and how often you find yourself unintentionally upholding it – it can feel like your whole worldview is being shaken.  

As you think about what you personally can do to address racism, you may find yourself wrestling with questions like:  

  • How can I make sure I don’t accidentally say something that’s racist and hurts people I care about? 
  • I know I need to speak up against racism more, but when does speaking up cross the line into speaking over people of color? 
  • What do I do when I discover I’ve been subconsciously stereotyping and judging people of color?
  • I feel so guilty about having white privilege, but am I really willing to give up that privilege? Do I even know what that means? 
  • How can I figure out what I should be doing to fight racism without burdening people of color by constantly asking them what I should do? 
  • How do I deal with the fact that I’m scared to talk to other white people about racism when they often get really angry at me?

 

Once you notice just how insidious and ingrained racism really is – and how often you find yourself unintentionally upholding it – it can feel like your whole worldview is being shaken.  

As you think about what you personally can do to address racism, you may find yourself wrestling with questions like:  

  • How can I make sure I don’t accidentally say something that’s racist and hurts people I care about? 
  • I know I need to speak up against racism more, but when does speaking up cross the line into speaking over people of color? 
  • What do I do when I discover I’ve been subconsciously stereotyping and judging people of color?
  • I feel so guilty about having white privilege, but am I really willing to give up that privilege? Do I even know what that means? 
  • How can I figure out what I should be doing to fight racism without burdening people of color by constantly asking them what I should do? 
  • How do I deal with the fact that I’m scared to talk to other white people about racism when they often get really angry at me?

 

or white people to truly engage in anti-racism work, they must first engage with their unconscious conditioning to think and act in racist ways.

This is often the first obstacle in approaching this work – and because it is so normalized and insidious, it can feel insurmountable. 

While white people are not inherently or inevitably racist, they are all raised in societies built on systemic racism and have been bombarded since birth with conflicting messages that teach them to: 

  • Think and act in racist ways that personally benefit them at the expense of communities of color 
  • View these racist behaviors as either racially neutral or even actively anti-racist (like being “colorblind”) 
  • Believe that since they don’t personally benefit or intentionally engage in racism, they have no personal responsibility to do anything to end it 
  • Not notice how our society is structured so that white people are seen as full human beings and treated as “normal,” while people of color are seen as stereotypes and treated as less then
  • Believe that being racist is one of the worst things you can be, in order to scare them from acknowleding the racism inside of them

This means the question needs to shift from “Am I a racist?” to “How will I work towards undoing the racism I was raised with and have internalized?” 

Because while we’d all love it if we could jump from being raised in a deeply racist society to becoming completely anti-racist, it doesn’t work like that.  

The desire to not be racist is not enough, by itself, to stop someone from being racist. 

By becoming conscious of your own conditioning, you will be able to choose whether or not to continue to do as you’ve been taught, or to act in accordance with your values of justice and humanity.  

This can be a painful and disruptive process – but the only way out is through.

***************************************

I hardly know where to begin with.

1) How do you DEFINE “white supremacism”?

Is it the will to uphold a privileged place for white people?

If so, many (and probably most) electors of Trump aren’t white supremacists as they have nothing against blacks sharing their worldview (such as Ben Carson) being in a position of power. Actually, most of Ben Carson’s electors voted for Trump.

2) That sounds like preaching to the convert to me. To an outsider like myself, this rings as weird as the proclamation of a fundamentalist preacher. Basically, Establishment Liberalism has all the hallmarks of a dogmatic religion.

3) All the racist attitudes she describes can also stem from blacks and latinos. You cannot fight white racism while tolerating or promoting a racist mindset among other ethnic groups. We should all refrain from depriving other people of their individuality because of their ethnicity.

4) It is true that we all have unholy prejudices against other people, even if we don’t want to.
But there is no evidence that it is systematically directed towards black and brown people.
In France, many people who passionately hate Muslims would have no problem hiring a black Christian or secular woman.

5) “Not notice how our society is structured so that white people are seen as full human beings and treated as “normal,” while people of color are seen as stereotypes and treated as less then

This was entirely true at the time of Dr. Martin Luther King. But nowadays, I think that many upper-class and middle-class black people are treated like their white counterparts.

6) Many white people are “defensive” because we have the feeling that we are unfairly SINGLED OUT as the worst type of human beings and that we can never be the victims of oppression.
What about the holocaust where 6 millions of white people were butchered by other white people?
It is extremely frustrating that these Establishment Feminists ignore the Arab slave trade against black Africans and white Europeans which was very soon associated with systematic racism.

arab-slave-trade
What about the genocide of the Indo-European Arminians by the Turks?

I totally support an anti-racism which fights both the prejudices of whites and non-whites.

7) What about other causes of oppression such as poverty and mental health problems which affect whites and non-whites alike? Why is it that Establishment Liberals almost never say anything against that?

One likely explanation is that they are the USEFUL IDIOTS of corrupt oligarchs who want to uphold their economic privileges.

8) I’d be truly delighted if social justice warriors reading that were to call me a “white supremacist” or even “neo-nazi”.

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Can we define the truth of materialism?

In a previous post, I explained why I believe that materialism (the belief that matter is the only reality) cannot make sense of the truth of materialism.

The Red Spider Nebula: Surfing in Sagittarius - not for the faint-hearted!

My reasoning was hard to follow and this prompted me to try to reformulate my argument.

Platonism and Nominalism

According to Platonism, abstract objects not existing in space and time (such as numbers, mathematical operations, concepts such as “everything“, “nothing” etc.) are real and  necessary to talk about the world.

For instance, while considering the sentence

All roses in my garden are red

rosengarten-seppenrade

a Platonist will consider the words “all” and “red” as examples of abstract objects (or universals) which determine its truth or falsehood.

A Nominalist rejects the existence of abstract objects which are considered to be useful human conventions.

According to them, the above sentence can be rephrased as

“Rose number 1, 2, 3…. and N have roughly the same colour as tomatoes”

thereby seemingly doing away with the indispensability of abstract concepts.

It is important to realise that the plausibility of Nominalism stands and falls with its ability to reformulate such statements without the use of any abstract objects.

If abstract objects can be shown to be indispensable to give a meaning to a true sentence describing the real world, Nominalism is false.

What is the truth of materialism?

Materialists MUST be Nominalists as they reject the existence of anything not located in space and time.

At face value, the truth of materialism can be expressed in different equivalent ways:
Everything is material
There is nothing immaterial
If (any object)* A exists, A is material

If (any object)* A is real, A is material“.
…………..
But is there a way to formulate this proposition without (explicitly and implicitly) appealing to any abstract entities?

It seems to me that in that specific context, all words I have underlined are abstract entities or require the meaning of abstract entities such as existence.

The sentences “there exists no such thing as the concept of existence” or “the concept of reality is not real” appear self-contradictory to me.

Note that I am not saying that the underlined words cannot be interpreted nominallistically in other situations.

But here it seems impossible to me to express the truth of materialism while only appealing to material entities.

If I’m right about that, whenever we assert the truth of materialism, we must resort to non-material concepts. In other words, if the truth of materialism is meaningful, non-material concepts must be meaningful as well.

Conversely, if non-material concepts are meaningless, so is the truth of materialism.

Another way of looking at this is to consider the  truth-value of  materialism, that is to say the state of affairs of the world that would make it true.

Suppose that 2 billions years later, our highly advanced descendants feel confident that they know everything that exists.

Would the state of affairs corresponding to materialism simply be: “Object 1 is material, object 2 is material…object N is material“?

No, for it must also include “And objects 1 to N are everything that exists” or ‘”there is nothing else than objects 1 to N”.

It thus appears that as an ensemble, objects 1 to N must have a non-material property (namely that of exhaustiveness) that is not localised in time and space and cannot be identified with any set of interacting primary particles.

Therefore, the impossibility of defining materialism without relying on immaterial concepts goes hand in hand with the impossibility of it being true.

The Cosmos of materialists
The cosmos in a nutshell. Materialism implies BOTH that the entities in the oval are material and that the oval is all there is. This property of the oval is non-physical in that it cannot be localised in time and space.

I’d be interested to learn if you think I’m wrong and that you know such formulations which do not merely shift the problem. Of course, one solution of the issue might be to use more modest definitions of materialism that do not try to convey the idea of “nothing else”.

Footnotes

*Some might object that the sentence

If (any object) A is real, A is material

can simply be formulated as

If A is real, A is material.

This clearly raises questions about the implicit meaning of A.

The sentences

If love exists, love is material

If telepathy exists, telepathy is material

can obviously  not serve as the definition of materialism, although they naturally follow from its truth.

Nor can this role be played by the sentence

If Lyurmur exists, it is material

which concerns a specific entity called “Lyurmur“.

It is because of mathematical conventions and our use to them that we automatically assume that “A” in the original sentence means “any object having that property“.

It thus follows that we cannot do away with that concept in such a manner.

Objections

A creation of human brains

Someone answered that this isn’t a problem as “everything” can be viewed as an abstraction created by human brains.

If that is the case, without conscious lives in the cosmos, materialism couldn’t be true! Materialism would be a fact of the external world that would not be true if there were no consciousness. That’s certainly a very odd position to hold. Many would say it is plainly absurd as one of the main claims of materialism is the denial that consciousness is anything fundamental.
Moreover, if the concept of “everything” is only a useful convention to simplify our daily talks and theory building, then what does it mean in such a situation where it cannot be reduced to anything else?
I think that the following argument can be developed:
***********************************************************************************************
1) If the sentence M “everything is material” is true, then the concept of “everything” must exist either as such or as something reducible to other concepts or objects and not *merely* as a creation of the brain.
2) In that specific context, “everything” cannot be reduced to more fundamental objects.
3) Hence, if M (materialism) is true, “everything” exists as a fundamental object.
***********************************************************************************************
I have argued for 2) above and believe it is very implausible that anyone could reduce “everything” to something more fundamental and do away with abstract objects.
I shall thus take it for granted.
Denying 1) would mean that “A is…” can be true even though A does not carry any external meaning and is only correlated to a bunch of neurons. That too seems very implausible as the proposition “The fountain of youth is material” and “The fountain of youth is immaterial” are both false if the fountain of youth does not refer to a putative object.
Consequently, it is very hard to see how a materialist can consider that “everything” is nothing more than neural currents without meaning while believing that the sentence “everything is material” is true.
Not a noun?
Another person asserted that “everything is material” is perfectly fine for a materialist as “everything” is a pronoun and not a noun. I don’t think this is the case.

For an abstract object not existing in time and space does not have to be a noun in a specific language.
Consider for example the sentences:
0 roses are red
3 roses are red
7 roses are red
9 roses are red
NO rose is red.
ALL roses are red
EVERY roses are red.

“No”,”All” and “every” are as much abstract objects as “3”, “7” and “9” are.
If “0”, “3”, “7”, “9” have no meaning, neither do the four first sentences.
If “no”, “all” and “every” have no meaning, neither do the three last sentences.

“all” and “every” depend on the concepts of everything in the same way as “something” depends on the concept of something.

The sentence “Fijhfhdfgx is blue” is meaningless without a concept of “Fijhfhdfgx“.

What is more, everything in that context can only mean “every OBJECT” as opposed to “every pineapple or “every wild bears”.

So, I still don’t see how “everything” (every thing) can have a meaning here without the concept of everything and the concept of object.

Replacing “every” by an enumeration
Someone suggested I could just replace “every” by an enumeration of all elements making up reality.

I also first thought of “everything” as a summation (U).
If all the materialist was claiming were that the objects KNOWN TO US are material, an enumeration such as
– This laptop is material
– This rose is material
– Donald Trump’s brain is material
….
would indeed be perfectly correct.
The problem is that most materialists also include all potentially unknown object.And as such, the summation (U) will also have to explicitly mention
and all potential objects we know nothing about are material

so that the problem does remain the same.

This seems to be inevitable. Our descendants in 200 000 000 million years would also face the same problem as they too could not rule out the existence of unknown objects in, say, parallel universes.

So I remain convinced that phrases such as “and nothing else exists” cannot be replaced by any combinations of concrete objects.

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 Actually, in order to avoid a tautology (such as ‘all material things are material’), it appears to me that you must allow for the possibility that the object A could be non-material. And as such, A cannot be considered a physical thing of our universe from the outset without begging the question.

Have sexism and racism lost any meaning?

Robert Cunningham, a good Australian friend of mine, asked the following questions:

When everything is sexism , nothing is ?
When everything is racism , nothing is ?
When everything is mental illness , nothing is ?

sexism

My answer follows.

Sexism means that ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL, you treat a person differently because of his or her gender.
Racism means that ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL, you treat a person differently because of his or her ethnicity.
Mental illness means you suffer from a condition which makes your life significantly harder than those of members of the general population.

The definitions of words stem from the intuitive understanding of ordinary folks and not from the wishes of ideologists.
I think that what I wrote corresponds very well to how the man (or woman) in the street understands these terms.

This has important consequences.

50


Let us consider that in the field of mechanical engineering, there are 20% of women and 80% of men. According to most feminists, there should be 50% of women having good jobs, otherwise sexism is at play. This is bullshit. The right proportion of hired females under those circumstances should be 20%.
By trying to force 50% (as they do in Germany and Austria), they unfairly give a female candidate much more chances to get employed just because she’s got two X-Chromosomes.

If feminists want 50% of women having jobs in that field, they should encourage more girls to orientate their studies accordingly instead of discriminating qualified men.

To the dismay of my liberal friends, I also believe that Arabs calling an innocent child in French suburbs “Jewish bastard” or “white bastard” are racists.

A lot of innocent Arabs suffer from discriminations in France but there are also Arabs who attack innocent white people out of racial hatred.

I’m an egalitarian. If I had a white-skinned son and an adopted black-skinned Lesbian daughter who had the same qualifications, I would like them to have EXACTLY THE SAME CHANCES.

This is why I think that any positive discrimination should be based upon the wealth and well-being of a person rather than on skin colour or gender.

It is a shame that the irrational notion “statistical disparities -> discrimination” has become a sacred dogma of the Liberal Establishment.

Racism against minorities is undeniably real but by using flawed reasoning and ignoring the economical oppression of poor whites, Liberal Elites gave over the White House to Trump.

As a contrast, Dr. Martin Luther King reached out to poor whites and sincerely wanted to alleviate their suffering.

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How so-called “leftists” react to heresies

Do you want to be bullied, ridiculed and dehumanised by a LIBERAL culture warrior?

 

Classical liberalism "I disapprove of what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it". "Progressivism" I disapprove of what you say, and I will publicly shame you, lobby to have you censored and demand you be fired from your job.
Pseudo-progressivism in action.

 

Say to him or her any of the following things.

 

1) Systematic racism against afro-americans is alive and well in America in 2016. This shouldn’t be tolerated. But there are also innocent white kids who get bullied and battered just because of their skin colour. This should be called racial hatred and equally combated.

**********

2) Nowadays, there is still an intolerable level of homophobia and misogyny in the Western World. We must not deny this but eagerly fight it. However,in 2016 the oppression of gays and females is MUCH worse in Muslim countries. They (and liberal Muslims who defend them) are much more in need of our support than Western females and homosexuals.

No Trade with Saudi, killers of gays
A true progressive protest

 

3) Arabs/Muslims in France (especially after the terrorist attacks in Paris) suffer from a very strong discrimination and exclusion. This is awful and despicable and must be combated by all means.
However, young Arabs in French suburbs beating innocent white children to avenge themselves are guilty of racial hatred and should be condemned accordingly.

**********

4) A man whose life has been destroyed by a false rape accusation is as much in need of our help and compassion as a woman whose life has been destroyed by a true rape.

Despaired man.
False rape accusation. Truly, pain, sadness and depression know no gender. And no: statistical numbers comparing men and women do not feel anything at all. Only individuals do.

5) While assessing the existence of real discriminations in the here and now in a given society (say America), you shouldn’t directly compare the whole groups of non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, blacks and Asians  because these populations can be extremely different in terms of poverty, culture and many other factors.

Instead, while investigating academic success, unjustified police arrests, discriminations etc.,  you should compare homogeneous groups such as:

a) wealthy whites and wealthy blacks coming from wealthy neighbourhoods

b) poor whites and poor blacks coming from poor neighbourhoods

c) qualified men and qualified women applying for academic positions in philosophy or mechanical engineering.

**********
6) Anti-black racism isn’t only a Western phenomenon. There are awful cases of persecutions of black Africans in Arabic countries as well. This is something progressive Arabs clearly expose and fight. Curiously, this is something progressive Westerners choose to completely ignore because it destroys their most fundamental beliefs.

**********
7) Race-based affirmative action is unjust and inevitably upholds artificial divisions of humankind.
Instead, it should be replaced by a set of three measures

i) wealth-based affirmative action
ii) any enterprise must have the same amount of employees belonging to the ethnic minority as the amount of that ethnic minority among qualified candidates.
iii) public education in poor neighbourhoods must be extremely strengthened and improved through the intervention of the State. Much more money needs to be spent in these areas.

**********

8) Discriminating a person because he or she is obese, unattractive or behaves oddly due to a mental health condition isn’t any less immoral than discriminating him or her based on race, gender or sexual orientation.

*********
9) Stealing the wallet of a person swinging it around in the street is as immoral as stealing it from his or her closed pockets.
But given the bad mentality of a large number of people, it might not be wise to hold it in one’s hands while walking down certain streets.

 

Raping a sexily dressed and attractive woman is as wrong, egregious and wicked as raping a “modestly” dressed woman.
But given the bad mentality of a large number of men, it might not be wise to dress oneself provocatively under certain circumstances.

Slut walk: naked or clothed, respect is what I am owed.
The phenomenon of “slut-walks“: young women protesting for their right to dress attractively without getting harassed. I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with the slogan this girl is wearing. Respect OUGHT to remain the same. But living in a world full of wicked men, it might be extremely UNWISE to walk at night dressed like that. I just fail to see how pointing this out makes you an evil sexist.

 

*************************************************

Liberalism, rationality and morality

 

I want to make it perfectly clear that what I wrote does NOT concern all liberals, but only the true “culture warriors” among them.

These people view themselves as the champions of truth, reason, decency and intelligence.
Actually, my numerous interactions with them have shown me they aren’t any different from nasty religious fundamentalists aggressively defending their cherished dogmas, without evidence and often even in the face of evidence.

I consider myself a progressive Christian because I believe that the Bible contains contradictions and errors and that we need to use our God-given conscience in order to figure out what is right and what is wrong in a complex world and to make moral progress.

I passionately oppose wild capitalism, the oppression of the poor, the exploitation of the third world, homophobia and anything I sincerely find unjust.

And this all too often leads me to think outside the box, as the content of this post proves.

Frankly, I am ready to give up any of the nine “heretical” beliefs I laid out if you give me compelling rational arguments against them.

Insulting and dehumanising me would be definitely most entertaining (to me) 🙂

Alas, it is unlikely to change my mind in the least.

It is particularly embarrassing that many of these self-righteous “leftists” are self-professed Christians.
By bullying their respectful opponents and treating them like the scum of the world, they are dishonouring Christ who taught us to even love our enemy.

Jesus: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Jewish woman: certainly he doesn't mean the Romans? Jewish man: I hope not.
Jesus preaching love towards our enemies. Has there been any progress during the last two thousand years in that respect?

 

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The cave where death never was

Die Höhle, wo der Tod nie war.

La grotte, où la mort n’a jamais été.

English

Deutsch

Français

The Scream.jpg

Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise? I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.”
For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!”
Kohelet.
Da sprach ich in meinem Herzen: “Wenn mir doch das gleiche Geschick widerfährt wie dem Toren, warum bin ich denn so überaus weise geworden? Und ich sprach in meinem Herzen: “Auch das ist nichtig!” Denn dem Weisen wird ebensowenig wie dem Toren ein ewiges Andenken zuteil, weil in den künftigen Tagen längst alles vergessen sein wird. Und wie stirbt doch der Weise samt dem Toren dahin!
Kohelet.
Et j’ai dit en mon coeur: J’aurai le même sort que l’insensé; pourquoi donc ai-je été plus sage? Et j’ai dit en mon coeur que c’est encore là une vanité.
Car la mémoire du sage n’est pas plus éternelle que celle de l’insensé, puisque déjà les jours qui suivent, tout est oublié. Eh quoi! le sage meurt aussi bien que l’insensé!
Kohelet.

http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/~/media/NPWS/Images/Parks/Borenore-Karst-Conservation-Reserve/park/sandstone-cave-02.ashx

Raymond saw that the whole cave of Saint Barbe, by the village of Falck in Lorraine, was shaken.
Raimund sah, dass die ganze Höhle der Heiligen Barbe beim Dorf Falck in Lothringen erschüttert wurde.
Raymond vit que toute la grotte de Sainte-Barbe, près du village de Falck en Lorraine, où il se trouvait avait été ébranlée.

He looked at the apparition which was glaring at him in a way no mortal mind could have ever interpreted.
Er schaute auf die Erscheinung, die auf ihn auf eine Weise blickte, die kein sterblicher Geist hätte je deuten können.
Il observa l’apparition qui lui lançait un regard qu’aucun esprit mortel n’aurait jamais été en mesure d’interpréter.

“If you truly seek salvation, you won’t fail to heed my words and lay down the weapons you’ve deceptively acquired”, the otherworldly creature said.
“Wenn du wirklich das Heil suchst, wirst du ganz bestimmt meine Wörter beachten und die Waffen fallen lassen, die du dir auf eine betrügerische Weise angeeignet hast”, sagte die Kreatur aus einer anderen Welt.
“Si tu cherches vraiment le Salut, tu ne manqueras pas de prêter attention à mes paroles et tu laisseras tomber les armes que tu as acquises à travers ta tromperie”, dit la créature d’un autre monde.

“What are you talking about?”, he answered in a defying tone while swinging his sword.
“Wovon redest Du denn?” antwortete er mit herausfordernder Stimme, während er sein Schwert schwang.
“Mais de quoi parles tu ?”, repondit-il avec une voix de défi tout en brandissant son épée.

A sound vaguely resembling a laughter resounded in the cave.
Ein Geräusch, das etwa an ein Gelächter erinnerte schallte in der Höhle wider.
Un son ressemblant vaguement à un rire résonna dans la cave.

“I know you aren’t quite satisfied with the fate which awaits every creature of your kind.”
„Ich weiss, dass Du nicht ganz mit dem Schicksal zufrieden bist, das jedes Geschöpf deiner Art erwartet.
« Je sais que tu n’es pas tout à fait satisfait du destin qui attend toute les créatures de ton espèce. »

You know, the thing you call…Ah, what’s the word? Death?
Ich meine…das Ding, das ihr so nennt…Ach, was ist das Wort? Tod?
Je veux dire…cette chose que vous appelez…Ah, quel est le mot? Mort ?”

All your feelings, desires, dreams, longings and noblest achievements will inexorably trail off into space one day, am I correct?”, the unknown being replied.
All Deine Gefühle, Wünsche, Träume, Sehnsüchte und edelsten Errungenschaften werden sich eines Tages unausweichlich in die Luft auflösen, nicht wahr?”, erwiderte das unbekannte Wesen.
Tous tes sentiments, désirs, rêves, soupirs et tes accomplissements les plus nobles disparaîtront un jour inexorablement, n’est-ce pas?” répliqua l’être inconnu.

He sighed.
Er seuftzte.
Il soupira.

fading-flower

“Yes.”
“Ja”.
Oui.”

“I am aware you would do anything you could to quench your thirst for immortality”, the thing added.
“Ich bin mir bewusst, dass du alles mögliches tun würdest, um deinen Durst nach Unsterblichkeit zu stillen” fügte das Ding hinzu.
“Je suis conscient que tu ferais tout ce que tu pourrais pour combler ta soif d’immortalité”, ajouta la chose.

“Indeed. How could I not? My own life is what matters most to me”, he answered while whispering, fearful of being heard by other sons of man.
“In der Tat. Wie könnte es anders sein? Mein eigenes Leben ist das, was mir am Wichtigsten ist”, antwortete er mit einer flüsternden Stimme, da er befürchtete, von anderen Menschensöhnen gehört zu werden.
“En effet. Comment pourrait-il en être autrement? Ma propre vie est ce qu’il y a de plus important pour moi”, répondit-il en chuchotant, craignant d’être entendu par d’autres fils de l’homme.

This time he unmistakably heard the creature laugh in a shrill voice.
Dieses Mal nahm er das schrille Lachen der Kreatur auf eine unverkennbare Weise wahr.
Cette fois-ci, il perçut nettement le rire strident de la créature.

“My master wasn’t wrong about you.
Mein Meister hat sich nicht über dich geirrt.
Mon maître ne s’est pas trompé sur ton compte.

If you show us unconditional obedience, we shall grant you the deepest wish of your fragile heart.
Wenn du uns bedingungslos gehorchst, werden wir den tiefsten Wunsch deines zerbrechlichen Herzes erfüllen.
Si tu te soumets à nous sans conditions, nous exaucerons le souhait le plus profond de ton coeur fragile.

If you slaughter all our enemies in the tainted city of Gehenna, we shall save your soul from the eternal unconscious slumber in the colourless valley of Sheol it is currently heading to.”
Wenn du all unsere Feinde in der befleckten Stadt Gehenna schlachtest, werden wir ganz bestimmt deine Seele vor dem ewigen bewusstlosen Schlaf im farbenlosen Tal von Scheol retten, wonach sie sich gerade  richtet.”
Si tu massacres tous nos ennemis dans la ville souillée de Géhenne, nous sauverons ton âme de l’éternel sommeil inconscient dans la vallée de Shéol, depourvue de couleurs, vers laquelle elle se dirige.”

https://i2.wp.com/www.thehistoryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Overlapping-skeletons-room-5.jpg

He wanted to ask for more details, but the being disappeared instantaneously in a blur of reddish mist.
Er wollte ihn nach mehr Einzelheiten fragen, aber dann verschwand das Wesen augenblicklich in einem Wirbel rötlichen Nebels.
Il voulut lui demander plus de détails, mais l’être disparut instantanément dans un tourbillon de brouillard rougeâtre.

It didn’t take long before he decided to completely surrender his own heart to darkness.
Es dauerte nicht lange, bevor er sich entschloss, sein eigenes Herz der Dunkelheit völlig zu übergeben.
Cela ne dura pas longtemps jusqu’à ce qu’il décidât de soumettre complètement son propre coeur aux ténèbres.

Woods of dark despair... by wolfcreek50

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Rethinking affirmative action

I’m an egalitarian. This means I strongly believe that the well being of every human being is equally important regardless of his or her gender, skin colour, ethnicity or any other feature he is not responsible for.

This conviction of mine leads me to have some ideas many proponents of political correctness and Progressives view as profoundly heretical.

I believe that the current notions of affirmative action and positive discrimination are flawed and unjust and should be redefined with respect to (low) life-standards solely.

In an article written in 2011, the British telegraph stated this on this topic.

****

It will mean that employers can choose to hire candidates from under-represented groups provided that they are as qualified for the role as other applicants.

A manager will be able lawfully to hire a black man over a white man, a woman over a man, or homosexual man over a heterosexual man, if they have the same skill set.

It is not the same as filling quotas or giving someone a job just because they are a woman, disabled or from an ethnic minority – that would be unlawful.

Positive action is also not the same as positive discrimination, which gives applicants from disadvantaged and under-represented groups preferential treatment in the recruitment process, regardless of their ability to do the job.

An employer cannot offer the job to a woman, or someone from an ethnic background, purely to improve the company’s gender balance.

*****

I want to go into the sentence I emphasised.

Let us consider the following situation.

****

Lawrence is a straight white man struggling with poverty to such an extent he can no longer afford paying the rent for his cheap flat despite his best efforts.

Laura is a straight white woman coming from a rich family and possessing two houses.

Lawrence and Laura have the same skills with respect to the job they’re applying for.

According to the principle of affirmative action, the employer shall say what follows to Lawrence:

“I’m afraid I cannot give you the job because a woman with the same abilities wants it as well and I’m morally obliged to privilege her. I’m well aware you’re extremely poorer than her. I know that if she doesn’t receive the position, she would still lead a very wealthy life whereas you would plunge into an unspeakable misery. But that doesn’t play any role at all. You must understand that (historically speaking) white males have oppressed females whereas the reverse isn’t true. Therefore, you should accept the fact you have to be discriminated by virtue of having the same gender as the oppressors.”

*****

This is obviously a thought experiment but I think it illustrates very well the problem of current notions of affirmative action.

I must say that in such a situation I can’t help but feel a profound moral indignation. It is hard not to conclude this is collective punishment, the idea that individuals ought to be punished for features they’re not responsible for.

To see how morally problematic this really is, let us just consider what a Hebrew (and brown-skinned) prophet (namely Ezekiel) wrote more than 2500 years ago.

The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
Ezekiel 18:20 preaching against the notion of an inherited guilt.

Western liberals and progressives like to pinpoint moral flaws in the Bible (and sometimes quite rightly so).

But in that specific case, their own morality is inferior to that of the ancient Hebrew prophet.

He spoke out for justice and emphasised the fact that children aren’t responsible for the sins of their parents and shouldn’t be punished or disadvantaged by virtue of their being their sons or daughters.

Western fans of political correctness think that someone ought to be disadvantaged by virtue of his or her having the same gender or skin colour as people having systematically committed wicked acts.

This isn’t moral progress, not even moral retardation but moral regression.

Rethinking the foundations of affirmative action

I don’t think, however, that the whole concept of affirmative action needs to be jettisoned. I just believe it ought to be redefined.

As a Christian, I do believe in self-sacrificing love and in the moral duty to care for the poor, disabled and excluded (see my post about the central message of Jesus).
Jesus and social justice.  Steve Maraboli: "Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you".
Jesus’ call has many challenging implications with respect to social justice.
Obviously,many non-Christians agree with these principles which resonate well with our deepest moral intuitions.
This leads me to the following definition of what positive discrimination ought to be.
PDLS (Positive Discrimination based on Life Standards): all things being equal, a person with a lower quality of life and well-being (he or she isn’t responsible for) ought to be privileged and advantaged.
I also think this ought to be related to the consequences of not being hired on well-being, as my example with Lawrence and Laura made it clear.
I even think that it may be moral to hire such a person even if he or she has slightly inferior skills in comparison to the other candidate.
It is worth noting that my own definition of positive discrimination would still lead African Americans (and Arabs in France) to benefit on average from more advantages because of crying inequalities resulting from history.
I strongly believe, however, that we are falling into a moral trap if we define this more favourable treatment in relation to skin colour, gender or sexual orientation in and of themselves, for the reasons I gave above.
So, if a black and a white man, a gay and a heterosexual, or a male and a female have the same level of well-being and quality of life and not receiving a particular job would have the same impact on them, I don’t see why one of them ought to be discriminated or advantaged.
 If, however, a black person not receiving this job would have far more difficulties than a white person to find another one (owing to lingering racism), then her well-being is certainly going to be more affected in the future.
Consequently, according to my own concept of affirmative action, she ought to be favoured.
But this is going to be context-dependent.

Conclusion: more political humility is needed

Politically speaking, I’m pretty left-wing and passionately reject wild (uncontrolled) capitalism while also defending the morality of Gay marriage.
But in that particular case, I just can’t follow the progressive crowd in good conscience.
Still, I do respect their right to disagree with me on that point.
It is a pity that many of them don’t have this attitude towards me and don’t try to engage any rational conversation but instead resort to emotional bullying, calling me a sexist pig or a white supremacist for holding my egalitarian views.

In many respects, politically correct Liberals can be as callous, self-righteous and arrogant as Conservatives.

On average, both camps seem far more interested in defending their cherished dogmas and making ideological points than in humbly seeking the truth and walking towards authentic justice and love.
Fortunately, I also got to know quite a few folks who respect other views and strive for a friendly dialogue.
It is my genuine hope that this blog post will provide people with food for thought, regardless of whether or not they’ll end up agreeing with me.