I like to invent things (even if only on paper) and I do so in spurts of enthusiam for different things. For the last year or so, my enthusiam has been about religion and government.
General, cultural Christianity as well as my personal upbringing, instilled in me the paradoxical idea that government is (omnipresent) God in abstentia, along with some other conflicting ideas like freedom being a gift from God, but only for good people not for undesirables like homosexuals or the inner-city poor. These ideas were among the many that burned off like fog in the sun when I de-converted.
But it left me with a ticklish problem. If the purpose of government wasn’t the “or else” in the statement “Obey God’s rules, or else!” what was it? I studied different ideologies and rejected them one by one. Some ideologies contained more truth than others, but ultimately I found a lot of them were based on false premises, and unconfirmable or unconfirmed data.
Since I’ve been fascinated by revolutionary movements since I was child (When I was 9, I planned out an eloborate and violent coup of my school giving it up not out of moral qualms but because I realized ultimately, any resistance I offered adults would not result in children being granted our constititional rights, but serve as pretext to steal the few we had.) I had decent working knowledge of revolutionary movements, further enhanced by some pretty hard reveiw of revoltionary movements I undertook to offer advice to my so called “revolutionary church”.
This knowledge served me well, as world history is the story of the revolutionary movements that worked. Even within the scope of revolutions that effectively won, most revolutionary movements struggle enormously with the task of switching from David to Goliath.
War represents a reversal of normal values. Normally killing people and taking their stuff is socially condemned, in war, it is applauded. Civil war is worse because it is more specific. Normally killing your neighbor is socially condemned, in civil war, it is applauded. The same key that increases a revolutionary movements’ chance to succeed increases the revolutionary movements’ chance to successfully transition for revolutionary movement to rule. That key is how the members respond to the entrenched ideology of the existing government.
People gather together around ideologies, from NASCAR tailgating parties, to the ritual cannibalism of the Eucharist. If a revolutionary movement gathers under hating the existing system, it is gathering around hate and no change of system will change the organized , systemic, rage. Most likely the hate will destroy unit discipline within the revolutionary cabal and it will collapse into organized crime and terrorism. (Al-qaeda and the Tamil Tigers). Should the the hate-based group stay organized under a strong and ruthless leader (such as Lenin) as well as defeat the existing government, it will transition to power by entrenching the existing system at the point of a gun. This is why so many revolutionary movements become everything they abhor.
Contrariwise, if a revolutionary movement gathers around the postive change that it wants to make, it can often become a competeing voice in the existing system, growing in legitimacy and power. Should it succesfully overthrow the incumbent government, it has a post-revolution plan. Since the people revolting were gathered around something besides destruction they tend to have better idea of what to do with power once they have it. For an object lesson on this, juxtipose the American to the French revolution.
The government classes I had studied as outstanding young Christian gentleman were centered on what was wrong with the existant American system. They offered no plan, no system, no roadmap for post-change improvement. It was believed, I think, that no roadmap was nessisary. When things were “made right” God would magically make everything work. Question: Why did terrorists attack? Answer: Because we we’re too soft on queers and babykillers. When we stopped allowing shows like “Will and Grace” to be broadcast and made abortion illegal, or at worst difficult to get, then the terrorism situation would improve in the total absence of systemic change.
So I addressed my desire to understand government, and the flaws I percieved in various ideolgeous by trying to invent a new government. I won’t make any argument against the componants of the existant system until I can offer a better peice. Not a peice I feel better about, mind you, but one that does the componants’ function better.
And finally, it must be remembered we speak of a system here. By definition, systems are interconnected. If 3 foot rail gauge is better than Standard for a rail system, you can’t make one line narrow gauge and expect improvement. Systems must be integrated fully to function at all. Thus, I can’t offer a single better peice to governmental theory. In the absence of total systemic improvement, individual peicemeal improvements are actively destructive.
I’m trying to invent a whole new government from the ground up, with consistancy and reason throughout. It’s the largest, and most encompassing inventing I’ve tried.
Perfect market is the greatest instrument of human freedom I know of, and the ethical cornerstone of my entire idea. A perfect market consists of (courtesy of wikipeida)
- Rationality of all market actors (Rationality in meaning of the actor’s utility maximization)
- No transaction costs (particularly no information costs and no taxes)
- Price taking behavior – there is a sufficiently large number of participants such that no individual can affect the market
- given rare resources
- freedom of decision to do something or to let it be (no external effects)
People trading rationally, with all the information they need to make a decisions, with no distortions for big enough traders, something to trade, and no coercion to act or not act in anyway. It’s something beautiful. “Market place” doesn’t just mean the buying and selling of products, but also the grand market place of ideas. The right to free speech is a component of the market place of ideas, as is the right to free press, and free assembly. The right to practice religion as one sees fit guarantees numerous sects and religions competing for the hearts and minds of the people. The right to keep arms of the US Constitution, and the right to security of person in the UN Bill of Rights are both to secure the right to act free of coercion. Ultimately, the perfect market, be it for goods, services, ideas, or beliefs, is the foundation of freedom.
A perfect market is, a direction, not a point one arrives at, but the more perfect a market, the more freedom for all. I believe there is no more effective way to reduce pollution and birthrate (more on that later) than to work toward a perfect market.
In a perfect market, there is no legal theft, no hidden payments, and no hidden costs. I will use the existing market place of open pit coal mining to highlight an imperfect market. No one breathes without trees, they are the lungs of the earth. There are 6 billion people on earth. Each tree is an oxygen factory, the output of which goes equally to each member of the population of earth. If a person had a contract to receive a percentage of a factory’s output, then regardless of who owned the factory,the owner could not destroy the factory without consulting the person who owned a percentage of the output. (Note, I know that this example is somewhat weak, I use it because it is far easier to explain than the more correct ones. Please feel free to argue this in the comment section.) Property rights for the factory output are strong. Property rights for organic oxygen output are nonexistent.
The open pit mining process begins by blasting the ground cover (largely trees) over the coal. Stealing the future “oxygen income” of 6 billion people. The coal industry is one of the most heavily subsidized on earth, particularly with reduced property tax. The coal is loaded onto trains, the cost of transportation depending on diesel fuel, which is produced by other subsidized companies. It is taken to a power plant, which if it is new, was most likely given property tax break to encourage it’s construction, and burned, putting CO2 into the air which effects everyone as much as the loss of the trees. The worst pollutants are scrubbed out of the coal (the cost of the scrubbers often subsidized) and disposed of as industrial waste. Due to radium as a fraction of the mass of coal, coal power plant reclaimed ash is actually more radioactive than nuclear power plant waste. Yet, it is disposed of as far cheaper industrial, rather than radioactive waste in tax supported, or privately owned and tax subsidized, waste management facilities (due to an EPA grandfather clause).
Thus, the real cost of coal would include the cash value of the lost oxygen, the cash value of the subsidy given to the extractor, the cash value of the subsidy given to the fuel producer of the transportation, the cash value of the subsidy given to the power plant, the cash value of the subsidy of the fuel for the fly ash transportation, and the cash value of the subsidy given to the waste management authority.
The complexity of calculating such a thing is made yet more difficult by the fact the subsidy would be different for each county, state, nation, company, etc. In reality, it is impossible to calculate such a thing. The best numbers we have are educated guesses, on this free market phenomenon. In defense of free market, as awful as the above sounds, it works towards the lowest price in the end, as well as profit for the stock holders, because the company which uses the subsidies most effectively will sell the most. For the most part, this is good for everyone. Coal is cheaper for everyone and the owners get rich. Owners, means stock holders. More than half of heavy industry stock is held by institutions in mutual funds. Profit for heavy industry does not benefit primarily a small group of plutocrats. It primarily benefits the small investor, working hard on his 401K or child’s college education fund.
The trouble is, as good as low cost products and profit for the stock holders are, (and those are truly good things) there are other important things that the free market doesn’t do so well, like resource management. Though functioning planned economies have the worst pollution in the world (Russian and China), large free markets are a close second. If people value resources, they can show their preference for companies that also value resources, but only in a perfect market.
In a perfect market, their are no hidden payments, so there is no subsidy. Coal costs what coal costs. It might be tempting to believe that subsidies do not follow market rules. Sadly, this is not the case. Subsidies do follow market rules: companies get money from the government in exchange for providing services for members or sections of the government. The companies compete fiercely for the subsidies. Exxon Mobil spent 350 million on lobbying ( a form of advertising to the government decision makers) to get 3 billion dollars in subsidies in 2008 alone.
In a perfect market, the government would not be able to give any special treatment to any company, saving the stockholders of Exxon Mobil 350 million, but costing them 3 billion. Thus, the incentive to keep the existing system is strong. Three billion to one company is 10 times greater than the total subsidy spent on renewable power. This leads some to say “Renewable power needs a bigger subsidy.” I disagree. Subsidy distorts the market, regardless of who gets it. Money is what we exchange for our time on this eath. The perfect market, like all other markets, is a place where human life is bought and sold, but unlike other markets it is where there is the least waste of this, the most valuable of all commodities. As, such, a perfect market is as sacred as free speech, or free expression, for the same reason: human dignity.
Subsidies represent a lie about price. The solution to lies is never more lies. Humans can be trusted to make wise decisions under perfect market conditions. To believe in human potential, to respect human dignity, means to work toward a perfect market.
All subsidy must go. Every business must stand on it’s own. If sounds like utopian, it’s not, at least to some. No mater how deeply a person believes in perfect market for everyone else, few people believe it for them and their friends. This is the reason, despite the fact people value it, we generally don’t work toward a perfect market.
A world without subsidy offers no tax breaks to religious organizations. To allow tax free status to some service providers (churches and other non-profits) and not to others (business providing identical community assistance, lectures, concerts, elder care, and dating service) is unethical, and anti-religious. Without tax breaks, the churches which provided the best service for the lowest tithe would immediately out compete the other churches.
A world without subsidy provides no benefit to being married. Or owning a house. Married people would have to compete in the open market for housing and employment just like everyone else. Nor does it provide any tax penalty for being single, or childless. This is the first step voluntarily reducing population. Despite embracing the perfect market, irresponsibility will still happen. People will still have more children then they can afford, and buy larger houses than they need, but they can no longer profit by it.
(I am aware that these examples are controversial, and poorly supported here. For brevity’s sake, I will argue specifics with anyone who chooses to, in the comment section.)
But how would even a perfect market deal with issues such as air pollution? Real price cannot be calculated. We know real price is impossible to calculate on the fly, because if it could be calculated, planned Soviet style economies would work better than free market ones. Only Adam Smith’s “guiding hand” can effectively determine price. The fact you can rent your property freely for the price you wish and under the conditions you wish is why your living room isn’t full of toxic gas. The fact that you cannot rent your 1/6 billionth of the earth’s air freely for a the price you wish under the conditions you wish, is why the air you breath is full of toxins.
The key to allowing the perfect market to solve the issue of pollution is obviously strong property rights, but how could 6 billion people share their air and common oceans without a tragedy of the commons?
I will address that in Part IV.
My readership is slowing circling around the drain, and I’m not sure I care. I can’t get people to comment like I want them too. Supposablely, I am getting about 50 to 100 views a day (usually around 50) but no one seems to comment, I suspect many of these pings are seconds long as the person realizes this is some person’s blog and not what they were hoping for.
As to not caring, I am no longer as fascinated with my own opinions as I was 2 years ago when I started blogging. I think I might possible let this blog only serve as a link to 2 new blogs. One atheism themed one called “http://atheisthomeland.wordpress.com” and one more personal one, to be named. The atheisthomeland is already up and running. It just sucks at this point.
I’ve found what blogs can do, and I enjoy the way that regular writing forces me to sharpen my brain, but my hope of meeting tons of people who were passionate about the things I am passionate about is pretty much a pointless one at this point. The people I’ve meet that I really care to discuss with are very few in number, 3 actually.
When I write it, my de-con story is going to be one of the last. That’s what really started these blogs. roninyahoo360 was my first blogsite. The journey that I started to blog originally is coming to end.
That journey was this poor desperate lost little boy, wandering the empty streets of Christianity, and pressing his nose to the glass wanting to be let in. And now that little boy grew up. He isn’t lost anymore, and he found a happy home with the atheists and skeptics.
It’s strange how happy I am. I never imagined that I could enjoy life this much, love this much, go this many places, and have so much hope. This doesn’t mean my journey through life is over, but the broken Christian to peaceful atheist part is. I guess I’m not sure what to write about anymore…
Power is freedom from evidence. The more power a person has over others, the less evidence they need to back up their claims. Atheists like to imagine a world where everyone is rational and doesn’t surrender their power to some weirdo with an old book, but its not going to happen. People surrender their power because they can’t handle it. With practice anyone could learn to play a guitar or reason. But genetics decide if you are going to be jonny play-Hotel-California or Eric Clapton, and genetics decide if you are going to be a well-read pew warmer or someone truly amazing (and hot) like Rebecca Watson.
People need religion because whether to drink Coors or Miller is about all the empowerment they can handle. What atheism really needs to go mainstream is shrines and their ilk. A pretty little place with firelight where one can have a spiritual moment. Atheism needs to create a religion with all the extra bunk.
Is it in the spirit of atheism? Not at all. But people need some ceremony, some candles, some ego masturbation. Give it to them along with correctly presented truth, and they still get the truth. These people are going to believe things based on authority no mater what we do, so let’s make their dogma consistent with reality.
I mean the Bible, and therefore people who follow it, are right on with things like “Be ye kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other…” it’s just the places where it says things “Let’s beat our kids with sticks, stone to death disrespectful children, sexually active unmarried people, and homosexuals” that they run into trouble.
Heck, the whole book of Ecclesiastes is basically a bronze age apology for existentialism. (And makes points completely in conflict with the rest of Scripture.) In the end the real problem is that people aren’t capable of critical thinking. So, let’s make up religion that teaches critical thinking. Technically, the people running their mouths about critical thinking would be doing so because they were told to, but parallel it to people loving other’s because they have to. [As part of God’s non sequitur message of “Love me, or I’ll kill you”] . The fact that Christians attempt to love each other for reasons other than love doesn’t mean that people aren’t getting loved. Sometimes, rarely, the parts of the Bible about taking care of the poor are even followed. Good is done even though ultimately, blind faith in authority has equal potential for bad.
Basically: the fruits of critical thinking make people happy even if they get them by NOT critically thinking. So, we’ll start a church that teaches critical thinking as a command, giving the sheep a chance to be benefited by it without them actually developing the skills, because seriously, with people like Focus on the Family blowing 150 million a year on misinformation, who has the time to convert people one at a time?
Instead of missionaries, we can have ad executives. Instead of pastors we can have licensed therapists. It’ll be great. Who’s with me?
Doctrine to be announced.
Published without any editing!
Well thank you, first of all. As to me not being an atheist, a good friend pointed out to me that I am an even worse atheist than I was a Christian! Its true.
But I feel like atheist is more accurate than any other term because “There is no difference between a God who will not act because of his nature and one who cannot act because He doesn’t exist.”
If I call myself a theist, then the next logical question is what does this person of God want from me? The answer I get is sacrifice. I spent the first 25 years of my life sacrificing, throwing away things and people that were valauble to me. It was misery in the name of Joy, pain in the name of Healing, and despair in the name of Hope.
Maybe I can put it best in an analogy. Pretend that tommorow a new best seller tops the charts, its called, I am your God by Kevin Bacon. This book claims that I can have a personal relationship with Kevin Bacon if I just say I believe in him. That his spirit will comfort me when I am broken and he guide my life. He is everywhere, all knowing, and all seeing.
Now, until the publishing of this book, I beleived in Kevin Bacon. I saw him in movies and heard about him on TV. I always trusted that even thought I have never met him in person, only seen his image in movies, that he was real. But now everytime I meet a group of Baconites, they claim that Kevin Bacon is at there Church. When I get there, there is no Kevin Bacon. “He’s in all of us” they say.
Soon, people are being healed in Kevin Bacon’s name. Other people are so upset that that start murdering Baconites in the street. The movement grows.
Now, the most resonable belief at first was that Kevin Bacon was just an actor. Then when absurd claims were made, the most resonable belief becomes that Kevin Bacon is a real person, who wrote a crazy book. But there comes a point… Extrodinary claims demand extrodinary evidence. There comes a point when the claims of the Baconites are so aburd that the evidence of Kevin Bacon’s existence is no longer the most reasonable view. Maybe there never was a Kevin Bacon, it must have all been movie magic.
Hmm, this has weirded me out about the legitmacy of the existence of God or Kevin Bacon so much that I think I will stop here. This makes me see further flaws in my argument, and I’m not sure if that means the argument is wrong and thus its statement, or if it is simply a lousy argument for a true statement.
I am often accused of being controversial for the fun of it. Sometimes, I am. However, often as not, I am just writing from the heart and my heart is, I guess, full of controversy. If you are so offended by controversy that you cannot read something controversial to the end, please don’t read this, because I don’t want to deal with the questions and responses of people who only read half. Also, if you don’t want to know about what I was thinking and doing in regards to sex when I was a teen, again, stop reading, because I am going to be totally honest.
I began looking at online pornography around the age of 12 or so. Pornography is a available with many themes, and one that intrigued me was orgy themed pornography. Orgy is a French loan word, which came to France via the Latin orgia, meaning secret rites or secret revels. (For the not so literate, a revel is big party.) The idea here is a big party where secret rites are practiced. I’m not clear on the etymology (story of the meaning of a word) but orgy came in English to almost exclusively mean “a bunch of people having sex with each other all at once”.
I wasn’t only attracted to the representation of orgy in pornography, I was attracted to the very idea of it, the concept of it. This concerned me. As a young teen growing up in a very stereotypically Christian environment I had (obviously) the attendent sexual obsession, but also the attendent homophobia. Half the people at an orgy were male. Though the men at an orgy were having sex with women, to be in a room where other men were having sex, even with women, seemed gay. Homosexuality held absolutely no appeal whatsoever, but orgies seemed appealing. I struggled to answer why.
Around the same time, I took an interest in cults. I read everything I could get my hands on about cults, particularly ones that included sexual deviancy. I think I did this because I considered the my desire for pornography, masturbation, sex, and particularly orgy to be a sin in and off it self. (A position, I might add, that the church agrees with.) To look at porn and to masturbate were, in my mind, bad enough. That I desired to do these things and to have sex with my female friends, and particularly desired to be having sex in a room full of other people having sex, was appalling to me. I felt incredibly ashamed. So, I guess it was natural that I looked for a group of people where everyone was like me, where my desires were not a deviancy to be ashamed off, but a communal value, perhaps, even a virtue.
When I discovered the record of the Oneida Community, it seemed that I had discovered paradise. The Oneida Community was group of “Bible Communists” who lived in upstate New York. They believed a lot fascinating things, but the ones of note here are their sexual practices. Unlike many cults which have achieved infamy for their sexual oddity, the Oneida’s were not primary a “sex cult”, they were a real religious group which positively effected the world around them. It just so happened they had some unique sexual practices.
The foundation of these practices, was called Complex Marriage. Complex marriage was a theory. In theory, every one in the commune was married to everyone else in the commune. Everyone shared in parenting. Sex was seen as both physical and spiritual. They saw nothing sinful in sex as long it was practiced in their unique way. They were not unaware of the procreative aspects of sex, and this figured into their social norms. They considered the ability to prevent ejaculation as spiritual discipline. For this reason, young men were paired with post-menopausal women until they had mastered this control. Men and women who were capable of prolonged and mutually enjoyable sexual encounters were considered spiritually mature. Immature believers were paired with them until they learned the lessons, at which point they would also begin to rotate through the commune to spread “love”. Each member had about 3 pairings a week. All children were planned, wanted, and raised by all.
To me this sounded like the most wonderful state of human affairs on earth. Of course, it didn’t last. The values got corrupted and church leaders got the most nubile and young with whom they were not “spiritually disciplined” and had many babies, not all of which were wanted by the whole community. Aside becoming selfish lovers, they also became selfish about those lovers. Demanding that the laity share, the clergy refused to share their treasured few.
When I was 18, and looking to move out, I looked at several “swingers’ clubs”. For the naive among you, a swingers club is often much more than a place where people interested in anonymous sex can meet (that’s what singles bars are for). Swinger’s clubs have rules. Often everyone gets together once a week. In some clubs you can’t refuse anyone who asks, in others, there are certain formalities of asking. Some clubs require that sex take place in front of all other guests. Some require that it does not. The point is, all of them have certain rules and methods of operation to prevent a sex cult from forming. By “cult” I mean they struggle to make sure that everyone relates as equals, and no one had undo force on any other person, to ensure total consent.
None of them were attractive, and coming to undertand why helped me put two and two together. The reason that orgy themed pornagraphy had interested me in spite of myself, the reason that the Oneida Community had seemed to call to me so much, the reason that the swingers clubs had so little appeal, was all the same: What I wanted was the intimacy. The reason that orgy as a lifestyle intrigued me was the idea of being so loved. To love a community of people, so much, and have that love be returned, to love the women so much that I could make love to any of them, and to love the men so much that I would share the women I loved with them was what I wanted… In short, I wanted to be loved. Not just by an individual, but loved by a whole group.
I wanted it, but I was a conservative Christian. To me to turn my back on the values of Christianity was a death sentenence. Once I even took one step on that road, the full consequences would be taken. I didn’t really want to get into some freaky sex, I wanted to be loved. I wanted, however, a love the church could not give me. The church cannot love you for who you are, since you are at worst a sinner and at best a “saint who sins”. If who you are isn’t spiritual, then loving that part of you is sin. They can love the part of you that prays, but not the part that works on trucks. However if you pray and evanglize, then they can love the part of you that prays as well as the part of you that works for a living. They must love you because Jesus does. I didn’t want to be loved out of duty or obligation, I wanted to be loved because I was unique and special. My love of science is as much a part of who I am as my love of my wife and daughter. I wanted to belong to a community that loved ALL of me, not just the spiritual parts.
As many of you know, when I was 18 I very seriously considered going to Philadelphia and starting a sex cult. I never thought that this would be right or healthy. In fact, even as I considered it, I thought that it would be corrosive to my very soul. Ethylene glycol was an early antifreeze. It is so like sugar that it even tastes sweet. It brakes down into the blood just like sugar, cell by cell. Then it goes to fuel the muscles just like sugar. Then it metabolizes into poison, this poison is filtered out by the kidneys. They stop working, and you die. Sex is so like real intimacy that its easy to confuse the two. Then at some critical point in your life where you need intimacy to make it, all you have is sex, and a part of you dies. I knew thats what would happen to me. But I was so desperately lonely and hungry to be loved by a community of people, that I almost accepted the second best to nothing at all. I didn’t care about the personal cost, I just wanted to be wanted, not because Jesus said so, but purely because of what I have to offer.
I didn’t go start a sex cult, I tried, instead, another avenue. I thought maybe I should go into “ministry”. I went to bible college, I tried campus groups, eventually, I even joined a wild eyed charismatic church who talked big about the coming revolution and change at any cost. Let me make clear here. My point is NOT is not about sex. My point is that I was so desperate to be loved by a group of people that I would have used sex. I would have done anything, I would have even given my life. And so desperate was this desire, that knowing full well I counldn’t get it with sex, I was almost willing to to use sex just to feel like I had it when I did not.
None of it worked. No mater what I did, I couldn’t be loved for what I have to offer, I had to be loved for who I knew, Jesus. I couldn’t be loved for what I could do right now, I had to be loved for what I could do in some distant future. And finally, and most painfully of all, I could not be loved for what I loved (science, skeptisicm, and rationality). The community that I wanted so much was not available in the chuch.
Of late, I have been spending a lot of time in the company of athiests, agnostics, and skeptics. For the first time in my life, I am loved by a group not because I am pimping Christ, not out of duty, and not because I have potential. I am loved for what I am, and greatest of all, the things that are most important to me: critcal thought, freedom, and truth, are something that people admire about me instead of tolerate. That which I am, is loved and respected instead of channeled into things which “support the cause”.
The desire that I have had since adolesnce to be loved by a group for who I am is finally fufilled. The Oneida Ideal suddenly has no appeal for me as I get what I need from people who respect me. I don’t to compromise who I am to be loved, I can simply be myself and people seek me out. That which the church denied to me for 25 years I have found in the rebels of the church. I have that “one thing” and I won’t ever go back.
When I was a 11 years old my dad bought a brand new Geo Metro. He had to get something to replace his wheezing Chevette. He had, at that time, a 120 mile round trip to work everyday. The Metro was the highest fuel mileage vehicle he could find. Now, in the 1990s there were small cars and then there were tiny cars. The Metro was tiny. It had tiny 12″ wheels, a tiny backseat, and under the tiny hood something I didn’t even know existed.
I started working on cars when I was eight, so most of the cars I worked on were late 70’s early 80’s full size sedans. Beneath the hood was an engine so small you could actually work on it. When you looked down the engine you could see the ground on every side of the engine. You could get a wrench to any part of the engine without taking out 2 belts, a shroud, 15 vacuum hoses, and a wiring loom.
It’s not that the engine compartment was big, it was as tiny as the rest of the car. It was just that the engine was that small. One liter displacement, smaller than my uncles’ motorcycles. It had a watch-like 5-speed manual transmission. It would drag me, my dad, my mom, my sister, and all of our crap for a trip down the road at 70 mph and getting 50 mpg. Since my dad put a lot of miles on it, I got to work on it a lot. It got me thinking about mileage, and the environment.
It also introduced me to something that I had remained blissfully ignorant of until then: the power of stupid people in large numbers. People hated that car. People at gas stations would insult the driver. My parents were told by other drivers that they were criminally irresponsible for allowing their kids to ride in that death trap. Strangers would call it a roller skate, a go-kart, or a beer can with wheels. Tire store employees would refuse to sell us tires until we brought a tire into the store and proved to them it really did take 12″ tires. On the rare occasion that my dad and I could not fix it and we had to bring it into a shop the people would try and sell us a new car that was “safer”. Once, a shop refused to work on it. (My dad and I took fantastic care of the car. With it’s freakishly overloaded little 3 cylinder engine we put over 300,000 miles on it. The shop said that they would not work on small cars with a lot of miles on them.)
Which in turn introduced me to skepticism. Conventional wisdom said the car was dangerous. Yet my mother and father felt it was safest car they ever owned? Why? If our little car could get 50 mpg, why couldn’t other cars do better? Why did (does) the EPA require expensive catalytic converters, but not require cheap manual transmissions, which reduce pollution as well? What was the real secret to good gas mileage?
And this is what I learned. Some of it relates to cars directly. Some not so much.
(1.) Don’t make technological solutions to social problems. The problem with pollution is not that engines pollute. Its that the owners’ of those engines don’t give a damn. Seriously. No process is 100% efficient. There is always irreclaimable energy released and usually byproducts created. The problem isn’t the technology. The problem is that people don’t care what consequences their actions will have on other people or even themselves. When we try to solve social problems technologically, we end up with more complicated problems to solve.
Case in point: coal power plant. The problem is that people waste too friggin’ much power. That means they burn a lot of coal. That means the coal puts out a lot of waste. “Solution” clean the coal waste gas. Now, coal plants don’t have huge plumes of stinky smoke. Nope, now they radioactive solid waste to dispose off. (Coal contains radioactive isotopes in fractional quantities. Burn enough coal, and scrub enough of the exhaust and you will have radioactive solid waste.) Again for clarity. Technological solutions to social problems will make the problem more complex and expensive, not solve it
(2.)There is no free lunch. Like most kids I didn’t really learn much in school. Real learning comes from the things you decide you want to know, not what a textbook writer decides you should know. My early science education came from investigating 100 mpg carburettor scams. My dad said they didn’t work. I wanted to know why. Had to learn some chemistry to understand fuel/air ratios. Had to learn some thermodynamics to understand the amount of energy the engine can make. Had to learn some physics to understand why the engine has to store some of it’s energy in the momentum of the crank and flywheel to be able to finish the next cycle. I learned that engines waste around 80% of the energy that they make because they must, not because of a global oil company conspiracy.
(3.) Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers. American cars get crappy gas mileage and handle like bloated whales because that is what people want enough to pay for. There may be many things that people want. Most people want a car for free if possible. It is not the car companies job to give you what you want. It is the car companies duty to it’s stock holders to make money by giving you what you want more than your money. If Americans wanted electric cars more than they wanted money, they would have them. But they don’t. Americans DO want big V8s more than they want their money. So they have them. Remember I am not saying people don’t want electric cars. They do. They just don’t want electric cars more than they want $30,000.
Case in point:The BMW mini. Things people like the most: sporty but with good fuel economy. Things people dislike the most: to small and not good enough fuel economy. The cause of the things people like is the things they dislike. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
(4.)Government agencies (and other large groups of people who aren’t paid to produce anything) are more interested in next year’s budget than their stated mission. The EPA mandated catalytic converters. But not manual transmissions. In the 70’s when they mandated that automatic transmission mechanical efficiency was about 85%. Remember that cars are only about 20% efficient on a good day? That takes it down to 17%. That’s a 15% reduction! (A properly made manual tranny will have losses equal to a plain shaft of the same length when in road gear.)
(5.)Not all sciencey stuff is scientific. Case in point: Hydrogen economy. We need a hydrogen economy to save us. How do we get the hydrogen? Electrolysis of water, which wastes 60% of the energy that goes in. Well, how else can we get hydrogen? Cracking of natural gas. Who owns the natural gas? The same oil companies who own the gasoline. The hydrogen economy talk is bread and circuses to keep you from noticing that rich and powerful have you by the soft bits. But psudeo-science is a magic totem for the stupid. Hold up sciencey words and “smart” people will line up behind you like Crusaders behind a cross.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking) For Wikipedia’s excellent article.
To quote Wikipedia (the compendium of all human knowledge) “Like science, magic is concerned with causal relations, but unlike science, it does not distinguish correlation from causation.” Magical thinking is an import step in the process to having a vibrant and mature mind. Sadly, most people never move on to logical thinking, but continue to add and subtract from magical thinking attempting to make a suitable world view.
A wise man once said to me, “You will have a world view, whether you chose one or not.” It’s true. There is no such thing as person without world view, there are only people with logical and systematic paradigms and people with illogical and asystematic paradigms, but every person operates from some paradigm. Our world view is the product of our method of thinking about our thinking, our meta-thinking, if you will. If one never puts a thought into how one thinks, one will think poorly. Thinking poorly, one will produce an haphazard world view. Owning a inconstant world view produces an inability to perceive others consistently, which in turn, will cause an inability to relate to others consistently. This (finally) is the definition of hypocrisy, so the magical thinker will always fail by the standards of his or her own flawed value system.
Substituting correlation for cause isn’t just bad science, it’s dangerous to the human spirit, and here’s why: When a person consistently substitutes correlation for cause they will come to believe that their thoughts have the power to effect reality. Virtually everyone in the US will be in a car accident at some point in their lives, some will be in many. Use the example to a logical thinker and a magical thinker, both whom have had the statistically unlikely situation of being in 3 accidents in 3 months.
The logical thinker asks why is this phenomenon happening? He gets online and studies accident statistics. He has his tires and brakes checked, he talks to his insurance company. He is unhappy with all these accidents and and investigates the way his actions effect him.
The magical thinker asks himself why this phenomenon happening to me? Instead of searching for cause he searches for correlation. He asks what was he was thinking or doing all 3 times. Finally finding a correlating fact, he then believes that this fact is the cause. He also is unhappy with all these accidents but having reached a false cause, he solves it with a false solution.
Now, the logical thinker has removed himself from the probability of another accident, but the magical thinker, not knowing the true cause, has not. We can see here that magical thinking is endangering his life. When he gets in another accident, however, magical thinking will endanger his spirit. Since, in his own mind, he removed the cause of the accidents, this 4th accident must have a cause not bound by normal cause. In short, the magical thinker now believes that this 4th accident is not a natural act, but a supernatural act. He is now making up his own religion as he goes.
But the magic thinker only thinks about his thinking when he is looking for a correlation in his own mind. He doesn’t think about the nature of this thinking. We know this because the magic thinker is an man of average inteligence and not a imbecile. If you asked him outright “Do you believe that you have the ability to determine the whether an even is natural or supernatural by how you feel about it?” He would say no, but regardless, that is what he is doing.
It is far too simple a step from believing that the things that happen around you happen with a supernatural cause to believe that you ARE the supernatural cause. From there comes the idea that what you believe is more important than what you do, and finally, the last step down the slippery slope: that you can change reality by the belief rather than action.
Further, since he doesn’t realize that he is his own god, he has no problem belonging to an established religion. And thats when the horrors start. Take one man that has been convinced that he has unique insight into the supernatural which outweighs and overpowers logic. Add a large and powerful organization which gives legitimacy to this belief by its size and also uses its organization to provide positive and negative reinforcements to certain key behaviors . Mix vigorously with social instability and suffering. Viola! A recipe for mass murder.
But how do we stop these people? It would seem that building a large and powerful organization with a rigid belief system is not the answer. (How well has Protestantism, originally gathered around protesting the the very real abuses of the Catholic Church faired? It has become that which it hated. The Church had her pogroms, the Protestants their massacres.) If logical thinkers built a church style organization I guarantee church like results: a beautiful teaching hidden inside a holy book which the followers are encouraged to read only when it properly sanitized and commentaried, and decades of apathy interrupted by occasional movements of inspiring love and frequent movements of hate, murder, and suffering.
We can’t reason with them, because they can’t reason. Believing their thoughts to be logical, they perceive logical thinkers to be not magical thinkers, but magical practitioners. Their organization and all of their friends tell them that their thoughts reflect reality. Thus when a logical thinker presents them with reality, they have but two possible paths to take. (1.) Turn their back on their entire world view or (2.) believe that the logical thinker is somehow twisting reality, making it appear to disagree with their organization. Of course, they take the second. The logical thinker is seen as a practitioner of a foul truth magic. As human beings, we have logic hardwired in from the womb. If you show someone the logical path, they can’t help but see it. Since the typical magical thinker/cult member/religious zealot (if you are a zealot and offended by that, perhaps you should examine your zeal) has been told by everyone they know that their path is logical, this sudden attraction to the “wrong” (logical) way can only be seen supernatural influence, ie, evil.
The only way I know out of this mess is by personal example. I be seek to be the very best that I can be and wait for people to notice how much I enjoy life. I hold my beliefs up to public discussion on this blog (and in other places) not for people to notice, for if I had to tell people how happy I am for them to notice, I must not really be that happy, but for constant review and evaluation, so that I can hold on to this little toehold of joy and freedom I have bought with my skepticism and my faith. The natural state of man seems to be to surrender his freedoms to a mob so he can be one of them. I don’t want to surrender the freedom of my mind, and I won’t, so I stand in public and say “Doubt me, please! Question everything I believe! Find the holes and the gaps that I am content with till I’ve nothing less than pure truth.” That is the plan of my life. The only way I know to fight the madness mentioned above is to follow that plan.