I’m all about uncertainty, and equally considering diverse viewpoints. This is almost always a good practice in my opinion, because everyone has cognitive blind spots that come from their biases. I think that everyone makes good and bad points, whether they’re respected and open-minded geniuses and intellectuals, or angry crackpots who seem to have no idea what they’re talking about. To a certain extent, everyone’s worldview has merit.
But uncertainty and skepticism can go too far. Morality is highly variable, but I’m not a postmodernist. Different versions of morality seem admirable, but not every one is equally good. Postmodernists tend to take uncertainty so far that they throw out the entire concept of certainty. One good example of this that Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto has made, is this: Your interpretation of Hamlet, since everyone dies at the end, could be that it’s good to kill yourself and everyone around you. But that doesn’t mean that this message is just as morally sound as any other. Who has that opinion, other than psychopaths, and depressed nihilists? Since morality is apparently largely intuitive, anyone reading this can probably detect the inferiority of this interpretation of Hamlet.
Almost everyone knows that some opinions have more merit than others. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to have negative interpretations. I think that all kinds of diverse thinking are essential for societal progress. I have said that Hitler was probably not a one dimensional bad guy with no positive attributes. But looking at him as a righteous hero is almost certainly worse than viewing him as a sadist. Why do you think that only a small minority of people are Neo-Nazis? Among countless other unidentifiable reasons, people by and large seem to understand that the Neo-Nazi philosophy is morally abhorent.
This is why I don’t agree with cultural relativism either. Most cultures have good and bad aspects, and there isn’t necessarily one that is all bad, and another that is all good. But some have many more harmful attributes than others. I have said before that I don’t agree with the typical Neoconservative idea of forcefully spreading Western values throughout the world. That’s because I don’t think people should be subjected to any thinking against their will, unless they harm others. Even then, there’s a fine line between preventing someone from physically hurting another, and demanding that they think differently.
However, I think that Western values are superior to many other kinds in some ways. We generally encourage ideas like democracy, and the value of the individual. I’ve talked about the flaws with democracy, but it seems superior to dictatorships in many cases. Sam Harris, a writer, philosopher, and neuroscientist offers a good example of differences between cultures in his book called The Moral Landscape, and the Ted Talk in which he discusses it. Some primarily Muslim countries are governed by Sharia law, which seems like an archaic Islamic interpretation. Girls in these places sometimes get battery acid thrown in their faces for learning to read! Even if there is no objectively correct morality, most people agree that on the moral landscape, this is at the very bottom of a valley. To follow the metaphor in the book, a firefighter saving someone from a burning building would be at the highest peak of morality.
Obviously, not all Muslims share this extreme worldview, but stereotypical Islamic culture seems nearly undeniably inferior to stereotypical Western culture. People are clearly capable of being Muslim without practicing barbaric cultural norms. While people complain about women’s rights in the Western world, in some cases rightly so, I don’t think many women would prefer living under Sharia Law. Let’s not forget aspects of this culture which include women being forced into arranged marriages, and getting their clitorises cut off. Women also do not have the right to vote or drive in stereotypical Islamic culture. I heard that under Sharia law, a woman’s opinion only counts for a third of that of a man in court. Also, I read in a New York Times article the other day that with some interpretations, a man just has to speak the Arabic word for divorce three times to end his marriage. He can even send his wife a letter, or leave her a message, with nothing but the same word repeated twice. It also seems to not be a crime for men under this law to rape their wives, and if they get raped by someone else, they can get “honour-killed.” This means that they get murdered for bringing shame to the honour of their family by getting raped. They get killed because they were raped!
Other than the slippery slope to cultural relativism and postmodernism, there are other problems with uncertainty and skepticism. They can lead to conspiracy theories, and all manner of what I consider to be woo-woo bullshit. If I did believe that all opinions have the same value, I could easily think that 9/11 was a false flag attack. This means that it was maliciously carried out by the American government, on purpose. I may also believe that the earth is flat, our planet has been repeatedly visited by aliens, or that psychics have magical powers. I might buy claims that horoscopes actually mean something, astrology gives you useful information, and that planes drop chem-trails to poison us. Or I could believe that shape-shifting lizard people are bred to rule the world from birth, and are designing a New World Order. I may even think that my quantum consciousness is a part of the eternal universe that I control with my magic mind.
Like I said, I’m all about uncertainty and skepticism, but I honestly am not open-minded enough to give any of these claims more than minimal consideration. I don’t care. Some people with these beliefs undoubtedly sometimes make good points. I’ve occasionally seen or heard it happen. But most of what they say seems like nonsense, and there is a huge skeptic movement, full of people much smarter than me, who investigate these speculations. That’s ironic since some people holding outlandish beliefs claim to be skeptical, and skepticism can make you miss important facts due to being close-minded. But the self-proclaimed skeptics appear to do a great job of debunking this type of argument. I am much more interested in discovering the closest approximation to the truth. While I admire some bizarre ideas, those such as that the earth is flat seem too likely to be bullshit to be worth my time. I’m always open to being proven wrong, but I see too many fundamental flaws with the way people like this think.
In terms of the 9/11 truthers, incompetence is often mistaken for malice. It seems much more possible that a bunch of unorganized people made some mistakes and lied about minor details than the alternative; that George W. Bush and his cavalcade of geniuses killed American citizens to get the country into a war. In terms of claiming that the earth is flat, some of these people argue that satellites and gravity don’t exist. So how the fuck does G.P.S. work? And if you think that gravity doesn’t exist, go jump off a building, and tell me if you proved that theory wrong by flying.
It seems like alien visitations can be largely explained by the American government secretly working on recon technology at Area 51, and not wanting this revealed to the Russians during the Cold War. Also, many apparent visitations seem to occur at night, when people are likely dreaming. According to the findings of Dr. Rick Strassman in his book called DMT: The Spirit Molecule, this chemical is released when we dream. DMT stands for dimethyltryptamine, which is a naturally occurring chemical that is released in heavy doses when we’re born, when we die, and when we dream. When this happens, we can experience hallucinations so incredibly powerful that they seem completely real. That’s why people smoke DMT to have a psychedelic experience. Or they might combine it with a root to drink it in its oral form, called ayahuasca.
In terms of psychics, as far as I know, scientific studies have found that they guess correctly no more often than any perceptive person statistically would. Additionally, people who see them often are emotionally attached to things like finding solace from a deceased loved one. Horoscopes are so deliberately vague that you can identify with any one of them that you read. Similarly, there appears to be no evidence that planetary movements have any impact on our moods and destiny. They only perhaps indirectly affect things like the amount of gravity or electromagnetism with which we interact. This goes against claims of astrology.
People think that chem-trails are poisoning us because contrails, which are similar to clouds, are emitted from plane engines when their heat interacts with the atmosphere at different temperatures. You can see many contrails, which are inevitable byproducts of planes, but that doesn’t mean that they are toxic and inflicted on us with ill intent. Where are all the sick, dying, and dead people from this? The shape-shifting lizard people thing just seems like it adds unrealistic amounts of agency and coordination. Not to mention, they’re doing a pretty bad job with the New World Order, and where is the footage of people turning into lizards? In terms of the new-age claims of people like Deepak Chopra, I bet he’s helped a lot of people, but it seems like he misinterprets quantum mechanics. I sure am not an expert on the subject. But he assumes that particles behaving in insane, counterintuitive ways means that God exists. Also, apparently our quantum consciousness is manifested in our magical minds that have control over the nature of reality.
Uncertainty and skepticism are great ideas, and I think that it’s good to question everything. New, groundbreaking information could come from anywhere, so anyone might be right, no matter how crazy they sound. However, there are some positions that are a hell of a lot more likely to be true than others. Morality changes a lot, but some values are better than others, and so are some cultures. By the same token, a large number of people with widely varying points of view make good arguments. But some are mostly ridiculous and not worth considering. There’s an excellent quote from Einstein about this: “Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.”