Thursday, January 11, 2024

Consensus without Coherence

This is about some of the theories of truth, triggered by the previous post, "Concord without Confusion", during the writing of which this author discovered the consensus theory of truth, and marveled greatly.

The consensus theory of truth is defined on Wikipedia as, "the process of taking statements to be true simply because people generally agree upon them."

The author prefers the correspondence theory of truth in which, according to Wikipedia, the truth of a statement "is determined only by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately describes (i.e., corresponds with) that world."

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Concord without Confusion

A notation supporting a rational basis for peace. The notation itself, based on Popper's three worlds, was introduced in an earlier post, Contrast without Confusion. I'm proposing that this notation could be used by rational people to understand each other, even in the face of conflicting beliefs.

The purpose of the notation is to write down things that are true, and can be accepted as true, by both parties. From there, from that basis of shared truth, a discussion could ensue peacefully and clearly.

By "truth" is meant here agreeing to use the correspondence theory of truth, leaving aside other possibilities such as the coherence, consensus, or pragmatic theories of truth.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Coexistence without condescension

The difficulty of this post is commensurate with the time it has taken in gestation. My topic, "humility."

Let's start with its opposite, a feeling of superiority. There is a pattern of thought that goes like this: I am superior to another in some way; therefore, I am of more value than than other person. Or, more important than that person. In other words, my superior attribute makes me actually superior.

This is incorrect reasoning in part because we are multi-dimensional beings. Scoring higher on one dimension means little when there are other dimensions where I score lower. In secondary school, I scored higher in academics than others of my peers, yet among the lowest in athletics. This allowed me experience at both ends of the superiority versus inferiority scale.

A brief personal experience to illustrate. Superior performance in my high school was rewarded by the presentation of a school letter, a piece of fabric in the shape of the first letter of the school's name, and in the school's colors. I was granted one of these for my academic performance. When I attended university, I proudly posted the letter in my dorm room. Others would see it and ask, "what was your sport?" The person would inevitably be totally confused when I answered, "academics." Apparently, most schools offer letters only for superior performance in sports. I ended up taking the letter down and putting it in a drawer. I live in a society which worships athletes and tolerates academics, even at a university.

The antidote to this malaise is the challenging attribute of humility.

Returning to this post, after a couple more weeks of gestation and a few servings of humble pie, I notice that the draft began on Armistice Day. This is an important holiday in Canada (where it is called Remembrance Day), where I was born, and is a celebration of coexistence without armed conflict. But that would be another post.

As of today's date, Wikipedia defines humility as "the act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others, or conversely, having a clear perspective and respect for one's place in context." This is a two-part definition, which leads into my purpose of describing it as seen from the two different belief systems or world views with which readers of this blog are by now familiar: those of secular humanists and Latter-day Saints. See the blog post which introduced these, "Contrast without contempt."

[This post was started in 2014! So "today's date" has a different meaning today November 16, 2023. Publishing this as-is now (11:43 a.m. MST)]

Communication without Conspicuousness

A strange sequence of events happened eight and a half years ago (and today).

A U.S. Supreme court ruling was handed down on a Friday. That same day, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded with a press release, and a Facebook friend responded to both with a claim that, "They [the Church] will in time" alter their doctrine to conform to the court's opinion.

The following Sunday, I prepared a response to my friend, but did not post it to Facebook.

Today, I found my reaction as an unpublished draft!

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Community without conspicuity

Being part of a group of people, a community, without being a conspicuous member of said community.

Last Sunday, it was my privilege to sing in a choir led by my brother-in-law, Ron Harper. Both my wife, Sara, and his wife (our wives are sisters) were also in the choir. Our performance will be on the web for some time, thanks to YouTube and it's community-enabling platform. It was entitled "Symbols of the Nativity - A Musical Celebration" and was a wonderful experience.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Consternation without comprehension

I'm confused about something that I don't understand. At least I'm aware of it; you have to be aware of something before you can understand it, although you might very well be confused about something before becoming aware of what it it.

When I was much younger, in Junior High School, the science class was great. One day we learned that the earth's climate changes over time. Like in this screenshot 

from PBS (taken November 2, 2019), we were taught (did I mention it was in a Science class?) that the earth goes through cycles from warmer to cooler temperatures and back again. Round and round.

In fact, we were told, the earth is currently moving towards its next Ice Age! Furthermore, there was nothing, nothing at all, that we humans could do about it. Colder temperatures were coming in the future, no matter what we wanted or tried to do about it.

After getting a bit alarmed, we were soothed with the information that it wouldn't be for hundreds of years at the soonest.

Nevertheless, this little bit of scientific instruction has stuck with me.

Fifty-five (or so) years later: surprise! Humans can and are doing something about it! We are making the world warmer, through our efforts, and staving off the next Ice Age. Yay!!! Let's celebrate*, right?

No. Apparently, today's science has a different message** for us.

I completely do not comprehend, much to my consternation.


* I think we should get that classroom of students together for a reunion and build a great big bonfire, to liberate some carbon into the atmosphere, and do our small part to keep the world from getting colder -- doing our small part, since, we can after all do something about it!

** That message is, roughly, "human-caused global warming is an imminent existential threat to humanity, and we must all hunker down, reduce our standard of living, and give up our freedom to the smarter people telling us this, or risk losing our planet!" [to be read with an increasingly shrill and loud voice]

"reduce our standard of living" happens when we are expected to use less energy for cooling our homes in the summer and heating them in the winter, or curtailing our recreational travel, and so on

Monday, June 20, 2022

Command without conclusion

Or, a never-ending hierarchy.

In a hierarchy, there are levels of authority, with commands coming down from a few higher authorities to many subjects.

For example, people might be organized into communities, which are subject to counties, which are subject to states or provinces, which are subject to a federal government.

In my dissertation, I wrote about two hierarchies (early in Chapter 5): 

  • the instance hierarchy (every object is an instance of some class), and 
  • the inheritance hierarchy (every class inherits from another class)

At the top of every hierarchy, there has to be something to stop the upward path, lest it go on forever (which means that this post is unique to this blog in that it is actually about defeating its own title rather than supporting it).

In the programming language that I described in my dissertation, the two hierarchies end (looking in the upward direction) in different ways:

  • the instance hierarchy ends with a tight loop; Class is an instance of itself
  • the inheritance hierarchy ends with null: the Object class inherits from nothing

Returning now to the first example, communities of people. Here is a possible list of ever-higher authorities: the federal government might be subject to a planetary government, which might be subject to a solar system government, subject itself to a galactic government, and so forth, on up to a government of the entire known universe.

In the case of the United States of America, the federal government is subject to what? Some possible answers:

These possibilities reflect some of the different ways that a hierarchy can end. 

First we have the way outlined in an earlier paragraph (which ultimately ends with null (as with the Object class of my dissertation) since we know of nothing that contains the entire known universe). 

The second option, supported by the phrase, "one Nation under God," is an option in which authority ends with a self-sufficient being (like the Class of my dissertation). 

The third option, supported by the phrase, "of the people, for the people, and by the people," is a very different way, a very large loop.

Now that I have the (hypothetical**) reader thinking in terms of a hierarchy of government, I can present my own views. I am absolutely opposed to the view that our nation is subject to any other government. Yes, we support (and host the headquarters of) the United Nations. But, no, we do not take direction from them and are not subject to that organization.

Since we are created (whether you believe this to be by a personal God, some ineffable supreme being, or mindless random evolution), the second option holds some appeal. Some of the definitions of Creator, though, do not allow for appeal to the higher authority (and the one that does historically requires belief in a Prophet (which would not be tenable in today's secular society)), so I do not prefer this option.

The United States of America has a constitution which describes a very limited federal government, with all but a few roles given to the states, and ultimately answerable to the people.

Indeed it is a very loopy hierarchy. Communities are answerable to the people as well as to their county, Counties are answerable to the people as well as to their state. States are answerable to the people as well as to the federal government. Finally, the federal government is answerable to the people, and not to any international organization: neither the WHO, the world bank, nor even the world court. We, as a nation, stand independent above all other creatures, and yet we expect our nation to serve and answer to its people.


"lest it go on forever" A hierarchy can conceptually go on forever, such as the one described by Douglas Hofstadter, who invented a recursive acronym for GOD Over Djinn, which behaved as an infinite hierarchy (in a hypothetical world).

"the programming language that I described in my dissertation" is also named by a recursive acronym, TOOL Object Oriented Language.

* The link is to a page treating "new world order" as a conspiracy theory! However, some theories are actually true*** and there are books written to support the absolute reality of a new world order (such as Slaughter's eponymous book on the subject).

** As claimed in this earlier post.

*** Proponents of the theory of evolution can certainly relate to this notion that some theories are actually true.