Saturday, July 16, 2016

Living in Skeptical Hope

Is that possible?

Given the sufferings, tragedies, and horrors of history, especially the last 100 years?

Millions of humans slaughtered many millions of other humans...

Millions more died and are dying from disease and famine and abuse...

Millions despairing...

To be hopeful for the future, seems an impossible dream though a wonderful idea.

Yet how does one choose to hope, while not being willfully blind, not being deluded and eluded
from how the cosmos really was, really is, and appears really will be?

How can we live above and beyond our all too common selfishness,
in-group dynamics, ethnocentric focus, nationalistic perception, and religious/secular
intolerance so characteristic of nearly all of us humans, to one degree or another?

I realize it does seem almost completely doubtful.

But where there is consciousness, awareness, the transcendent sense
of what ought to be rather than what is and what has been, then we can yet
choose to defy the stars and our own sometimes selfish nationalistic-centered ways.

If we do choose with courage—no matter what--there is hope’s possibility.
We through hope in the transcendent Good create what goes counter
to natural selection, the downswing of indifferent matter and energy.

Insightful human leaders from Buddha to Jesus to William Penn
to Elizabeth Fry to Levi Coffin to Lucretia Mott
to Martin Luther King Jr.
to Thich Nhat Hanh have demonstrated this truth.

Hope and creativity and change and new ethical choices are always open despite
the juggernaut of human selfishness, greed, and oppression.

Step#1 Practice skeptical insight.

In my view, skepticism is usually best thought of as a mind-rinse, a mental Listerine,
daily, probably hourly, mindfully gargling, to rid oneself of modern gargoyles,
intellectual germs, social and religious viruses, and delusions.

To protect ourselves from confirmation bias, prejudice, illusion, deception,
finite-itis, cultural and social assumptions, givens, instinctual urges.

Yes, skeptical thinking is a stringent rinse/wash needing done constantly, at least 3 times a day.

Read, reflect, eliminate, and spit;-)

Then drink in the life-giving water of hope.

Step #2 Don't focus on the negative.

This often happens to us humans. We discover false beliefs, delusional errors, even plain mistakes,
and we major on the negative, identifying with what we oppose rather than
with what we hope for in the future.

We become like the hypochondriac who never lives in hope because he is always
fixating on the danger of illnesses out there that he may get.

He becomes so sickness-germ-avoiding obsessed that he fails to think of how not only
the cosmos was, is, will be, but even more importantly, how the cosmos ought to be and could be!

We don’t stop drinking rum or wine or beer or tea or coffee or hot chocolate or milk
and water because sometimes they might be contaminated.

We are just very careful.

So don't identify as central what you reject. Don't fall for pessimism, total skepticism.

Step #3 Focused on what is good, what is true, what is beautiful, what is just, what is right, and
what is compassionate.

Seek new ethical truths not yet discovered.

Live for transcendent values.

Step #4 Keep aware that hope isn't proof.

Immediately there will be critics who will demand the
impossible--that we prove hope exists,
prove that ethics
exist, prove that humans are more than "bags of chemicals," “wet robots,”
"puppets," or cosmic chaff.

While I think there are reasons for hope, and reasons to think creativity, chance,
and human alternative choice exist, there's no proof that transcendent values are true.

If one looks back in natural history, or nature today, one can see that "survival"
seems to be the only reality before extinction.

Hope can't be proven any more than any other philosophical hypothesis.

Philosophers have argued for thousands of years over this sort to idea.

Step #5 Be aware of false choices such as determinism.

About a thousand years ago, Muslim scholars became convinced that determinism
is true, that no human can make alternative choices, only Allah ordains all.
And after that, Islamic countries suffered a shocking decline in education, creativity, discovery, etc.

There were likely many factors which caused this not only the Muslims’ fatalistic
philosophy, but the latter has been noted by a number of historians as to why
so many Islamic countries are backward, unproductive, intolerant, and stagnant.

“Allah wills” as the constant refrain of every conversation isn’t skeptical by a long shot.

And think of how Hinduism's rigid interpretation of karma, caste, and the concept
of eternal return inhibited Asia from leading in science in the past.

After all, if one is convinced that everything is illusion, and that Brahma causes
all events to happen in his cosmic dance, of what point would there be
to look for new concepts and actions? That would only be deluding oneself.

And, more recently, one can swim in the dark waters of postmodernism, where even
the most basic concepts of realness are questioned. But then no one has a leg to stand on.

And, of course, there are the horrific examples from Christianity.

Yes, one needs to be both honest, skeptical, and hopeful.

It seems that a specific miracle claim—if available for study—can be disproven
(or supposedly proven, though none ever have been), but how could one possibly
prove or disprove
that consciousness, reason,
logic, mathematics, aesthetics, the “laws” of nature, etc. are illusions or are real?

This becomes a philosophical battle between the empiricists and the rationalists.

Allegedly, we can’t even prove that existence is real
because we have to assume that our senses
are reliable, that reason and science aren't fooling us.

And we must highly value honesty, not deception.

While both methods work in nature—methods of deception have been
highly successful in nature—scientific discovery depends on complete and meticulous honesty
in one’s scientific findings.

Think of how many studies in science have been shipwrecked by over eager
scientists who have jumped to conclusions or even a few times
intentionally fabricated lab results to help produce wanted conclusions.

I’m opting for the opposite view,--that is my presupposition--that the Enlightenment view of existence is true,
that humans have choice,
that reason is reliable,
that the scientific method does find actual real characteristics
of a real world and cosmos out there,
that the good, the just, the right is real.

So here goes: A Skeptical Worldview of Hope

To be continued--

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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