Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Aristotle's Mayfly And Modern San Francisco Liars

I read broadly to avoid confirmation bias.  I like opinions that are different from the norm, in all directions from my own.  This leads to the discovery of some pretty radical assertions that beg fact-checking.  The lesson for would-be fact-checkers follows later, so I ask your patience.

My interest in mining and energy investments has sometimes led me to Peak Oil websites.  The resident doomsayers claim the nearsightedness of the world's scientific establishment blinds us to the pending end of advanced civilization.  One radical cites a common quote wherein Aristotle supposedly observed that a fly had only four legs and naturalists repeated his observation for centuries without any independent verification.  That is just total baloney.  No such thing happened.  This science blog article "Aristotle On The Mayfly" deconstructs in detail how this false canard was born.  It just goes to show that plenty of scientifically-minded people have been sufficiently curious for thousands of years to fact-check simple observations.  Dogmatism among lazy "thinkers" with angry agendas inhibits quality research.

I want to contrast this empirically based behavior with the attitudes of other less inquisitive humans I have experienced in modern America.  I have contacted a large number of people in my local area who have had contact with one very glib and crafty Stolen Valor fraud.  His lies are easily disproven with a Google search of his name, but the people who continue to support him show absolutely no interest in checking facts for themselves.  They instead recoil in anger when presented with facts and continue to enable this person's lies.

I marvel at the stupidity of my contemporaries.  I have tried to understand this behavior from many angles.  Perhaps accepting comforting falsehoods provides humans with emotional satisfaction.  That would certainly explain the persistence of the world's monotheistic mystery religions well past the birth of scientific rationalism.  It may be that the people I've tried to warn are just lazy or stupid.  That puts them in good company with the majority of the human race.

If my focus on facts is insufficiently impressive, then karma will have to suffice.  The universe does not tolerate injustice indefinitely in human affairs because even extreme behavior reverts to some mean.  I do not tolerate injustice at all if I have the power to fight it.  The vile Stolen Valor criminal who hides among The City's steel canyons will eventually meet justice in our nation's court system and his supporters will be powerless to help him.  I do not expect them to understand what will happen or why, any more than I expect dogmatic radicals to perform deep background research on how ancient philosophers addressed scientific knowledge.  That is simply too much to ask of most humans.