This post, which is similar to the “about” page on this website, is devoted to discussing crackpot ideas. First, I must say that I believe that outside of the hard sciences, where rigorous scientific experimentation is possible to validate ideas, virtually all ideas about the nature of reality, and especially social reality, may potentially be crackpot ideas. Also, I believe that all of us, given that we have finite mental resources in a world of unbounded complexity, are often overwhelmed by all the data and so we from time to time believe in crackpot ideas, though undoubtedly some people do more so than others! I am here to discuss a number of such crackpot ideas, some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t, and some of which are popular and some of which are not. I find that, at least in our quickly unraveling society, there appears to be virtually no relationship between the degree to which an idea is popular and the degree to which it appears to be crackpot. Some people seem to believe that if an idea is repeated often enough by enough people, then it is not a crackpot idea. I would call that idea a crackpot idea. I am not even sure that the most fundamental ideas we live by today are not crackpot ideas, and I wonder whether it is a crackpot idea that by examining closely each and every idea that we hold dear then somehow we may be able to claw our way back to a healthy and sustainable approach to life.
If all ideas regarding social reality cannot be validated by scientific experiment and therefore are potentially crackpot ideas, then all ideas forming the basis for rules to govern a society, and all ideas regarding optimal or practicable forms of social organization, are potentially crackpot ideas. Given that there are innumerable such ideas and potential narratives to support them, it seems that the only way that people have ever been able to coalesce around any one set of ideas sufficiently to develop a system of rules to live by and a stable social organization to live under has been through maintaining a narrowness of vision. It also appears that such a narrowness of vision has typically been enforced by the dominant members of a society.
If most people were to realize the ideas underlying governmental organizations or legal systems are imposed by elites and based on a narrow, self-serving vision of social reality, would that not lead to social chaos? Not necessarily. There are any number of alternatives that individuals aware of a broader vision could coalesce around. I explore a new conservative philosophical approach that is based on just such a broad vision in another blog post here titled “Sustainable Conservatism.”
The philosophical foundation for many of the ideas expressed here can be found at: https://www.third-millennium-ethics.com
I also have a youtube channel under “J M Nightingale”
Feel free to comment on the crackpot ideas presented here or to add your own.
I start with a number of liberal crackpot ideas, followed by some other crackpot ideas, and I finish with my own crackpot ideas. I present so many crackpot ideas of social liberals, particularly Social Justice Warriors, because I find them to be the most numerous and extreme. I would argue that crackpot ideas of social liberals mostly derive from viewing social reality as a set of snapshots instead of viewing it as an evolving process composed of complex feedback loops. Simple snap judgments are made based on those snapshots and demands for change in the interest of social justice follow from that.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIBERAL CRACKPOT IDEAS
LC1: Left-wing government can succeed by being soft
LC2: Inevitable progress in social justice
LC3: Social liberalism goes together well with economic equality
LC4: People should be grouped so that those disadvantaged can be identified
LC5: World would be a better place if women would perform the same jobs as men
LC6: Christians invented differences between the sexes
LC7: Only explanation for boys performing better is discrimination against girls
LC8: No need for people to control their sexual urges in a large society
LC9: When people give in to their urges it does not influence the behavior of others
LC10: Undergoing a transgender procedure, is a healthy and reasonable choice to make
LC11: It is important to love yourself in order to have high self-esteem and be happy
LC12: It is healthy to teach children that they are “special”
LC13: Goal of life should be “self-actualization”
LC14: Arc of moral universe bends toward justice
LC15: Non-human animals should have rights
LC16: Spanking does more harm to children than psychoactive medications do
LC17: Domestic violence would be reduced if women were to become more aggressive
LC18: The patriarchy is responsible for over-sexualizing young girls
LC19: Heterosexuality is in no way superior to homosexuality
OTHER CRACKPOT IDEAS
OC1: Warren Commission provided accurate accounting of the Kennedy assassination
OC2: Society with completely unfettered free markets would be ideal
OC3: Libertarianism is the best political philosophy because it provides “freedom”
OC4: Money is the same as speech for the purposes of the Free Speech clause
OC5: Free Speech clause was intended to protect artistic or commercial expression
OC6: American belief system will make life go smoothly for most people most of the time
OC7: It is possible to “know everything”
OC8: Either something like the Christian god exists or there must not be any god at all
OC9: Christianity has no value if the fundamental beliefs about Jesus are incorrect
OC10: Commercial pornography does not involve prostitution
OC11: Identity over time is absolute
OC12: Individual humans are imbued with some sort of “free will”
OC13: Events are predictable
OC14: Time travel
OC15: Self-aware AI robots
OC16: AI-programmed computers/robots would develop human consciousness
MY CRACKPOT IDEAS
MC1: Life should be seen as self-perpetuating feedback loops
MC2: Phenomena in a society are the result of innumerable different chains of causality
MC3: Government should establish boarding schools for disadvantaged youths
MC4: Child custody presumption should be in favor of the parent of the same sex
MC5: Nature of death
MC6: US Congress should be half female
So let’s first examine some liberal crackpot ideas…
LC1: One of the most fundamental liberal crackpot ideas is that a left-wing government can succeed by being soft, gentle, and permissive. I suppose that such an approach could possibly work in a small group, but in a large society the free rider problem* would lead to too many taking advantage of the lax rules to their advantage. Most conservatives understand that the free rider problem means that left-wing systems must be strict and even harsh if they are to be sustainable. Moreover, a sustainable left-wing political system must implement some form of meritocracy, as the alternative is interminable bickering and jockeying for position of individuals and groups demanding a greater share of the pie.
* The free rider problem is that in a society with voluntary contribution for services, whether contributing with money or contributing in other ways, those who are best off are those who use the services but don’t contribute, and most people would realize that over time and copy that behavior, to the point the services are not funded or provided for sufficiently and are discontinued, at which time everyone is worse off than they would have been if everyone had contributed. Note that in a small group the free rider problem is less of an issue because there is no anonymity and social pressure can be applied to those who shirk their duties.
LC2: A somewhat related liberal crackpot idea is that there is natural or inevitable progress in social justice. That would not be true even if social justice were well-defined, which it is not as its meaning continues to evolve and that evolution is always influenced by those in power. Moreover, what happens in any given space and time is the result of all the forces acting in that space at the time, all the different pressures being applied, and the history of social justice is just one of those pressures, one that is without solid foundation as those in power mostly determine what is the history. Now, it may be that there is an appearance of progress, as human technology, particularly related to communications, creates the conditions for building a bigger and bigger tribe or group, to the point that most people feel that the group includes the entire human race, and so some form of social contract appears to apply to virtually all the human race, eliminating much of the extreme treatment that people deemed “outsiders” often receive. However, this large group can become quite unstable as so many of the connections are not personal and traditional but are more abstract and tenuous, and the pressures for the elites in control to take personal advantage will likely at some point exceed the pressures to keep true to the social contract with the members of the large group.
Also, note that the long held and well-supported belief that a kinder, gentler approach to human relations would provide greater economic efficiency and productivity did have some effect in molding modern society, but in a future world heavily dependent on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics the connection between keeping the social contract, maintaining that kinder world, and economic efficiency may vanish and the entire history of building on that connection could become irrelevant.
LC3: Another related liberal crackpot idea is that social liberalism goes together well with economic equality. This idea illustrates the blind spot that liberals have regarding the needs of non-elite men. With economic equality and social liberalism, non-elite men have no control and no hope of ever gaining control over satisfying their emotional needs. With economic equality, a woman does not need the offer of economic security that she might otherwise get from a non-elite man, and with social liberalism, the woman does not have much need for a non-elite man in order to have family and emotional security, so there is not much incentive for the woman to commit to a long-term relationship and the creation of a family with a non-elite man. This leaves the majority of non-elite men broken, bitter, and disconnected from the mainstream society.
LC4: A liberal crackpot idea, popular with the Social Justice Warriors, that is particularly annoying is that people should be grouped by certain characteristics so that those disadvantaged can be identified and appropriately compensated. A problem with this is that individuals have many different dimensions, including social class, income or wealth, wealth of one’s parents, educational level, intelligence (which can be multi-dimensional), race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, first language, age, general health, height, weight or body shape, physical attractiveness, athletic ability, sexual practices or preferences, hobbies, geographical location, job or profession, etc…
Note that an individual may be, with respect to one dimension, in a group that has been traditionally disadvantaged, and with respect to another dimension, in a group that has been advantaged (e.g., an African-American from a wealthy family). Actually, the odds are that the great majority of individuals are in at least one advantaged and at least one disadvantaged group for some dimension of some importance. Any reasonable attempt to judge whether a person is “advantaged” or “disadvantaged” would require a holistic approach to consider all the dimensions with any significant impact on overall quality of life. For example, a reasonable conclusion would be that a physically attractive, well-educated African-American woman with wealthy parents is certainly more advantaged than a poor, uneducated, physically unattractive white male immigrant from Serbia who was a child of poverty.
Instead of following a somewhat sophisticated and consistent approach to determining whether an individual is holistically advantaged or disadvantaged, it has become common to focus on just two dimensions – sex and race, with the implication that white males are the most privileged group. This is troubling not only because it ignores the great majority of dimensions that could be considered, but because those are not particularly powerful indicators of advantage or privilege in the USA in the 21st Century. Wealth and income, followed by educational level of the individual or the individual’s parents, are much more powerful indicators of advantage. And if one does focus on race, it is problematic that Asian-Americans outperform Caucasian Americans in wealth and income and in professional success. Also, if one focuses on sex, it is problematic that female college graduates outnumber males by a significant percentage and the gap continues to grow.
Moreover, the selection of which dimensions to focus on to address grievances is inevitably going to be influenced by power relationships, meaning that rather than reducing unfairness, this method offers another avenue for the powerful and well-connected to use government to increase their advantages. In short, discrimination is multidimensional, and focusing on only one dimension at a time can lead to more unfairness, rather than less. The one dimension that incorporates other dimensions to the greatest extent, and so would be the most appropriate if one were to focus on only one dimension, is wealth, but the most powerful and influential do all they can to keep that from being the focus. Note that the groupings along various dimensions, other than by income and wealth, are often used by the wealthy and powerful to divide the common people.
However, I should add that I believe that sex is fundamentally different from the other dimensions, in part because sex differences, to be distinguished from the other differences, were found to be significant by the Human Genome Project, involve clear anatomical differences, including anatomical differences in the brain, and were clearly developed through evolution to lead to different abilities, propensities, sensitivities, and sensibilities, and these should be recognized and valued as the two sexes were designed by evolutionary pressures to complement each other. Also, though it is sometimes done, thinking in terms of tribe in grouping by sex makes much less sense than using tribe to refer to an ethnic or racial group. Actual human tribes required having both males and females in order to survive short-term and long-term and both sexes are essential elements in any real tribe, so trying to apply the tribe concept to one sex is problematic. As a side issue, note that discrimination by sex has no inter-generational effects as racial discrimination does, because each individual has male and female ancestors that they inherit from and is capable of having male and female heirs, so the effects of past discrimination on the basis of sex, as opposed to race, do not pass down from generation to generation.
LC5: One related popular liberal crackpot notion is that the world would be a better place if women would perform the same jobs and tasks as men, ignoring any sexual differences, including jobs as firefighters and Marines, among other traditional male roles, and that they should be employed in equal numbers in engineering and computer science even if men on average show more aptitude. This notion is based on the idea that women can only be treated equally and have equal access to resources if we pretend that there are not any differences. This rough and crude early approach to equality of the sexes is doomed to failure because it ignores real physical and cognitive differences that developed, for survival purposes, over the course of evolution. We need to accept that men and women have different strengths and weaknesses and that they are both essential for the survival of the human group. Pretending they are identical not only contradicts virtually all the evidence on sex differences but is not even an effective method of achieving the result of equal status for women, which is really at the heart of the matter.
LC6: A somewhat related crackpot idea of the past few decades is this notion that somehow Christians invented differences between the sexes. It seems that hundreds of millions of years of animal evolution, including millions of years of human evolution, distinguishing males from females in anatomy and physiology and in behavioral propensities had nothing to do with it. A corollary crackpot idea is that the millions of years of evolution designing female parts and male parts to fit together offers no advantage and does not imply that other aspects of male and female were designed to fit together.
LC7: Another related liberal crackpot idea is that if girls perform better than boys on some subject at a young age, then the only explanation for boys performing better at a later age is discrimination against girls. However, just as it is apparent that girls mature intellectually at a younger age than boys, it is clear that girls peak at a younger age then boys. That is why it is common for boys to pass girls in aptitude in certain subjects as they grow older and why comparing young girls with boys of the same age on any subject is a poor method for predicting long-term potential.
LC8: Another liberal crackpot notion is that there is no need for people to control their sexual urges in a large society . Humans evolved in small groups and whatever behavioral propensities they developed during evolution are designed to improve survival and reproduction chances in those small groups. As humans have come to find security, economic efficiency, and a much greater quality of life in large groups, they have had to make adjustments in order to fit into the larger group, in order to maintain some level of stability and harmony in that group, and that includes controlling a number of urges, including sexual urges. Only a crackpot would assume there is no trade-off for gaining the advantages of living in a large group.
LC9: A related liberal crackpot idea is that when people give in to their urges it does not influence the behavior of others. This seems particularly inconsistent when the people who hold this belief also believe that every human act has innumerable repercussions for the environment because it is all interconnected. But the human society is an extremely connected subset of the environment. Every time someone gives in to an urge, particularly if it directly involves other people, there are innumerable repercussions. Our social environment is probably the most interconnected part of our environment. Moreover, if we should consider sustainability issues when we propose to impact the natural environment, as liberals repeatedly tell us, we should consider such issues when we impact the human social environment.
LC10: Another slightly related liberal crackpot idea that is particularly troubling is that changing from one sex to the other, i.e., undergoing a transgender procedure, is a healthy and reasonable choice to make. First off, maybe medical advances will change this in the future, but as of now even with surgery and hormone therapy one can only resemble the other sex in a superficial manner. The years of brain and body development as the other sex can not be completely, or even mostly, erased. Also, much of the knowledge of how to survive as a member of one’s birth sex will lose its value, and one will have missed out on gaining the corresponding knowledge that members of the other sex developed during youth.
Another problem with accepting the idea is that one’s physical sexual characteristics at birth are objective and anything but arbitrary, while a culture’s association between one’s sex and personality traits (“feminine” or “masculine”) is somewhat subjective and arbitrary. Rather than changing the non-arbitrary body to fit with arbitrary and subjective notions about gender, it would make far more sense to change the arbitrary and subjective notions about personality characteristics of a particular sex to fit with the body.
But maybe the most compelling reason to condemn this idea is that it distracts and confuses troubled and unhappy individuals and prevents them from focusing on more reasonable means to improve their lives. A further problem is that as the idea gains momentum, it offers another opportunity for individuals to knowingly make behavioral choices that are disfavored by the general society, and then, after claims of discrimination, expect the society to make accommodations for that choice. This is problematic for behavioral choices because humans are quite flexible and adaptable animals, and there are innumerable possible behavioral choices they can make, and social chaos is only prevented, and some degree of social harmony achieved, by limiting that number through societal pressure to restrict apparently unhealthy or arbitrary behavior.
LC11: Another common liberal crackpot idea is that it is important to love yourself in order to have high self-esteem and be happy. I find this to be nonsense. To declare love for something is to declare a strong connection with something outside oneself. Of course one is connected with oneself so the concept of love is misapplied to the self. Promoting self-love becomes harmful in that it encourages inflexibility as it reinforces connections to current behavior patterns that may be maladaptive. Also, conflating connections with oneself with love leads to overvaluing one’s characteristics in others, encouraging individuals to seek the company of others who resemble them rather than others who complement them, the latter being the healthier and more reasoned approach.
LC12: A related crackpot idea is that it is healthy to teach children that they are “special.” This can lead to harmful levels of narcissism in the individual and society at large as it tends to convince people that they need not worry about the needs and welfare of others (who by implication are less special and less important as the descriptor means nothing if everyone is special). However, if the individual can keep in mind that the individual is part of different groups, a more intimate group composed of family and loved ones in which the individual is special and important, the recognition of which can fill important emotional needs, and a larger group of the broader society in which the individual keeps a social contract and does that which is expected without trying to assume a special or unique position with extraordinary privileges, the individual can have emotional needs met while simultaneously acting in harmony with the larger group. Note that the often sought after celebrity status in American society does appear to allow certain individuals to feel special in the larger group, but since one cannot have intimate relations with large numbers of people and maintain one’s emotional stability, the mismatch created between the type of relationship and the size of the group usually leads to far more trouble than it is worth.
LC13: Another somewhat related liberal crackpot idea is that the goal of life should be “self-actualization,” as described by Maslow. There may be some merit to the idea of a hierarchy of needs, as Maslow claimed, but the notion of self-actualization is pure poppycock. Humans evolved for most of their history in small hunter-gatherer groups, with some more rapid evolution in the past few thousand years in large agricultural societies, and they struggled to adapt to various environments in order to reproduce and to survive as best they could as long as they could. Did a Cro-Magnon man self-actualize by killing a Mammoth? Did a Cro-Magnon woman self-actualize by finding a medicinal root? One’s goals and one’s assessment of whether they have been achieved are completely determined by one’s interpretation of one’s needs and the group’s needs, in a particular setting, a particular environment, and this is malleable. There are an infinite number of possible needs and goals to meet those needs and it is completely arbitrary as to whether achieving any of them results in “self-actualization.”
LC15: A really annoying liberal crackpot idea is that non-human animals have rights. This comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what rights are. Rights are part of the social contract of every individual in a society that offer an inducement for that individual to participate constructively in that society. Rights are also accorded to those who are unable to participate because of age or disability, but this is justified by their close kinship to, other connections to, and similarity with other humans who can participate. The system of rights creates harmony and stability in a large society as it convinces most to be productive and contributing members of that society. Extending this system to animals that do not understand it makes little sense as it provides no inducement to cooperate. Also, given that for every benefit there is a cost, every consideration given to non-human animals leads to some cost to humans. That means that the more rights given to non-human animals, the fewer rights that humans have, and given that the weak are usually bullied by the strong, ultimately this means that the most weak and vulnerable humans will bear the costs of the rights given to the non-human animal friends of the strong, which is somewhat ironic because the justification for extending rights to animals is to protect the most vulnerable beings. Also, if rights were extended to non-human animals, what would constitute the boundary of those with rights? Would it be restricted to pets, when they constitute a tiny percentage of the animals in the world? Would it be restricted to primates, when some aquatic mammals (e.g, dolphins) are more intelligent than some primates? Would it be restricted to mammals, while some birds and even invertebrates (e.g., the octopus) are more intelligent than some mammals? There are no defensible boundaries, except for the already established human boundary.
LC16: One quite harmful liberal crackpot idea is that spanking does more harm to children than psychoactive medications do. At some point it became mainstream thinking that spanking does irreparable harm to most children even though the evidence from centuries of widespread use of the practice showed that it rarely had that effect. Also, note that humans evolved in a manner such that children would grow more slowly physically than other primates, allowing adults to physically control them somewhat easily until their post-pubescent years, implying that there was an evolutionary advantage in adults physically controlling young children. But instead of continuing to use spanking to control children’s behavior, it became common to use psychoactive medications for that purpose. However, after years of this practice, a mountain of evidence suggests that these medications are far more harmful than spanking ever could have been, and yet no movement has formed to curb this dangerous practice.
LC17: A slightly related liberal crackpot idea is that domestic violence would be reduced if women were to become more aggressive and physical. Given that men are programmed by evolution to resist violently any attempts to dominate them physically, the more aggressive and physical women become, the more aggressive and physical the men will become, likely leading to more domestic violence. Evolution provided women with other means to control men that allow a couple to build and maintain a strong bond over a period of years, and it makes little sense for women to be discouraged from using those methods or encouraged to use the traditional male method of physical force.
LC18: This might not be among the most commonly believed liberal crackpot ideas, but it is one that I have come across — that somehow the dreaded “Patriarchy” is guilty of over-sexualizing young girls in the US. This seems particularly preposterous because the most patriarchal societies, including those where most of the members adhere to radical versions of Islam, go as far as they can in the opposite direction. They view young girls as innocent and do all they can to protect them and their innocence. On the other hand, in Western societies, feminists constantly encourage young girls to embrace and promote their sexuality, as the feminists believe this empowers girls relative to boys. Some feminists, particularly the performer Madonna, encourage this over-sexualization as a means to win fans and to increase their personal profits.
LC19: At the risk of being accused of bigotry, stupidity, or maliciousness, I must add that I believe that one of the most problematic liberal crackpot ideas is that heterosexuality is in no way superior to homosexuality. Heterosexuality and the associated preference for heterosexual behavior were created by millions of years of evolution to provide certain advantages, not by the Catholic Church or any other religion. Among the many advantages, one simple and obvious one is that it made male parts fit into female parts. Mother Nature spent millions of years fashioning male bodies and female bodies to complement each other and to go together in harmony. Mother Nature also made the sexes complementary emotionally and provided them with a wide variety of complementary strengths and weaknesses. Throwing away those advantages, not to mention the power of reproduction that heterosexuality provides, is like a giant waste of millions of years of effort. It makes about as much sense as having one’s thumbs converted to regular fingers. It would be a very inefficient use of resources, and it is nonsensical to claim that the most adaptable animal on the planet cannot modify its behavior from the inefficient to the efficient on learning of the advantage.
Also, one of the greatest benefits of the traditional prohibition against homosexual behavior is that it enabled societies to set up sex-free zones for children and adults by the establishment of same-sex activities and clubs. This was of great benefit to children particularly as it allowed them to develop mentally and emotionally in such sex-free zones where they would be free of sexual tension and sexual distractions. Sure, there would always be a few instances of homosexual behavior anyway, but for the great majority of children for the great majority of the time these sex-free zones were an essential part of personal development, and were a critical part of the maturation process that children went through in Western society that led to the development of modern Western civilization.
I will add that I understand that male homosexual preferences are often formed early in life and, even though humans are the most adaptable creatures on the planet, rewiring to produce different preferences can be quite difficult, so it may be unnecessarily harsh or cruel to try to force different choices on the male homosexual population. However, female sexuality is generally much more malleable and few even try to argue that lesbianism is hardwired. Even hardcore militant feminist lesbians claim that lesbianism is a choice, in part because that is consistent with their agenda to turn all women and girls into lesbians. So lesbians make a choice to avoid sexual and romantic relationships with the half of the population that evolution spent millions of years to make them sexually and romantically compatible with. Given that, I do not believe it is a stretch to identify lesbians as misandrists or lesbianism as a form of misandry, and misandry is hate. Also, note that when misandry becomes fashionable, the very survival of the society is in jeopardy, as human behavior responds to social pressures, and if all the social pressure is in one direction, then there is the danger of creating an accelerating downward spiral leading to catastrophic levels of disharmony and discord.
It also should be mentioned that while the West was in the battle for world hegemony with the Soviet Union, stable heterosexual families were promoted by the elites to not only increase the population but also its productivity and the overall wealth and social stability of the society. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a world market could be formed that did not depend on US or other Western labor or consumers, and overpopulation because of Climate Change and resource depletion became a serious issue, it appears that the elites began to promote homosexuality over heterosexuality in order to reduce the birth rate and thereby reduce the population over time, as well as make the society more chaotic to make an organized revolt by the common people more difficult.
Other crackpot ideas…
OC1: One very popular crackpot idea is that the Warren Commission provided a full and accurate accounting of the Kennedy assassination. Not only did a congressional investigation in the 1970’s, following the release of a great many confidential documents related to the assassination, find the Warren Commission report to be seriously flawed, but it concluded that the assassination most likely involved a conspiracy. I suppose that a “magic bullet” could theoretically have done everything it was claimed to have done, but other highly unlikely events including Ruby shooting Oswald before he could talk, the alleged extremely fast and accurate marksmanship of Oswald who had never been a top marksman, and the forgiving nature of the US government with regard to Oswald’s prior traitorous activities, as well as many other odd phenomena associated with the shooting, should make any rational observer extremely suspicious.
OC2: Another crackpot idea is that a society with completely unfettered free markets would be ideal. Though it appears that given a good number of capable, knowledgeable, healthy, and creative people in a society the implementation of something like a free market can help to create a high level of motivation and creativity leading to significant increases in innovation and productivity, the focus by all the economic actors on the narrow and short-term, which they must focus on in order to survive in an unfettered free market, means the broad and long-term goals are ignored, including the goal of maintaining the conditions necessary for the system to continue to operate. The natural and inevitable decay of all systems that are not actively maintained, that do not receive a consistent input of constructive energy, means that the unfettered free market system on its own is unsustainable. Also, the energy devoted to narrow, short-term goals in pursuit of maximum profit while taking advantage of the lowest common denominator applies pressure to force the lowest common denominator lower and lower and creates a downward spiral that vulgarizes the culture and leads to disintegration of the society.
OC3: A related crackpot idea is that Libertarianism is the best political philosophy because it provides people with the most “freedom.” The main problem with this idea is that Libertarianism is not so much about liberty as it is about private property. It might more accurately be called “Propertyism” as it provides that the government’s main purpose is to protect private property. And what about private property makes its protection such a fundamental right? Note that there is no private property in Nature. Private property is an abstraction that creates a connection (generally called “ownership”), usually an exclusive one, between an individual and some non-human thing. The other members of the society are expected to honor this exclusive connection, and a Libertarian government’s main role is to make sure that they do. Certainly there is some value in honoring the connection as the connection can be used as a reward for positive contributions of the individual to the group. Also, establishing the connection can signal which individual has the responsibility for the thing, providing motivation that it be used for positive rather than negative effect. But these reasons are more consistent with Utilitarianism, i.e., honoring the connection is justified because it serves the greater good. However, if Libertarianism is to be preferred over Utilitarianism, then that must mean that a society should honor the connection when it does not serve the greater good, including when it means the unnecessary loss of life or harm to others, which most would find unjustifiable.
OC4: A crackpot idea regarding the US Constitution is that money is the same as speech for the purposes of the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. Virtually all rules come with the expectation that a reasonable balance should be struck when different rights conflict. Allowing one party to flood the medium, e.g., the airwaves, so as to drown out the other party clearly violates the second party’s right to free speech more than restricting the first party’s expenditures does. Speech that is drowned out is speech that may as well be silenced, and guaranteeing the right to silenced speech is not guaranteeing speech at all.
OC5: Another crackpot idea regarding the Free Speech clause, one that has more of a libertarian flavor, is that the clause was intended to protect artistic or commercial expression or to allow frustrated people to “blow off steam.” The clause was intended to allow the citizens to shine a light on the situation in the society, particularly on the actions of government officials, in order to apply pressure to correct misbehavior or force a change in policy. It had nothing to do with artistic or commercial free expression or with some psychological need to “be heard” through an ineffectual exercise of speech.
OC6: A popular American crackpot idea is that not only is it possible to design a belief system and set of rules that will make life go smoothly for most people most of the time, but that the current American belief system and associated rules are close to reaching that goal. This is untenable. Humans were designed by evolution to live in small hunter-gatherer groups. They came together into large groups for security and economic efficiency. There may also be some attraction for the young to the large group because it offers more possible mating partners. But there is great cost in being part of a large group, as the human emotional-motivational system is not designed to handle relations with large numbers of people. Insincerity and dishonesty, as well as a number of more serious harmful behaviors, become more common in the large group because they are often rewarded as the virtual anonymity in the large group greatly reduces accountability.
Belief systems regarding “good and evil” with accompanying rules of morality are usually implemented in the large group to attempt to limit the harmful behavior, but a complicating factor is that the elites in the position to develop the rules usually do so in a way that advantages them, so that rule systems are in part designed to serve the purposes of the elites and in part designed to serve the needs of the whole society. Furthermore, it is possible to imagine innumerable different belief systems and there is no practicable method for proving that one is clearly superior to another or for proving that there do not exist innumerable other belief systems superior to a particular system. That makes agreement difficult because everyone tends to look at the world in a way that is colored by their own experiences and that is most favorable to themselves or people like themselves and this influences their preferences. What makes it even worse is that there is no universally accepted understanding of what it means for one set of beliefs or rules to be “superior” to another. Does that mean that for the individuals in the group it leads to a desirable goal? What goal? Is the goal a higher quality of life (what constitutes that?), a greater chance for long-term survival of the group, or something else? And what is the group? Is it the whole of the human race or some subset, e.g., the people in one’s own tribe or nation? Is it for the majority, the great majority, or all of the people in the group? Is it just for individuals in the group who are alive today or does it include those expected to be born sometime in the foreseeable future or even those who come after that?
For these reasons it becomes very difficult to build and maintain a system of universally accepted beliefs and associated moral rules, and so to limit disruptions caused by disagreements and belief divergence a large group usually relies heavily on some form of criminal justice system (certainly the US does, with more prisoners than any other nation in the world), which often uses a hammer when a scalpel is required, and leads to many broken individuals who then spread their misery to others almost like a contagion.
OC7: Another related crackpot idea is that it is possible to “know everything.” What is problematic about this is that the set of all things to be known is unbounded. Not only is the universe evolving continuously, and not only does every event affect every other event eventually, and not only are there innumerable different aspects to and repercussions from the interaction, and not only are there innumerable perspectives from which to perceive those events, but any realizable set of rules for analyzing those events is incomplete (see Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem). Furthermore, no scientific theory can ever properly be declared infallible, as theories are merely rules regarding the nature of reality that have proven to predict events correctly, usually in controlled settings, with some arbitrarily defined degree of accuracy and better than alternative rules. All models of reality are limited by the limitations of those making the models, and there is no justification for declaring any model to be complete and infallible.
OC8: Another popular crackpot idea is that either something like the Christian god exists or there must not be any god at all. Now this comes from a complete failure of imagination. Not only are there a great many other current and past religions which each have their own gods, but it seems entirely clear that innumerable different forms of a god could map onto the patterns of perception that give rise to the concept of any particular god, i.e., just as Plato’s shadows on the cave could have been created by any number of entities of any kind of form, any form or kind of god could be behind any number of layers of reality that give rise to our perceptions, though such speculation can create unnecessary, apparently arbitrary, and unhelpful complexity. Occam’s razor can provide a path out of this swamp (that the simplest explanation that accounts for the facts is the preferred one, i.e., that there is nothing to be gained by speculating on extra layers of complexity, as our experiences simply flow from the universe unfolding before us), but it comes at the price of abandoning the pleasant feeling of wonder and any comforting afterlife myths that belief in the supernatural may provide.
OC9: Continuing on the subject of religion, another common crackpot idea is that Christianity has no value, or even has a negative value, if the fundamental beliefs about Jesus and the Christian god are incorrect. Regardless of whether the fundamental beliefs are correct, and it is my guess that they are not, Christianity helped to build one of the most successful civilizations in human history. Organizing humans, who developed in small groups, into sustainable large groups is apparently quite a feat as failure has been far more common than success. Christianity is often blamed for a great many wars and much human misery, but humans in large groups usually behave in a callous and self-serving manner, as they are far more connected to their own narrow interests and goals than to the broad interests and goals of the large group. Christianity did not create this narrow focus (often called “greed”) or do much to further it, other than serving as an organizing principle for creating large societies, which virtually inevitably create the conditions that allow for manipulation of large numbers of people to serve narrow interests. I suspect that the powerful with the will and opportunity to manipulate others for self-serving purposes use whatever tools are available, including the predominant belief system of the society. That should not reflect on that particular belief system.
OC10: A slightly related crackpot idea, related in that it has to do with human morality, which seems trivial but which should be addressed because it is just so preposterous is that commercial pornography can be legal while prostitution is illegal. Given that laws against prostitution ban the practice of engaging in sexual acts in return for remuneration, and commercial pornography involves providing remuneration for people to engage in sexual acts for the purposes of a video recording, it is an obvious contradiction to claim that commercial pornography does not involve violating laws against prostitution. It may be a special kind of prostitution, but it still is prostitution as it involves engaging in sexual acts for remuneration. The fact that those who produce it have sufficient resources to hire legal talent capable of obfuscating the undeniable connection does not alter the clear underlying reality.
OC11: Moving on to the topic of the human mind, a very simple and problematic crackpot idea is that human identity over time is absolute. However, a human brain is changing, evolving, all the time as it loses old memories while it gains new ones along with new concepts and ideas, and it learns new skills and behavior patterns while it discards previous ones. We assume we as humans have identity over time for the sake of convenience, to simplify our world, not because it accurately portrays reality.
OC12: A related very popular and persistent crackpot notion is that individual humans are imbued with some sort of “free will.” The basic idea is that individuals have a “choice” in what decisions they make and that they choose to make “good” decisions or “bad” decisions. First off, this approach to the concept of choice is wrongheaded. Human behavior, like all animal behavior and virtually all phenomena in this universe, is determined by the set of internal and external pressures operating at the place and time. As the individual’s brain grows and evolves, it develops internal pressures, which usually have their origin in past external pressures, that it may perceive as its “will.” This will operates in the context of current external pressures, which will shape the individual’s response. Note that what constitutes the will is determined by the time frame. As the individual has experiences, the brain evolves and the internal pressures are shaped, and later these internal pressures are considered part of the individual’s will, though taking a broader time frame these internal pressures may be seen as a function of the earlier external pressures and not considered part of the will of the earlier version of that individual. Also, I will add that I am not here advocating a simple deterministic view. Each and every part of the universe at each point in time can be both determiner and determined. How one views it depends on the time frame and perspective one uses.
OC13: Another related crackpot idea is that just because the events that occur are the result of all the internal and external forces acting at a place and time, that means that any event is predictable. The problem is that the complexity of the forces and their interactions can be virtually unbounded, while the resources of the individual or entity making the prediction are limited. It is particularly problematic when the individual or entity making the prediction is involved in the interaction, meaning that the predictive process becomes part of the force involved, which would have a recursive effect (i.e., the prediction affects the prediction which affects the prediction, etc…), adding another layer of complexity that is virtually unbounded.
OC14: One source of entertainment that I enjoy is science fiction, and so I want to address a popular crackpot idea from that genre — time travel. I am no quantum physicist, and so I cannot speak to issues of time on the quantum or micro level, but on the macro level of visible objects time travel appears nonsensical. To begin with, characters who time travel in science fiction appear at what seems to be the same space in the different time, but that makes no sense. Everything in space is moving all the time, and so any point in space in the present has no exact corresponding point in the past or future (i.e., a particular place exists only at a particular time). The science fiction writers often use some point on Earth as the point of origin and the destination for the time travel, ignoring that the Earth is continuously moving relative to the Sun and the rest of the universe and that what keeps a non-time-traveling object in place relative to surrounding objects is the totality of all the forces acting on it, including gravity. For the time travel to occur, the object can no longer be subject to those forces, so the object should not respond to any of them, including gravity, and should not remain in the same location. I would guess that the location of the object at a different time, other than the immediate past or future, would be indeterminable. Maybe a more fundamental problem for time travel to the past is that the time traveler comes from nothing into something (and a something that is not some simple mass of particles but a very complex life form) at the past time, bootstrapping the time traveler’s own existence in the past time, and then as the time traveler has an effect (think the Butterfly Effect of Chaos Theory), the time traveler contributes to creating the preconditions for its own existence in the present time. Not only does that violate the fundamental rule that the sum total of mass and energy is constant (at least outside some sort of Big Bang singularity), but it requires a completely predetermined universe where the time traveler has always been part of the past and has always contributed to creating the preconditions for the time traveler’s act in the present to travel to the past.
OC15: Another crackpot idea from science fiction is that an intelligent robot or computer, one benefiting from sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) programming, would likely become self-aware. The flaw in this is that humans developed self-awareness as a survival technique, as there were survival advantages in distinguishing what is directly connected to one’s mind, i.e., one’s body, and what is not, which led to the development of the concept of self. Thus, evolution “programmed” self-awareness into humans, and a computer/robot with AI will not likely develop self-awareness unless the AI programmer intentionally includes that in the code or at least through the coding creates a situation where the AI program can recognize that it gains some advantage in accomplishing its goals by developing some form of self-awareness.
OC16: A related crackpot idea is that the AI-programmed computers/robots would likely develop something akin to human consciousness. The problem here is that human consciousness is the direct experience of brain function, to be contrasted with the images, sounds, etc…, that are part of the model of the real world that the brain constructs from those direct experiences. That implies that this direct experience is likely a function of the particular processes involved in the brain, i.e., the neurochemical processes giving rise to the direct experience, which implies that a computer/robot with extremely different processes, e.g., the electrical processes of a silicon-based circuit, would have a very different direct experience if it had a comparable experience at all.
On to my crackpot ideas…
MC1: One of my favorite crackpot ideas is that all of life should be seen as self-perpetuating feedback loops. All living things seek positive feedback that energizes them to grow and expand and seek out new positive feedback in a continuous loop. The human brain grows complex inner loops or circuits that connect with loops outside the brain to form sustainable and nurturing relationships with the environment. An individual has strong feedback loops within the individual’s own body, then somewhat weaker ones with the close family group, then weaker ones with larger groups the individual is a part of, as there is usually an inverse relationship between the size of the group and the strength of the feedback loops. I discuss this further at: https://third-millennium-ethics.com
MC2: Another of my crackpot ideas is that societal problems, or, more generally, phenomena in a society, should be understood as the result of innumerable different chains of causality that converge in one space at one time. Each link in each of these chains is some process, and the chain can be broken by disrupting the process. Therefore, rather than following the usual and self-defeating approach of finding some easily identified scapegoat to blame for any given societal problem, a better approach would be to identify the most significant chains of causality and find the best links to break in those chains.
Note that the point of assigning blame is to identify the causes of a negative outcome so that such outcomes may be prevented or mitigated in the future. The difficulty is that each event is one in a succession of innumerable events, i.e., each chain of causation is of unbounded length (and my involve feedback loops). Also, each event may be influenced by innumerable different factors, so that there are innumerable interconnected chains of events, each of unbounded length, that converge at a time and place to cause the negative outcome. So, how to determine which of these innumerable events to blame for the negative outcome? First, eliminate those that are completely or virtually unchangeable. Then eliminate those so far removed from the event that the connection is speculative. Then remove those that would be too costly to change. So the best candidates for blame would be those closely connected to the event that could be changed without great cost, particularly those for which the cost of change is less than the cost of the negative outcome. Assigning blame to other events would be inappropriate.
The corollary is that healthy or desirable phenomena in a society are also the result of different chains of causality and that breaking or severely weakening links in significant chains leading to those phenomena should be avoided if possible.
MC3: Another one of my crackpot ideas is that the government (federal, state, or local) should establish boarding schools for disadvantaged youths. Just pumping money into local schools with children who go home to chaotic environments does not appear to be very cost-effective, as the children are not able to develop the emotional stability or the positive attitude necessary to take advantage of the academic material they are exposed to. That is why they need to be admitted to boarding schools with controlled environments that provide them with the stable environment and positive feedback they need to develop good study habits and a taste for academics.
MC4: Another of my crackpot ideas involving child development is that children learn more from the parent of the same sex so I believe that the presumption in child custody cases should be in favor of giving custody to the parent of the same sex as the child. It was decided long ago that child custody cases would operate under a presumption that the mother should receive custody as it was assumed that the mother was the more necessary parent. However, I think the data developed over the past few decades of how poorly boys do without a father in the house makes it imperative to abandon the earlier presumption. Also, it was assumed that children would fare better if siblings were not separated, but the need of a boy for the constant oversight and companionship of a father appears to far outweigh any benefit the boy might receive from being placed with female siblings.
MC5: I have one crackpot idea on the nature of death. Let me first say that I do not believe that identity over time is absolute, and I do think that what identity one can have is based on the actual matter making up one’s brain and its organization or structure, i.e., an individual’s brain is a particular organization of particular matter, and the identity is changed if either of those is altered. So I do not believe that an individual with the same exact identity will ever again exist as there will not exist the same exact matter with the same exact organization. However, from one moment to the next, there is not the same exact matter or organization, so continuity does not require perfect identity. So, if the matter of the individual’s brain who dies continues to exist, and if there is a never-ending cycle of Big Bang to contraction to Big Bang, or alternatively if any Big Bang never contracts but instead at some point the matter created encounters matter from other parallel Big Bangs, there may be an unbounded number of organizations of any matter in the future, and some organization with some similarity to the individual’s brain with some of the matter of the individual’s brain may exist at some point in the future (even unimaginably far into the future), in a sense bringing the person back to life. Also, it may be that the eons that pass between the two points in time will seem like nothing, as the individual will not be conscious.
MC6: One of my other crackpot ideas follows from my belief in the special nature of differences between the sexes. In the long run, it benefits no one to pretend that men and women are indistinguishable or to use short-sighted and inefficient affirmative action policies that lower requirements for women in certain jobs, e.g., firefighters, Marines, engineers, or computer scientists. Mother Nature differentiated male from female over millions of years through evolution, so it is idiotic to expect the male and female populations to have the same distribution of talents or abilities. What women really want and need is equal power and the best way to achieve that in the US is not through the above-mentioned policies but instead by ensuring that half the members of Congress are women, which can only be done through a constitutional amendment that requires that half the members of the US House of Representatives (which would have to be reconfigured as there are currently 435 members – districts could be doubled in size and have both a male and female representative with all states getting at least two members, or the number could just be doubled to 870 ) and half the members of the US Senate be women. That would also require a provision to break ties in a potentially equally divided House, which could be done by the Vice President as is done in the Senate (the Vice President could have the same role in the House as in the Senate).
The US policy-making process clearly could use more input from women, but not from women trying to be or mimicking men, which is what the present system gives us. It needs input from women being women. Also, something radical needs to be done to end the current war between the sexes. As it spreads mistrust, anger, and even hatred, it is creating fissures in the very foundation of the society. As an old saying goes, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”