2.10.2013

25 Minutes - Dogma

Hi. It's Joe.

Today, I would like to post about dogma.

I like to call myself a non-conformist, even though most of my beliefs fall in line with those of self-identified progressives. I am a progressive in my values and some of my actions, but I am not a dogmatic one (as evidenced by other of my values and actions).

Actually, a better term to define me is as a rationalist. That is subtly different from a realist. I don't think anybody can truly be a realist, even though they might want to be, because everyone is imperfect enough in their senses and cognitive processes that true reality will always be out of reach. What we experience is a PROXY for reality (and for some people, a poor proxy at that), or to be precise, as close of an approximation to reality as our imperfect beings and our world views (beliefs) allow us to be. Reality waits for no one, and the fact that you could be hit by a bus tomorrow illustrates your incomplete grasp of reality, for if you truly saw the world as it is, you would only get hit by that bus by choice. If you are a good rationalist though, you can greatly lower your chances of being plowed into the asphalt by said bus ("Hmmm, perhaps I should not jay walk across this busy street...").

ASIDE: Interesting thought, but I heard on a radio show that it is actually statistically safer to fly on a plane today than to be in your own house. I am sketpical, of course, but when you reason it through, given the low rate of plane accidents and the higher rate of gas leaks and natural disasters and gunplay and the like, it could possibly be mathematically true.

A rationalist is also different than a skeptic. Although most rationalists can be skeptics, when it comes to questionable claims and stances on important things, skeptics are often dogmatically skeptical even when they don't need to be. They do it just to be dicks.

A person is dogmatic if they hold a worldview or perform an action, without actually doing the intellectual work of rational thought (for example, Prius drivers smugly think they are doing the world good, and when limited to gasoline consumption only, that is probably true, but when you look at the big picture, they may make the world a less hospitable place, because the electronic components take a huge toll on natural resources and cause exploitation in African nations).

Dogmatic people stick to a world view, because it is easier than trying to seek the truth through rational exploration and reasoning (think Biblical literalists). They regurgitate a belief system they have assumed is correct. I am not even going to try to say I am not dogmatic about some things (for example, that unethical behavior has no place in a corporate work environment). But I strive to be rational instead (objectively speaking, unethical behavior may further the self interests of individuals or increase the short term profitability of the company, and while this may not be a morally GOOD thing, it is fact). Rational thought is a much better way to go.

There are dogmatic progressives and dogmatic conservatives. There are also rational people on both sides of the political spectrum (which, by the way, is not a linear binary spectrum, but for purposes of this post, we can use that as a PROXY for the reality of the situation). The problem occurs when the dogmatic people set the agenda (RE: Fox News or Huffington Post). The rationalists get sidelined and the viewers are not taught how to break the issue down rationally and think about it. Our educational system also fosters dogmatic thinking (teaching to the test, instead of teaching how to think rationally and ask questions).

One dogmatic view is that money is the most important indicator of whether something is good. For example, when people say an economic policy or government program is bad because it will lose the country money. That's a dogmatic view because it does not ask the question whether that policy or program brings VALUE in exchange for its monetary cost. Value is not the same as money, and money is often a poor proxy for value (as evidenced by the unethically obtained billions in cash that America's largest banks now hold, thanks to government policies and programs that were supposed to help the economy).

Well, I said all I need to say about that.

Time.

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