a W88 (475 kt) thermonuclear warhead is a tool

The second definition for tool in the OED is “A weapon of war.”
An issue this complex is never just one thing. However, we might lay significant blame at the feet of “education.” Education, as an institution, is, like every institution in society, designed to reproduce society (within narrow ideological constraints). Thus, education in America today is geared primarily towards the reduction of capitalism, middle managers, and wage slaves. This should not be controversial.
How many schools teach rhetoric? Critical/creative thinking is often written in to course objectives, but since the Gentleman’s A- is now becoming par, is the object ever significantly achieved? After all, everyone is entitled to their opinions and widely-believed facts, regardless of whether or not they rest upon fallacies. Who am I to deny your paranoia simply because it is not as well researched as mine?
One could lament education, or the echo chambers of the Internet, the increase in sectarianism and tribalism, the marketing of fear and catastrophe, biology, ideology, neoliberalism, and so on, and so on. Etc. &c.
But what would be the point? 

Lamentations don’t solve the problem. A problem that we can’t even agree exists.

Does life matter? Whose and how much?

All life? Human life? Human life plus our pets? Plus livestock because bacon?

And this is all presupposed on the ability to define life. To limit and delimit life. 
And who am I to demand that you not wallow in ignorance?
Yes, a gun is a tool. So is a fleshlight. 

Give me Certainty or Give me Depth

Tell it to me straight, doc. I can take it. 

I can tell you that there is no reason to believe in God. That God provides no explanation that cannot be otherwise explained with evidence. That the burden of proof should fall on the believer and lo, they are yoked to a heavy burden. But it is unlikely I will be able to convince you. Either you already doubt and disbelieve or you cling desperately to you faith (and the notion of certainty you define it to provide). We are all always already called by our neurobiology and ideology. 

I could assert that climate change is real, man made, and likely disastrous (but how disastrous? and for whom?). All available evidence indicates we are, at best, on thin ice and quite possibly already drowning. Of course there is room for doubt. The point of science is to be falsifiable. But not inaction. And doubting the role of man in creating God and the role of man in destroying creation are not equivalent.

The same could be applied to the lethality of guns, the efficacy of vaccines, the demand for hospitality. People with guns kill (people). That is what they are designed to do. Vaccines save lives. Immigrants are welcome. 

Certainty is impossible. 

Ask Heisenberg. 

Ask Gödel. 

And yet. And yet. 

And yet, so many insist upon it. Demand it lest they never rouse themselves from inaction. Is it laziness? Is it ignorance? Is it brain chemistry? 

Does it even matter?

We must give up certainly in order to glimpse the hope for a better world in the no future to come. 

The greatest American liberty

The greatest American liberty is to be left alone to do and say as one pleases (ending at (just the) tip of the other’s nose).

You can call this religious liberty or freedom of speech or any other sociopolitical semantic construction you desire. What many of the conservatives in the room seem to be forgetting of late is that this live and let die policy demands that you don’t get upset by what you see if you insist on being a voyeur and spying on your neighbors.

Exponentially worse than the linguistic decision to allow literally (because of such rampant misuse) to also be defined as figuratively, is the application of law to enforce ‘religious’ liberty. Liberty is based on what one can be forced to do or kept from doing (or, rather, the absence of that force). It is not (in any way) based on what one can be asked to tolerate, to accept, to understand, to learn about, or to accept as fully human. Religious liberty (or liberty of any legally enforceable kind) is unrelated to what one may or may not agree with (despite deeply held beliefs). Otherwise my religious liberty invalidates your capitalism and willingness to destroy the planet.

Given that so many of those ‘deeply held beliefs’ are based on modern interpretations of ancient, translated writing  (mythologic, figurative, and often marked by extreme poetic license) the claim becomes even more tenuous. Social reality is based on consensual construction and shared meaning. Liberty is not, and cannot, be based on the attempt to force shared meaning, especially such culturally specific (in this case evangelical) meaning. The inability to accept that meaning is constructed or the inability to believe that history did not happen the way one wants to believe it did is not a basis upon which to insist that others blindly follow the path of ignorance. One is entitled, in America, to be ignorant and useless. One is not empowered to insist that the government protect that ignorance or force it upon others.

Powering Down: towards equalization

Knowledge only becomes power in the absence of power.

 

Power, as exercised through force be it violence, coercion, ideology, money, or influence, is not an exercise in ignorance, is not without knowledge. But the truism ‘knowledge is power’ is false so far as it concerns the pursuit of knowledge as such, knowledge in the form of science or philosophy or education for education’s sake (and not the sake of employment, etc.). Consider this: scientists overwhelmingly know that the globe is warming, that the climate is changing, that the oceans are acidifying, that more are more species are going extinct. This knowledge has not, in any real sense, given them the power to change policy to actually do something about it.

Knowledge should directly translate to power and thus education to empowerment but at present it does not. And changing an ‘ought’ to an ‘is’ is no small matter.

Instead, force is power. Force, like knowledge, is currently unequally distributed. Force, unlike knowledge, is not well suited to equal distribution. The solution is not to give everyone nuclear launch codes or even their own gun but instead to reduce the individual and collective capacity for violence across the board. And then to move from a power economy based on force to one more adapted to knowledge – a ‘commodity’ (not that I like to think of it as such) far more suited to equal distribution if efforts were made and resources made available (combined with a completely revised philosophy of education and its purpose).
As an interesting digression, one might be compelled to speculate as to whether human technological advancement has actually hindered our biological evolution. Technology, in a significant majority of contemporary cases, is created to solve social needs and problems created by previous technologies not biological needs. What biological purpose do guns serve? Certainly, as a ranged weapon, they extend the lethality of the human body in hunting and the pursuit of food. But the capacity of firearms to hunt actually exceeds the human need. It might be noted here that the current human population of earth is only supported through advancements in technology (agriculture, etc). But that begs the question of the current human population vs. overpopulation/the carrying capacity of the planet for human life. Is 7.2 billion sustainable? Or the projected 10? Sustainable for whom? For what? And in what sense? One might also question modern medicine. Certainly medical and hygienic advances have extended the length and raised the quality of human life. But much medical advancement has been in areas that industrialization, pollution, and technological advancement have directly caused.

What evolutionary benefit has technology offered vs what they have hindered? (“so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”)

I think it is fair to say that media are the extensions of man and we have become over-extended. Our reach has exceeded our (and the planet’s, and our fellow living creatures’) capacity to adapt. Our rate of (technologically enhanced) change is matched only by those species that have coevolved with us – maize, rats, toy dog breeds, superbugs. Perhaps future of the Anthopocene will be humans living in disinfected bio-enclosures (both terrestrial and orbiting) with our HFCS and miniature pugs while superbugs and rats enter an evolutionary arms race for who will dominate the hot sweltering open air.

 

This circles back to the original thought. Power as force and the capacity for force needs to be reduced and eliminated. The concept of political empowerment and enfranchisement should not focus on extending the individual and collective capacity for force to more and more people but on reducing that capacity overall. The capacity for annihilation should not be possessed, desired, or sought (“I suppose I could part with one doomsday device and still be feared.”). Moreover, incidental or accidental annihilation (antibiotics have created superbugs and carbon emissions are driving climate change) needs to be better understood and equally avoided. Through knowledge and the power that it would convey in the absence of force.

a brief thought on ethics and the inanimate/unhuman

My thoughts on justice revolve around juxtaposition: rights as justified by force vs. responsibilities demanded by ethics.

Rights are not innate or inherent. Whether basic rights, expanded rights, universal rights, they must all be backed by and maintained through force. Rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be taken away, can be limited. Thus justice based on rights can only be guaranteed by force. In the expansion of rights beyond the human (beyond the privileged human), it becomes easier to understand justice that is based on responsibilities instead. An animal cannot, at present in our society, insist on its ethical treatment alone but does so through advocates who demand a responsibility to animals. Similarly, we must accept a responsibility to our environment, the land, the oceans, the living, the inanimate.

This is not presently the case – consider the rare examples of shark attacks (#notallsharks) and the mass slaughter of sharks for their fins. Consider the human responsibility for changing the moleculelar make up of the atmosphere, the salinity and acidification of the oceans. This brings us into more complicated territory because, while the living creatures of the oceans, of the planet certainly care about such things as a habitable environment, can it be said that the ocean cares? Do mountain ranges have demands that need to be heard?

The question is not what rights and privileges do we have because we can force others to give them to us (human rights exist only in the mind if they are not backed up by threats of or actual violence and that is equally how they are threatened and removed). The question is what responsibilities do we have to the 10,000 things. Our responsibilities to the inanimate are difficult for me to articulate without becoming biocentric. This is because I am unable to think as the inanimate think (thinking already being the wrong word, words already being the wrong form of communication, communication already limiting understand, etc. etc.)

Yet even to begin down the process of responsibilities to the planet for the sake of the living is to begin heading in the right direction. Perhaps one day we will come to understand the will of the wind. Such a conversation would be awesome to behold.

Pray for rain: on Kim Stanley Robinson’s 「Forty Signs of Rain」

I was put on to Kim Stanley Robinson and his Science in the Capitol trilogy (which I will be continuing and including in some aspect in my upcoming work on thoryvological ecology/ecological thoryvology) when Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway’s The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future referred to him as the most important writer of the time, a prophet of doom, if you will (much like myself). It bore looking into. 

I suppose there may be spoilers to follow. 

Forty Signs was published in 2004. In the last 11 years, at least so far as actual climate policy and action, not much seems to have changed. Sure, the president now acknowledges, believes in the reality of, and the need to immediately address anthropogenic climate change. But actual and substantive policy change seems no more forthcoming. Even in the wake of superstorm Sandy (prophetically named in the text but only as a tropical storm), little has been done to keep our coasts from drowning. In Florida, despite being one of the most precarious of American states, climate change cannot even be officially named by government employees. Rick Scott must have misread his Derrida and become convinced that if he refused to name climate change in his ‘text’ that it would not have physical power over the state he mismanages. 

That stated, the novel offers an interesting insight into what I believe one of the more effective uses of thoryvological activism: an active misread of Kuhnian paradigm shifts. The novel posits the idea that science (or perhaps Science) and the NSF in particular needs to take on a more proactive role in forcing necessary political change for the sake of all and the future. It is specifically named as a desire to bring about a Kuhnian paradigm shift regarding the sociopolitical role of science and scientists: those who know should not be beholden to those who don’t to make necessary changes (as marked by facts that can be agreed upon by all not willfully ignoring reality). This is a consummation devoutly to be wished. However, returning to Kuhn, paradigm shifts are only brought on through and after crises. It is thus the work of thoryvology to point to and make known anomalies, to bring about a near perpetual crisis such that the deeply entrenched business as usual financial capitalism can be finally forced to release is stranglehold on the human future. 

Catastrophe and gaining understanding of the human role in and impact on ‘natural’ disasters and ‘nature’ as such (whatever such a flawed grass is greener over there construction actually means) are one aspect of this manner of thoryvological crisis manipulation. But (as Sandy shows) catastrophe is insufficient. Divestment is another method of disruption as are other numerous methods of opting out. These disruptions are becoming more commonplace (and need to become even more so).

Will it be enough? Will a tipping point be reached where the population at large is convinced to act (& vote) in their collective self interest? One can hope. Would this above articulated paradigm shift be sufficient? Unlikely. Nor, for that matter, would it necessarily be ideal. The scientific method should certainly have a greater prominence in public policy, but scientism should not. Belief is a disorder and the belief in infinite (scientific) progress, while perhaps more helpful in addressing anthropogenic climate change than evangelical fundamentalism, is equally troubling and problematic given a long enough run (or sufficient rope). 

And yet something must be done.

And so we must embody the crises.