matt_arnold Linked to a questionairre you can take on the website of scientist and science fiction author David Brin, and posted his own answers. I found the questionaire interesting and am unsurprised to note that nearly all of Matt's and my answers to the multiple-choice questions were the same. We tend to think alike that way. I have put my multiple choice answers in bold and my text answers in italics.
Please choose the statement which most closely models your own point of view, or provide a response in the space provided.
THE TIME FLOW OF WISDOM
How do you feel wisdom is acheived?
I believe humans knew a natural idyllic condition at some point in the past, from which we fell because of bad, inappropriate or sinful choices, thus reducing our net wisdom. (The Look Back View.)
I consider such tales mythological. Wisdom is cumulative and anything resembling a human utopia can only be achieved in the future, through incremental improvements in knowledge or merit. (The Look Forward View.)
Can you provide convincing evidence to support your point of view?
I don't necessarily believe wisdom is cumulative. I believe there are cycles in which lessons of the past are lost and regained but I don't actually believe a utopia where the ultimate wisdom is shared from all people's perspectives is possible given the characteristics of humanity.
Are members of our present culture subjected to propaganda? What kind?
Of course we are subjected to propoganda. About what is right and who is good, who to believe and listen to and how to think or not think, what to hope for from life and how to tell if you've succeeded. Even within nations there are not monocultures, so everyone does not receive the same propaganda. I have stopped watching TV, for example. And those who do and do not believe the messages of the current US administration are affected by their propaganda differently.
What are the principal propaganda messages circulated today, and how are they disseminated? How effective has this propaganda been?
Unfortunately, the message that treating our children like adults and educating them about their bodies and giving them medical technology that puts them in control of their own reproduction leads to immoral behavior and the killing of unborn souls that somehow exist in zygotes is all too powerful. This is disseminated in schools, in churches, in the messages of our goverment as they announce funding and legal decisions and participate in debates. And the effect has been that our children are less well educated, medical reproductive technology and procedures are harder to access than they were ten years ago, and of course the abortion rate is up. Because people don't stop having sex even if you refuse to give them intelligent control of their bodies.
Name 5 popular modern films in which these propaganda messages have been promoted?
I don't watch popular modern films. Not for the most part.
Which of the following best describes how and why you arrived at your present set of political opinions and political agenda?
Logical appraisal of the evidence.
Inherent qualities of my nature, character or intelligence.
The effects of propaganda or upbringing.
Pursuit of my agenda may result in personal advantage.
Now answer the same question about why your political opponents hold the opinions/agendas they do.
Logical appraisal of the evidence.
Inherent qualities of their nature, character or intelligence.
The effects of propaganda or upbringing.
D Pursuit of their agenda may result in personal advantage.
Do you think your opponents would agree with the way you answered just now? How do you think they would respond, if asked the very same questions about their own beliefs... and yours?
Putting propaganda and upbringing in the same line is a very interesting trick. This makes this a fundamental nature or nuture sort of question. I believe that peoples' beliefs are very fundamentally based on their worldview and the set of knowledge they have. I think that is largely given to people since most people in our society do not have the tools or the inclination to go out in the world and seek out input that may be contrary to what they have already learned. In fact, we know from cognitive science that people are more likely to notice confirmatory evidence in the world. Part of the problem with today's political and moral debates is that the people on either side have started to disbelieve that the other side's position has any basis in reality. we distrust one another's media and other sources of information and have little common ontological framework from which to procede in dialogue.
THE TOXICITY OF IDEAS
Please choose between the following:
I think ideas are inherently dangerous or toxic. People are easily deceived. An elite should guide or protect gullible masses toward correct thinking (Memic Frailty).
I believe children can be raised with a mixture of openness and skepticism to evaluate concepts on their own merits. Citizens can pluck useful bits wherever they may be found, even from bad images or ideologies (Memic Maturity).
If your answer to the preceding question was Memic Frailty, do you believe you should be selected as one of the elite who help encourage correct thinking?
If your answer to the preceding question was Memic Maturity, do you hold "the masses" in contempt for not always agreeing with you?
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
With whom would you ally? Which of the following persons would you listen to?
Person A, who agrees with my long-range dreams and goals, but disagrees profoundly with my program for getting there.
Person B, who agrees with my near-term political agenda and despises the same opponents, but has a very different image of what kind of society we should eventually arrive at.
How often have your political or other discussions with your allies actually focused on the distant goal? What is that goal?
I often discuss fundamental goals with others, often in the process of bemoaning the fact that none of the current political parties seem dedicated to it. That goal has to do with a ballance of individual liberty and governmental oversight. Especially, it protects peoples rights to privacy and freedom of expression and movement, and legalizes actions that do no harm to others and have historically been illegal only due to the translation of religious morals and racist political goals into law. (I would eliminate laws against sodomy and certain recreational drugs).
My political goals include having a literate country of people who have been trained to be involved and productive citizens instead of passive consumers.
Do you have a clear image of the future society all your efforts are aimed at achieving? Describe your program for getting there.
Transform more elementary and high school programs into something more like many open school programs. Eliminate tax privileges for religious organizations and large corporations. Enforce laws and get rid of laws that are not enforced or are only enforced in an unballanced way, such as many drug laws. Aim to reduce the percentage of our population that is in prison, especially black males. Build a competitive, honest media system that does fact-checking - extend wireless access to the whole country and bring the poor into the blogosphere. Introduce repercussions to media sources that regularly promote information that is false - get them off the publicly funded airwaves, at least. We have documents that say having a TV station is a privilege. Make it so. Provide free ways for political candidates to reach all their target demographics - eliminate some of the impact of funding on political campaigns by providing information reach.
How have you verified that your "allies" have the same destination in mind?
What are the attributes of these four social innovations -- Democracy, Science, the Justice System, Free Markets?
Democracy is based on the idea that people have a right to self-determination of governance.
Science is based on the idea that through logic and experimentation you can learn things that better enable you to understand and affect the world around you to your benefit.
The Justice System is based on the idea that not everyone has the time and power to consider crimes against society and other individuals and deal with it, so we will delegate the finding, capturing, judging and punishment of those individuals to a centralized service we all fund.
Free Markets reflect the belief that commerce is all right, and all people have the right to compete against all other people.
How are the four social attributes listed above similar?
They believe that humans are fundametally intelligent and have certain rights and goals in common.
How are the four social attributes listed above different?
The justice system and democracy also reflect the idea that society as a whole should interfere with the lives of individuals. Science also tends to have a "for the betterment of all " ideal to it.
Now consider Secrecy, a commonly prescribed social remedy. Discuss whether each of the four dynamic social systems named above (Democracy, Science, the Justice System and Free Markets) will function better if:
Most participants know MORE than they presently do about each other and whatever is going on.
Most participants know LESS than they presently do about each other and whatever is going on.
Is your safety enhanced more by:
denying knowledge to my enemies.
increasing my own knowledge.
Which is easier to verify:
that my foes don't know something.
that I do know something.
Which would you choose for yourself:
Which would you choose for the group you consider freedom's worst enemy:
Are we wise or knowledgeable enough to prescribe ideologies for our descendants? How should we transmit these ideologies to our descendants?
Focus all efforts on achieving total victory for one's particular political agenda and then leave the transformed world to them.
Concentrate on achieving pragmatic solutions, raise a new generation that is appreciably wiser and more aware than ours, and then leave the rest of the details to them.
Do you believe in evolution? Are humans still at least somewhat part of the animal kingdom?
Of course humans are animals. As to the precise process of evolution, we still don't know that. But I believe humans developed as other animals do, and were not placed on earth, whole in our final form, by any power or agent.
What politically relevant things, if any, can we learn from fields like mammalian ethology, psychopharmacology, anthropology, and the historical behavior of real human tribes?
Social psychology has a huge impact on political processes, and psychopharmacology of course walks hand in hand in determining the results of those processes.
If discrepancies appear between these sciences and our idealization of human nature, should ideology be revised? If information appears that shows an intrinsic difference between basic human nature and the ideal way we "ought to be", what is your response?
The so-called information about our basic nature must be wrong.
Society must adapt and conform to information about our basic nature, letting us be ourselves, since people are what they are.
The more we learn about 'basic human nature,' the more clearly we need vigorous guidance to encourage behavior more appropriate than we would 'naturally' engage in. This can be achieved by hewing to standards that have been known for generations.
Information about our basic nature helps us understand the raw material from which a new/better humanity might emerge.
THE WISDOM OF HISTORY
Historically, which prescription has best helped to maximize human achievement, minimized costly errors and ensured freedom/happiness etc.?
Widespread and open criticism
A cohesive shared value system
Can you think of historical examples to support your claim?
It has historically taken very brave people to bring forth the winds of change. Without innovative leaders society stagnates and descends into a state dominated by bullies and thugs.
Can you cite counter-examples?
Consider the following two approaches that have been used for many generations by people and societies attempting to solve problems or change their world:
THE LEFT-HANDED APPROACH: concerted action by tribal or national units, organized by leaders who gather social resources (e.g., taxes or tithes) and apply them to attain goals in an organized manner.
THE RIGHT-HANDED APPROACH: create loosely regulated markets wherein free individuals compete and/or cooperate, making the best deals they can for their own self interest.
In 10,000 years we've seen countless left-handed projects (pyramids, canals, wars and universities) and countless right-handed projects (industry, medicine, slavery and bookstores). Radical socialists have long demonized the right-handed approach as inherently corrupt/exploitive, and prescribe its amputation. Radical libertarians and anarchists call the left-handed approach coercive and stifling, and prescribe its amputation.
Which approach do you prefer?
the left-handed approach
the right-handed approach
If you prefer one approach over another, would you:
amputate the other entirely?
severely limit it?
try to discover which types of problem each approach is best at performing and utilize the best approach?
How does your preferred approach create abiding conditions for personal satisfaction or generation of wealth?
Nothing creates abiding conditions. The world is fickle.
How would it deal with acute problems like natural disasters or Adolf Hitler?
Through both organization and the free collaboration of self-interested individuals.
Has democracy moderated the faults in the left-handed approach? If so, what other reforms might help make it work better?
In small systems, democracy seems to work well to modify the faults in the left-handed approach. However in large complex systems it is dificult to identify what goals and purposes the agents in government are actually forwarding and making a priority. When markets are self-regulated because the controlling powers in government are substantially invested in particular markets, the goals of society may no longer be served.
Likewise, has democracy moderated the faults in the right-handed approach? If so, what other reforms might help make it work better?
Governmental employees should recuse themselves from processes that affect things in which they have a vested interest. Congress should have a rule by which no ammendment may be added to a law that does not pertain to the topic and spirit of the original legislation. the market should be kept more separate from the democracy.
Over the long run, what are the fundamental prerequisites for nurturing a growing state of freedom and wisdom for all human beings? (Please write a list.)
*teaching respect for human rights for all people
*protecting human rights legally and being cautious in abridging them
*Encouraging thought, questioning, and dialogue
*permitting a free press and avoiding secrecy on the part of public servants.
*making sure legislation is not so voluminous and so worded that the average civilian cannot hope to understand the current state of it or any proposed changes.
*instisting that there be sufficient time delay between the proposition of a law and the vote that a democratic representative has time to read it and to ascertain the desires and best interests of his or her constituents before voting.
*Assuring that all with the right to vote are able to vote, and that the voting process is both free and accurate
*allow for the spread of ideas that will further human progress without unfairly tying them up with unreasonable patents and legal protections for corporations
*treat individuals as something different from corporations, valuing the first more than the second.
*capture knowledge from one generation to the next, and pass it on
*protect and value the natural environment
*honor our commitments, on an individual, national and international level
Can these prerequisites you just listed be achieved by:
persuading people to behave differently than they presently do (Exhortation)?
ensuring that actions have consequences (Accountability)?
creating environmental preconditions (e.g., heightened health and/or wealth and/or education and/or low fear levels) then trusting people to make correct decisions (Changed Circumstance)?
some combination of the above
Which of the above prerequisites (or lack thereof) are most responsible for our present state of civilization?
We have been incautious in abridging human rights, especially the right to life of our enemies and the right to a private life of our citizens. Because there has been secrecy and a lack of education, most citizens do not understand or care about the vast majority of incidents of this. The population is too big and the media manipulates which things everyone is supposed to relate to personally.
Which of the above prerequisites (or lack thereof) are most responsible for YOUR present beliefs?
I have a substantial and liberal education that stressed a respect for other people and the value of individual freedom and idiosyncratic variation. I am not afraid of complexity.
How does your answer to this question corelate with your earlier answers regarding Propaganda, the Time Flow of Wisdom and Toxicity of Ideas?
As I said, it is my upbringing that has lead to my beliefs.
Each person in the world should find their own definition of wisdom. To what extent people are taught *not* to think for themselves, and to turn to other authorities for definitions of how to behave, society deprives itself of leadership and new ideas and risks unthinking rule by mobs or religious cultists.
In the short term, which of the following describes how you feel you are more likely to achieve immediate political goals:
Consolidate your core supporters, demonize your opponents, and dismiss compromise as a form of ideological betrayal.
Negotiate the best near-term deal you can through whatever political process works best, even if it means your opponents get part of their agenda accomplished, too.
Learn as much as possible about the opposition, then offer the other side's moderate wing enough to split them off from their fanatics, destroying their coalition and building your own.
Ignore your opponents because (a) they represent obsolete or decrepit worldviews doomed to inevitably fail anyway, or (b) because they are mere stalking horses or fronts for the real opposition -- power groups who operate inimically behind the scenes.
Concentrate on perfecting your own position/behavior/soul, since that is all an individual can ever really be responsible for.
MEANS TO AN END
Do ends justify means? Can one justifiably squelch speech, behaviors or actions by repugnant parties/individuals if it serves a higher cause?
speech, behaviors, and actions? That's a huge set. Of course some actions should be prevented or squelched if possible. Should otherwise reasonable actions be prevented based solely on their source? It's tricky. Neither ends nor means will come up completely rosy in the final evaluation.