Floor It To The Next Stop Light

Impatience never got anything done faster, just wronger.

The name of this category comes from the observation of people every day on the way to work: I’ve noticed that the things that are beyond a driver’s control have a much greater impact on their commute time than how hard they can push down the gas pedal. Traffic jams, accidents, stop lights, slow drivers, bad weather, Amish buggies… any of these things will completely negate all efforts to outrun other drivers. We all know this is true, but we don’t admit it to ourselves… and even if we do admit it, we still don’t change our behavior, and we floor it to the next stop light. It’s cognitive dissonance.

So these posts are about exploring the ways we contradict ourselves, and trying to move closer to an understanding of what’s actually true in the process.

Decentralize!

Posted March 27, 2013 @ 5:00 pm | Filed under: Floor It To The Next Stop Light

Quite unexpectedly, one of the ideals that stuck with me from college came from a business management class. This class focused on being an effective manager… something I’m rather uninterested in, but the class still resonated with me because of the management style that was most highly praised: decentralization.

Management theorists have two main theories about motivation, which are unhelpfully dubbed Theory X and Theory Y. To boil each theory down: Theory X says people must be told what to do and directed from the top, and Theory Y says that people can be motivated and make decisions themselves in the right environment. From the class, I learned that a manager with a Theory Y approach tends to empower the managees and make them feel more responsible, leading to a greater sense of reward which increases productivity and their satisfaction with their jobs, not to mention greater respect for their manager because he/she treats them with the dignity they deserve. Inadvertently, this ideal meshed in my mind with several other observations, coming both from my personal experience and from other classes I took at around the same time. Whether warranted or not, I now tend to apply the Theory Y ideal, decentralization of power, to several (all?) other areas.

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People probably wonder why on earth I would choose Linux for my daily computing needs rather than an “easier” platform, like Windows or Mac OS. Considering all the major software developers push for Win/Mac development, especially game companies and audio production software companies, you’d think Linux would be a person’s last choice. No, Linux is my first choice, and I don’t use it because it’s free… in fact I would gladly pay for it if I had to. In a nutshell, it all boils down to freedom.

Every discussion of freedom has to start with a very important definition: what, exactly, freedom is. One could argue that on another OS platform, I would be more “free” to do the things I want, because there are more choices. But freedom doesn’t mean being able to do anything you want. There are a lot of “false freedoms” that people strive for… True freedom, however, is synonymous with “God-given rights”, and God did not give us the right to do anything we want. There are three things in particular which are forbidden — things we don’t have the right to do — which affect our relationships with other people, namely: physical aggression, theft, and deceit. These three forbidden actions logically and necessarily imply three God-given rights which we all share, and which no government or corporation can take away: freedom from aggression, freedom from theft, and freedom from deceit. Note that among those rights, there is no right to healthcare, no right to a low interest rate or even to a loan at all, no right to a job, no right to use space or bandwidth on somebody else’s computer or network hardware, etc. Those are not rights, they are privileges, i.e. services that someone else provides, and if the provider of said services wishes, they can charge money for the services, provide them in any manner they see fit, give them away for free, or even deny providing them altogether. Not allowing service providers to deny proving their services to whomever they wish would amount to aggression against them and/or theft of their property.

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Namely, the misguided notion that one person has any sort of justified authority over another.

(In case you missed it, North Carolina passed legislation banning gay marriage and civil unions.)

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On the Demarcation Problem

Posted April 27, 2012 @ 7:01 pm | Filed under: Floor It To The Next Stop Light

The Demarcation Problem is a formalized name for the problem of how to draw a line around science. That is, what separates science from studies of philosophy, history, economics, mathematics, religion, and from pseudoscience/folk science. As a Christian, this problem is important to understand because there is a whole lot of hand-waving out there going on that says science disproves and/or has nothing to do with religious beliefs. I tend to take the position that the Demarcation Problem is, itself, a problem: That it asks a question that we don’t need to ask. Instead of demarcation, I’d like to propose a continuum approach.

“What is truth?” – Pontius Pilate

Science, philosophy, historical studies, economics, math, religion, and even pseudoscience are all after the same thing*: figuring out what’s true and what’s false; what does and does not happen, and what has and has not happened. They all make an underlying assumption: that truth exists. All studies of reality have to embrace the axiom that the universe is real and that the things we study actually happened and are actually happening, and there is a whole realm of events and objects that don’t exist. In fact it’s so axiomatic it’s hard to define; I like to say that an axiom is something that had better be true or we’re all completely insane. :) This goes to show that the new-agers and existentialists who say that “what’s true for you might not be true for me” are just using the word “true” incorrectly because what’s true for one person must necessarily be true for another (or else it wouldn’t be true at all). That said, I will eventually write another post on the importance of subjectivity as part of the human experience.

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Was thinking about this today, and I think I came up with a pretty straightforward way to explain why Christians have trouble embracing Darwinism. Put simply, it’s because Darwinism has philosophical and theological implications. I’m defining “Darwinism” specifically (and including Neo-Darwinism in the same category) to mean: That the development of life was purely random, the universe did not intend to create life. Science may reveal that all present-day life had a common ancestor, but that’s the theory of common descent which is just one component of, and was around long before, Darwinism. So if an intelligent purpose or design was present at any point in the process, the development of life can be said to have been “Non-Darwinian,” even if random genetic mutation and natural selection were also involved… a la the various theories proposed by the ID camp (genetic front-loading, special creation followed by naturalistic evolution, etc.).

So to dig into the implications of Darwinism, allow me to posit a list of items that I’d say represent (some of) the things that bring meaning to human existence:

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