www. O S N E W S .com
News Features Interviews
BlogContact Editorials
Looking for life on a flat earth
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-12 00:34:45

For days now, I've been pondering whether or not to post a link to this story, but after a talk with my closest friends about how much we despise anti-vaxxers - they just had their first baby - I feel like the story in question highlights a very uncomfortable truth we have to face.

If we can agree on anything anymore, it's that we live in a post-truth era. Facts are no longer correct or incorrect; everything is potentially true unless it's disagreeable, in which case it's fake. Recently, Lesley Stahl, of "60 Minutes", revealed that, in an interview after the 2016 election, Donald Trump told her that the reason he maligns the press is "to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you". Or, as George Costanza put it, coming from the opposite direction, "It's not a lie if you believe it".

This is an article by Alan Burdick, who decided to investigate the "flat earth movement" by going to a flat earth conference and speaking with the attendees and speakers. It's a revealing piece that makes it clear flat earth crackpots are deeply intertwined with virtually every other crazy conspiracy theory, with the "flat earth theory" serving as an umbrella to all other conspiracy theories. Add in large doses of antisemitism, creationism, and Christian extremism, and you've got the general feel of the flat earth movement.

The uncomfortable truth we have to face is not that the earth is flat - don't worry - but that insanity like this used to remain confined, isolated, and harmless. Thanks to the internet, however, this insanity is free to spread and infect others, causing real harm to real people. Whether it's believing that the government is spreading dangerous chemicals through the air in form of "chem trails" or abusing, harming, and even murdering your and other people's children by not vaccinating them - it's the internet that allows this dangerous insanity to spread and cause real harm.

The internet is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, but it's also having dark, unsettling effects on our society that we need to address. I don't have any solutions, but we better start doing a better job of arming ourselves against the constant barrage of attacks on science, or we risk our society descending into chaos.

 Email a friend - Printer friendly - Related stories
Read Comments: 1-10 -- 11-20 -- 21-30 -- 31-40 -- 41-50 -- 51-60 -- 61-68
RE[2]: again
By rambo919 on 2018-06-12 08:28:44
> I feel that this does belong here, because it ties in with the ongoing conversation about the post-truth world we are apparently inhabiting.

In this secular age, it is puzzling that some still cling to baseless superstition like astrology or religion, but the linked topic goes to show that people aren't logical or reasonable.

If we were, we would have long ago come to the consensus that religion is a story with no basis in reality, and moved on. Instead, we're putting our opinions on pedestals and not allowing others to point out the logical inaccuracies.

You claim the factual higher ground and yet you respond with obviously biased subjective opinion...

Superstition does not only have to do with supernatural beings but also with unprovable assertions taken as fact. Many things are by many considered "indisputable science" are merely very well thought out conclusions based on observance which ignores the limited capacity of the concluders and their senses... this mentality can be considered a superstition because there is no way to actually indisputable prove anything.

This is not "post-truth" this is acknowledging that "fact" is more variable than some are comfortable with. "Fact" is what happens if things progress normally, which ignores how normal "normal" actually is. In the soviet union there were all sorts of "indisputable facts" that were defended with religious fervor in the name of "science". Dogmatic "post-truth" or "anti-science" type propaganda is actually not a new thing at all, the communists had it LONG before the west and look where it got them, this is just a new spin on it.

Always sad and funny at the same time when someone attacks religion religiously without even glimpsing the inherent contradiction. Especially when that someone is obviously willfully ignorant of what "religion" actually is and confuses it with "believing in immortal flying people".
Permalink - Score: -1
RE[3]: again
By daedalus on 2018-06-12 08:52:22
So, are all religions off limits, or just Christianity (or maybe Catholicism)? Is Scientology to be respected in the very same way? What about Paganism? Hinduism? Or what about the thousands of extinct religions and their gods? Are you equally open to the possibility of the existence of Zeus, Poseidon and co?

I think you're still confusing fact with perception. As has been pointed out before, people have been wrong before, and will be wrong again. This doesn't change any actual facts, only our understanding of them.
Permalink - Score: 5
RE[3]: again
By woegjiub on 2018-06-12 09:26:15
That's the beauty of science: nothing is beyond questioning.

However, it means not becoming attached to any idea. For instance, all the evidence we currently have points towards evolution by natural selection, but the instant there is a logical reason why it is not possible, the idea would need to be thrown out.

There is absolutely no evidence in favour of the supernatural, including but not limited to creators, ghosts, souls, etc.

We do not throw out religion because it is inherently unsavoury, but because the stories in religious dogma are little more than the flawed explanations that people of their time could invent - just like flat earths and "bad humours".

And yes, there is something worth taking from the philosophical viewpoints of Buddha, Jesus, or Mohammed. They definitely had good insights into human nature and morality. That doesn't mean we can't throw away everything else like "sin", "souls", "heaven", or reincarnation.
Permalink - Score: 4
Makes sense when you consider "stages"
By romma on 2018-06-12 09:56:21
Gosh, another topic that's not about IT.

There is one simple, orienting generalisation, without which many of these topics are very difficult to make sense of.

It has to do with Piaget, and his studies showing that the minds of children go through stages of development, in that, at a young age, they cannot form certain concepts, and then later, as their minds grow, they gain the ability to form those new concepts.

Now, your experience of the world is really down to what concepts and cognitions you are able to form. Just as, if you cannot form colour images, then your world, as ar as you are concerned, is black and white. Your world is what you are able to see, what you are able to cognise, it is your world view.

The key thing is that this development process does not end at age 12. It continues. Various researchers have come at this from different directions, and it turns out there are about 6 or 7 major stages or worldviews.

Now, we are not trying to put everyone into boxes. Two people could look very similar, and have similar opinions, but the underlying pattern of their cognitions can be from different stages.

And these are loose things, more like waves, so a person may be sort of peaking at one stage most of the day, then go up on a good day and down on a bad day. It is very fluid.

But as I say, if you ignore this broad generalisation that there are stages, then much of this cultural war stuff, like extreme Christians against rational-follow-the-evidenc e people, just makes little sense.

There are about seven stages, but we can simplify it down to four: pre-modern, modern, postmodern, and post-post-modern (integrative).

Here's the kicker: everyone is born at stage zero. Not a blank-slate sort of zero, but as far as these stages go, everyone is born at a sort of cave-person level. That's the thing, our evolution, culturally, as a species, has sort of mirrored this stage-development. Modern, in a big way, from about 250 years ago, pre-modern stretches back about 4000, tribal/archaic back 100,000, and post-modern since about 1960 in the West.

See, modernity really started to come into its own with the Western Enlightenment (it just so happened to start in the West, but it isn't a "white" thing, it is a human thing). Before that, the world was largely pre-modern.

As I say, this is more like currents and rivers and waves of development. Obviously, Buddha was a modern, albeit in the area of introspective inquiry, and the Greeks did a lot of amazing modern thinking. But it only really became a whole, broad movement, with the Renaissance etc.

And it is not just about "science". The modern worldview expressed itself in art and ethics too. We came to see that all people are created equal -- that's a very modern ethical view. Whereas previously, you were in a social structure which was hierarchical with gods and kings at the top and untouchables and peasants at the bottom.

That was a very pre-modern way to organise things, all based on myths and beliefs and power and hierarchy and control.

Modernity truly began to bring freedom (again, waves and streams, as yes, we are not yet fully free, and there are still many unfair systems, etc. but let's not ignore the advances.)

Then, after modernity, came post modernity, and that really threw a spanner in the works. Trouble with PoMo is you have to be a pretty smart cookie to understand it.

There's the smart version of PoMo which sees that a part of our normal standards are actually socially constructed, in that, when you see a colour and associate it with say, grief, that is a social construct, and you are not aware that it is a construct. And this is how racisms becomes part of a society, in that, the culture itself is racist and so people think racist thoughts.

But that's the clever version of PoMo. The dumb version ends up just believing that because "truths" are partially context-dependent, then there are NO truths, there is only ego and power. So it all turns into a Marxist attack on every power and privilege they can find, perceived or real -- remember, there are no truths, they think, so it is all about power.

The trouble with that dumb version of PoMo is that, being dumb is easier to gain converts, and so it spreads more, and worst of all, it actually ends up attacking modernity, which means it attacks the notion that all people are equal and all people have human rights. It attacks the notion of truth. There is no truth, they think there is just people trying to gain power over others by imposing their narrative which is claimed to be based on "truths".

It is supposed to be, when done carefully, a nuanced cultural critique. But in the popular dumb version, it runs rampant attacking any and all truths, and throws everything back to tribal politics.

Because, and this is another key point, each stage is built on top of the previous stage. Pre-modern empires brought order and safety, up to a point, and then it was safe enough to "invent" modernity.

But pomo saws the branch it is sitting on, it attacks all truth, it attacks all objectivity, it attacks modernity itself. And when you remove modernity, you fall back to pre-modern. You open the door to all the crazies. It ain't just the internet that's done that. It is the post-modern worldview in its dumb form.

And that is how Trump got elected. Because first, the dumb PoMo infected too much of the system, and left ordinary people (modern and pre-modern) totally disgusted with anything PoMo -- see, Trump said a lot of shit, but he made very clear his shit was NOT anything a PoMo would ever endorse, so he was the ultimate anti PoMo candidate -- and second is that, once you decide, as PoMo did, that there is NO truth, then that just leaves pre-modern groups to rally around their own peculiar narrow worldviews and identities and just sort of start to fight it out. Everyone gets tribal.

PoMo basically has done so much damage to the modern world of science and ethics that we may not recover for generations. We hope China was taking notes and won't fall into the same trap.

So when you are faced with these crazy groups (and if you think they are crazy, then you are obviously being quite modern right now), also look to the pomo "no truth" doctrines people who made this possible.

PoMo also got largely tied up with green, alternative health stuff, with everything from crystals to chanting to anti-vax.

And it gets REALLY bad because it is getting harder to simply reiterate the value, the awesome progress and dignity which has been brought to the world by modernity.

Pomo attacks any notion of progress, as you are obviously attempting a narrative that puts you higher up the pecking order than any other race or group.

By all means critique modernity, but do it from a higher level which perfectly well understands modernity, not from a pre-modern place. That's what pre-modern views don't understand, they just don't understand modernity, as it is literally over their heads.

A last note about anti-vax -- is the person criticising vaccinations a pre-modern, ie. just saying some vague crap about conspiracies? or are they modern, and citing critical thinking and analysis about this or that vaccination and whether the statistics make sense? Big difference.

I read a book recently about how to employ critical thinking in medicine, and there is indeed a lot to criticise, and no you cannot just "trust the experts" (as that slides back into a pre-modern mindset where there is a hierarchy of those who are believed to be wise and knowledgeable and the mere plebs who must just accept all they are told).

But the starting point is, does this or that person have a pre-modern, modern, post-modern, or post-post-modern worldview?

And if all this about worldviews seems to click for you, then you are likely using post-post-modern (integrative) cognition.

Please excuse the very long post but it's about as short as I can make it.
Permalink - Score: 4
RE: Bias
By M.Onty on 2018-06-12 09:56:46
> what exactly specifically does this politics piece directly have to do with Operating Systems?
As explained by Thom, it relates to the Internet and the cultures it creates.

OSNews is not only but also about Operating System news. See the various Topics, like this one: http://www.osnews.com/topics/34

Reminded me of a British journalist, James Kirkup, commenting on how the what he, somewhat bitterly, describes as 'the Internet's greatest achievement':

"No idiot feels alone [any more] ... No longer isolated chunks of moronic driftwood floating in a vast sea of common sense"

Edited 2018-06-12 09:57 UTC
Permalink - Score: 4
Comment by Parry
By Parry on 2018-06-12 11:17:30
I often wondered what flat-earthers' thought of the horizon - is it not the curvature of the earth? But then I read a quote from a flat-earther that claimed the horizon effect was the same as seen in computer games (e.g. Far Cry and GTA). You don't see the whole map/earth from a height because it just fades out... or something ridiculous. But anyone trying to compare real life science to a computer game engine is very miss guided.

Edited 2018-06-12 11:19 UTC
Permalink - Score: 3
RE: Makes sense when you consider "stages"
By toothbrush_linux on 2018-06-12 12:50:16
Putting aside a quibble or two, I think there's something right in the broad strokes of what you're saying regarding the downsides of the postmodern condition. But I think it's important to point out that the broad stokes, even here, haven't been painted quite broad enough.

It's all too common to identify postmodernism just with those who explicitly theorize about it, who look for opportunities for good in it, who try to make it livable, or who merely take up a position of self-aware irony within it. But what it is, fundamentally, is the culture at large, through its own ingenuity, taking the modernist critique which criticised unjust and unjustified practices of the past and applying that critique to modernist reason itself. And it's a practice that's just as common among those who complain amout postmodernism as those who don't, only instead of self-aware irony they wind up displaying ignorant self-contradiction.

I know that for the last few decades philosophers have been working on various attempts to formulate a plausible post-post-modernism. Often it takes the form of trying to rescue Hegel's work in which reason is supposed to be convincingly self-justifying. But he's well beyond my abilities... which does worry me slightly. It seems to me philosophy actually tends to follow rather than lead culture. And I can't imagine his ideas coming from today's common folk like myself.
Permalink - Score: 3
RE[3]: again
By karunko on 2018-06-12 13:21:11
> You claim the factual higher ground and yet you respond with obviously biased subjective opinion...
Maybe I'm nitpicking, but aren't opinions biased by definition, like in "a personal view, attitude, or appraisal"? An opinion without bias is not an opinion at all but rather a professional judgment, like a medical opinion which, what it for it, is based on... observable facts!

> This is not "post-truth" this is acknowledging that "fact" is more variable than some are comfortable with.
No, facts are facts and are based on observation, which is to say that we're entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts. You ("generic you", mind) can believe in anything that makes you feel better (I certainly do, on occasion) but that doesn't make it any more "true".

Permalink - Score: 4
RE[2]: Rant Time!
By grat on 2018-06-12 13:23:25
A generation in computer technology tends to be 3-5 years. A machine built today will have very different hardware, and software, than one built 3-5 years ago.

The turnover in personnel isn't quite as frequent, so corporate policies aren't quite as fast moving, but even so-- it's been a while since Steve Ballmer, and even longer since Bill Gates.

Corporate culture remains, of course, and internally, Microsoft is still a mess by all accounts, but it's unreasonable to believe Microsoft is still using the same rulebook they used in 1995, and I say this as a former OS/2 desktop user, a Netware admin and using DR-DOS in our computer labs.

I'm very familiar with Microsoft's tactics-- most of which have changed over the past 10 years. They're still interested in market domination, but the direction now seems to be "be more compatible" rather than "embrace, extend, destroy".

Again-- the facts don't meet the perception. Tracking what I do on a daily basis is irrelevant to their goal, which is to own the cloud and stay on top of the desktop.

Google on the other hand, probably has an AI that's figuring out what I intend to buy over the next 6 months, and that's just creepy.
Permalink - Score: 3
RE[2]: Makes sense when you consider "stages"
By romma on 2018-06-12 13:53:29
If I follow your point, yeah I agree. Occasionally you get a great thinker who can develop a whole philosophy in technical detail, and sell books, but meanwhile, people in general, the culture in general, is developing anyway.

So then, long before a philosopher might define in technical detail a new view, perhaps it has already shown up in the way artists express themselves.

Or maybe a whole segment of the population, say 2%, just start INTUITING that the old way of looking doesn't feel like it fits anymore, and they start to make choices based on their new intuition.

Each stage is kinda supposed to see the problems created by the previous stage. I think an issue with pomo is that is it still very recent and, a bit like early democracy, is having a lot of false starts.

People can in fact reason quite well about the limits of reason. That's one issue.

It isn't naive reason, it starts to be more nuanced. Like Zeno's Arrow. Concepts work, they just aren't "real" as such. But they do work. They work very very well.

That's one issue. And as people have started to intuit more about, what's the meaning of life, I think some in the West tend to wonder more about consciousness itself, which again, you can approach in a hard-headed fashion, kinda like Sam Harris does.

As for the internet, it helps crap spread, but I hope it'll be outweighed by the spread of more good stuff.
Permalink - Score: 3

Read Comments 1-10 -- 11-20 -- 21-30 -- 31-40 -- 41-50 -- 51-60 -- 61-68

There are 1 comment(s) below your current score threshold.

No new comments are allowed for stories older than 10 days.
This story is now archived.

News Features Interviews
BlogContact Editorials
WAP site - RSS feed
© OSNews LLC 1997-2007. All Rights Reserved.
The readers' comments are owned and a responsibility of whoever posted them.
Prefer the desktop version of OSNews?