Showing posts with label logic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label logic. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

An Essay on Human Rights



 This is an essay I wrote for admission to a Masonic lodge.
               Opinions differ about what human rights are.  The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, has 30 articles.  The Declaration of Independence famous statement that “all men are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” has been the sacred statement of human rights for Americans since 1776.  The rallying cry of the French Revolution was “Liberte`, Egalite`, Fraternite`” or “Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood.”  Exactly what Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness or Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood mean has been the subject of debate ever since 1776.  Do rights mean that one’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should eclipse other’s pursuits?  What is exactly the amount of life, liberty, happiness and equality that is sufficient for humanity?  This debate is an important one to have and is one that could never be fully resolved as new situations arise and as knowledge of the human condition improves.
                Definitions of what human are can be boiled down to basic principles just as Jesus states that all the laws of Moses can be boiled down to two phrases: “Love God with your whole heart, whole mind and whole soul and love your neighbor as yourself.”  For me the question of human rights boils down to a question of justice.  Like human rights, definitions of justice vary from topic to topic.  An early definition of justice is attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato in The Republic which was his vision of the ideal state.  He stated that justice is the harmony between the needs and abilities of individuals and the needs of the state.
                We are all created equal but we are not all created alike.  There are basic human rights that everyone needs such as freedom of speech, freedom of expression, access to health care, education, and information with which to make informed decisions about how to fulfill one’s own rights and the rights of others. 
      There also things that certain individuals need to correct for past injustices such as those which were done deliberately to other individuals such as through racism, sexism or almost any other -ism or those that occur through a mishap of nature such as a natural disaster or through a genetically inherited disease or those that occur through some combination of nature and deliberate actions by other humans.  Correcting these injustices is difficult as people may disagree on what the appropriate corrective measures are.  The debate about appropriate corrective measures should continue as no one individual has access to all of the necessary information that is needed to provide these measures.  This debate should proceed with respect to others with the goal of finding the truth that allows for the appropriate corrective actions to take place.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Patriotic Projections and Calculations

I know I've been away for awhile between my last post and the one before that.  Hope you had a good time on the 4th.  There has been some podcasts in conjunction with the holiday.  The first was on NPR's science Friday where Dr. Edward Frenkel discusses how understanding math enables citizens to better question authority which is their patriotic duty.  He gives examples of how the consumer price index was manipulated to reduce the deficit and many in Congress did not think critically about what was being done.  It did reduce the deficit but it cut the cost of living adjustments to social security benefits hurting millions of elderly, the disabled, and children who've lost parents.  

Another recent podcast on Inquiring Minds discusses how math is taught and how it can also be used as a way of separating fact from fiction.  Of course this site also uses math and statistics so I'm in complete agreement with what they say.for a change.  Here are other patriotic math games for kids. Questioning is patriotic but so are facts.

 

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Friday, December 14, 2012

'The Secret' Gets the CSI w/o Dead Bodies Treatment

In 2006 Australian author Rhonda Byrne published a self improvement book which became an international best seller followed by a movie.  A friend suggested I read her book called The Secret.  I've had similar suggestions before from friends who want to improve my life who have all meant well. 

The book presents a pretty simple law of self improvement called the Law of Attraction which Byrne says has been suppressed for over 3,000 years and is only known by the wealthy 1% and great men throughout history such as "Plato, Newton, Carnegie, Beethoven, Shakespeare, and Einstein."  It says that believing that positive things will happen will make it happen for you with wealth, health, and relationships and believing negative things will happen will make the opposite happen.  It goes on to present that secret in DaVinci Code/Scientology fashion with lots of testimonials and graphics but little hard data to show how the law of attraction always works.  The experts in the film even say that "the anti-war movement creates more war."  Here is trailer for the film.  The author is seen very little in the film.


 
The book has it's critics such as Barbara Ehrenreich who discusses her own struggle with cancer and how not being positive all the time helps her.  The problem with relying on testimonial evidence alone is that it's always possible to find one contradicting your theory.  The film presents no evidence of how this secret was suppressed all these years.

 

A closer look at the historical figures presented in the film and book shows that few of then had full happy lives.  The one who comes closest is Plato and that is only because he lived thousands of years ago and we know so little about his relationships and what sort of man he was.  Ludwig van Beethoven had a miserable life with many relationship, money, and health problemsIsaac Newton was "not a pleasant man" as described by Stephen Hawking (he holds the same professorship that Newton did) who never married and took pleasure in crushing his rivals.  Andrew Carnegie may have been a good husband and father and did lots of charity work but he also ruthlessly crushed the Homestead Steel Strike and was negligent in the Johnstown Flood with crony Henry Clay Frick.  William Shakespeare is another about whom there is little known and some controversy so I will not address.  Albert Einstein like the others did excel at what they were good at but you would not want to be married to him.

There is always a risk of disaster and the chance of success.  You can take steps to minimize the risk and maximize the chance but can never eliminate either.  The passengers and crew on the Titanic had lots of positive energy and optimism but were oblivious to the risks that icebergs posed and we all know how that turned out (see my post Titanic Perspective if you don't for a review of this and Andrew Carnegie's role in the Johnstown Flood). I'm all for having success but at who's expense?  Solutions can be found to the world's porblems but by realistically thinking through the risks and chances.  It gives the secret as the reason for "the richest 1% controlling 96% of the world's wealth" when Ehrenreich and other social critics would give very different reasons.  The Secret has definitely made Rhonda Byrne very wealthy.


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Friday, June 15, 2012

Why Elites Fail | The Nation


Chris Hayes at The Nation Magazine and at Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC has written a book called Twilight of the Elites: America After the Meritocracy on how ivory tower elites alienate the rest of the American Public on all sides of the political spectrum.  That discussion which can be seen above with the The Nation's editor Katrina vanden Heuvel coincides with the point of this blog.

Here I use examples from real life to explain complicated phenomena such as Barry Sanders running style to explain global warming and using statistics to explain other phenomena.   It is important to make knowledge available to the masses so they can make their own decisions.

**Update**

Chris Hayes appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss his book more in depth using everything from the Penn State scandal to Wall Street to Iraq as examples.  You can purchase his book at the store tab above.
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