This essay is a further elaboration on the concept of "common sense" that I wrote about in "Common Sense". This is a difficult subject to discuss as it is another one of those concepts which is in very common use but has no precise definition or may have different meanings to different people. Nevertheless, I will try to define it in terms of, what I believe to be, what most understand it to mean. To further clarify the meaning, I will go into some detail with examples and related material.
For completeness, I will repeat the small amount of material already covered in the general introduction.
"I despise philosophy, and renounce its guidance -- let my soul dwell with common sense."
-- Thomas Reid, 1764
sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.
I would expand "normal native intelligence" to include an analytical ability. People with common sense tend to work problems out in real time by the application of simple reasoning.
So, let us examine my insinuation that common sense is becoming a scarce commodity. First off, I suspect that the amount of common sense in use by people has varied much over history and over the various societies. Common sense flourishes when there is ample opportunity for individualism and free expression. Common sense is not going to be very widespread in an environment in which government and/or religion determines the activities of ordinary individual's lives. Such situations have existed most of the time throughout history.
In the last few hundred years, individualism has flourished in the USA and other industrial nations. Common sense, analytical abilities, creative solutions, self-reliance, etc. all flourished during this period.
Unfortunately, with the advent of the "New Deal" of the nineteen thirties in the USA (and similar growth of government social programs world wide), the subsequent trends for limitation of self-reliance and an increasing dependence on the government, and the "other-directed" approach to life promoted by the educational institutions and the press, common sense has rapidly become a scarce resource.
"We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place."--Daniel BoorstinMemes and common sense don't get along very well. Common sense does not provide the warm cozy homeplace in our minds that memes need and appreciate. When there's too much common sense, a bunch of memes are going to get evicted! To avoid this problem, memes will adapt -- possibly by creating more special memes to eliminate common sense. For example, a very popular meme that has been very effective is the belief my ordinary people that being intelligent and studious is something to be ashamed of. This one is real tough on students.
Before we go any further, I wish to make clear that describing memes as if they had a mind of their own is simply an artifice used to convey the ultimate effect (a technique commonly used by authors discussing memes and genes). It is much easier to use this technique rather than having to constantly explain how memes evolve and spread.
So, we have memes specifically created to destroy the use of common sense. The most common one is that common sense cannot be trusted. This meme tells us that the intricacies of social science, economics, politics, etc. are just too complex for a straightforward application of common sense. The average person just doesn't have the technical background to evaluate these things, we are told. There may be some truth to that, but the cost of letting others decide these issues with your blind acceptance is far greater than the cost of you doing your own careful, not necessarily expert, analysis.
The religious based meme that says you should never question the "teachings" but simply rely on blind faith is an attempt to squash any use of common sense. Finally, the powerful memes residing in the minds of our young folks that promotes conformity and to disparage excellence or individualism by anyone has the effect of suppressing common sense thinking and promoting the acceptance of the mind-numbing memes.
Then, not too long ago on the evolutionary scale, science and logic came along which offered the basics needed by common sense to provide an alternative explanation. The problem with the religious explanation of our world is that its predictive ability was notoriously inaccurate. Even when you followed all the rules, offered sacrifices, prayed your butt off, etc., your shelter still got zapped by lightning. Science turned out to be infinitely more reliable. Science could, for example, quite impressively predict the movements of the moon, stars, and planets which religion could not.
For the last few hundred years, science has become more acceptable to mankind and common sense has made great progress over the memetic approach. Unlike religion, science has delivered on its promises. The use of memes to explain the complex world around us seemed to be on its way out.
But tragedy struck! In modern times, common sense is on the decline and memes are back stronger than ever. What happened?
Unfortunately, science also has failed in the goal of explaining the mysteries of the world around us. More correctly, our mental ability to comprehend the necessary scientific explanations is apparently inadequate. The world has become very complex and our minds just may not have the ability to comprehend it, no matter what tools we may be offered. In the relatively simple world that primitive man lived in, a religious explanation was often adequate. In today's complex world, it falls far short of that result.
Today, we humans have no satisfactory explanation of much of the activity around us. Both technology and societal phenomena are too complex for the normal human. Memes have quickly stepped forward to fill the void. This time, the memes are not just limited to the religious variety.
You might want to read the essay, "The Belief Engine", which goes into more detail on the conflicts between beliefs and critical thinking.
Of course this is not unique to the Politically Correct paradigm but also includes other meme based influences such as religion, etc. Violation of any of these memes usually results in a social penalty to pay -- sometimes very severe.
"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things." - Rene Descartes Principles of PhilosophyOur extreme propensity to depend on memes must have a genetic basis. That is, memes must have helped us survive at one time (for a good discussion on this, see Brodie's book, Virus of the Mind). When humans started organizing into communities, when life started to get complicated, genes could not adapt fast enough to handle the situation. The priests and the political leaders probably created simple customs and mores that made it easier to get along and to survive the complex situations. Those that were receptive to these cultural ideas most likely had a better survival rate than those who did not. The meme-receptive human evolved because memes made life easier for those who were receptive to meme programming. So far, so good.
But now -- just when we have evolved into a highly meme-receptive being -- a serious glitch has developed: memes no longer are created by a trusted community leader who has the community's interest at heart, but are created in volume by external persons who are not motivated by our community's interest but by their own selfish agenda.
So, now what do we do? First, let me address what not to do! And that is, what everyone is doing -- replace one bad meme with another. We go from "Smoking is cool and sexy" to "Anyone that smokes is evil and should be put away". We go from a ridiculous state in which women must deny having any sexual feelings whatsoever to the present situation where young girls become sexually expert before they can drive a car (ride a bicycle?). We see how farmers who were once fiercely independent and proudly self-sufficient have now become totally dependent on the largesse of the government.
No, what we need to do is junk virtually all the meme baggage our heads are full of and go back to basic logical thinking. There is not much we can do about all the memes that we are force fed as we are growing up. But why, when we turn 21, can we not stop and say; "Hold on, I am going to personally and privately examine every belief system in my mind and some that aren't, and decide for myself what is worth keeping and what should go in the trash can"? What would be wrong with that? Why, after we are adults, do we so fervently defend ideas that were crammed in our heads when we were children, and we have never done any analysis on whatsoever?
Who says you have to be a Republican just because your parents were? Why don't you examine the political spectrum yourself and decide for yourself? Who says you have to be a Methodist just because your family is of that persuasion? Why not look at the religious offerings like you would shop for a new car and decide for yourself which one, or possibly none, makes sense to you? Are you afraid? Do you not realize that your fear is just another meme working?
Give logical thinking, rational thought, common sense a chance. It could be difficult but it is not impossible. It is difficult because your thinking process itself, your values that you will to make judgements, your view of the world, have all been severely contaminated by memes. But if you stick to logic, flawed thinking will be exposed. Contradictions will surface. And when they do, don't rationalize -- that is just another meme working.But even before you do that, maybe you need to decide whether you want to live a purposeful, meaningful, rational life or not. To help you make that decision I have another paper on line, "Rational: To be or not to be?".
The main effect of farm programs is to force farmers to do inefficiently what they would have done efficiently without subsidies, to force Americans to pay more for food, to drive up the price of farmland and to squander pointlessly tens of billions of dollars a year. . . The issue is not whether the United States will have ample food in the future, but whether politicians will continue controlling American Aagriculture.
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