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Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. (Oscar Wilde, 1854 -- 1900)
The idea for Dr. Dreimers diary came from the excerpts from the diary of Samuel Pepys published daily in the National Post. We thought it would be interesting to write a modern diary using the more formal language of an earlier era in this case we have attempted an approximation of 18th Century expression. What is perhaps most evident is the capitalisation of nouns, which gives an emphasis, and suggests a cadence entirely missing from current written expression. The language is more cumbersome and formal, and tends to favour the use of parallel structure for rhetorical emphasis.
Style is inseparable from attitude and tone. Dr. Dreimer observes mankind as if from a great height, or from another, more sensible century.
His judgements are often unflattering, and his scorn and disdain
palpable. They may be expressed directly, but are often revealed through an
ironic approval of some mindless folly. He may appear to some as a pompous
windbag; to others as a curmudgeonly but correct observer.
As it has turned out, the diary is not a conventional diary at all. Apart from the occasional references to the mythical Aunt Myalgia, languishing in the Shady Hollow Psychiatric Facility in downtown Toronto, or to the Lumpenbangen Studios in the inner reaches of Hamilton, or to the Haven of Wind-in-the-Pines at Silver Lake, we gain little insight into the trivia of Dr. Dreimers own life.
The diary is, in fact, a commentary on events in the news.
December 16, 2016
One of our chief Delights and Pleasures is to find Evidence of our slow but inexorable March towards Nirvana.
As might be expected, such Evidence often comes from our Institutions of Higher Learning especially those in that most advanced of Nations the United States.
For Example, we have seen much Progress in the Matter of Safe Spaces provided for Students upset by the Election of Mr. Trump. Those Spaces traditionally somewhat too sparsely adorned and equipped have benefited greatly from the Provision of Puppies, Cookies, and colouring Books.
And at least one University we forget which* has provided a Help Hotline to assist those grievously wounded by Microaggressions.
Microaggressions we surely need not remind you are those tiny Insults which may be determined by a close Analysis of everyday Speech. We confidently predict that it will be eventually discovered that any verbal Expression can be shown -- with sufficient mental agility -- to contain an Insult -- whether obvious or faintly implied. This will lead hopefully -- to a blessed Cessation of all audible Communication and the Achievement of an unparalleled harmonious Quiet in the human Species.
We suspect, however, that such a happy Outcome is at some Distance removed. In the Meantime, we are heartened that small Steps are being taken to ensure that Speech is as benign and untroubling as possible.
At Bucknell University, in Pennsylvania a wonderfully colourful Sign has been posted cautioning Students to think before they speak. The Sign is cheerful and multicoloured. It might well have been taken from the happy Hallway of an Elementary School. (Breitbart News December 16)
It cautions: "Think before u speak." (We should note that some of the
more difficult English Words now lend themselves especially at
Institutions of advanced Learning -- to admirable Abbreviations. The
University is certainly signalling that it is not to be left behind in
the Race towards a beneficial Simplification of Spelling.)
follow the Questions to be asked before speaking: Is it True?
Surely such cautionary Thoughts will ensure a wonderful Elevation in the Discourse at Bucknell University!
Indeed we have only one small Caveat. This Instruction assumes, perhaps, that the World is a more perfect Place than it has yet become. We know that these Occasions are increasingly rare but it is still possible to encounter Incidences of extraordinary Folly of a Mindlessness bordering closely upon Idiocy. When one encounters such Rarities, we question whether the admirable Ideals contained in this Bulletin Board Exhortation are valid.
If one encounters Foolishness, is a helpful, inspiring, and kind Remark likely to result in the greater Advancement of Mankind? Should idle Mindlessness be encouraged to spread, unremarked and unchecked?
Or should one -- occasionally -- find it true and necessary to call Stupidity by its real Name?
*It is the University of Oklahoma. See Diary, June 10, 2016.
December 8, 2016
We have suspected, for some Time, that the World is rolling down a long Slope towards Madness but now we are convinced of it.
For Centuries our Species has been engaged in Battle. The Battles are various and overlapping. There has been the Battle against the Environment for Food and Shelter. There have been Battles among Tribes and Nations. There has been the Battle to create Societies more civil, just, and fair.
But the most interesting Battle of modern Times is the Battle for Perfection an ideal World of Stability, Security, Equality, and Happiness in a Reality which is essentially competitive, unequal, and driven by constant Change.
The Battle for Perfection may best be seen in a View of the World generally described as "politically correct."
In the World of Political Correctness, Tact has become the Supreme Good. No Feelings are to be hurt. No Distinctions among bad, good, better, or best are to be made for they contradict the Notion of Equality. Indeed, no Truths of any Kind may be countenanced if Someone should feel offended by such Truths.
The World of Political Correctness, is, in Fact, indistinguishable from the Big Rock Candy Mountain where the Sun always shines, the Lemonade and Cigarettes are free, and the Bluebird of Happiness exults in perpetual Song.
Inevitably, this View of the World must come crashing down splintering on the Rocks of an antithetical Reality. Before it does, the Facade is maintained at the Expense of Coercion. Coercion is always in Evidence when the Attempt is made to fit the square Peg of Humanity into the round Hole of desired Perfection.
In the News Today, we have read of the Shopkeeper in Britain who has opened a retail Establishment named "Really British" featuring "British-themed gifts and homeware." (Mail Online, December 8th)
He has been branded a "racist" and forced to take down his Union Flags. One Person thought that saying "Really British" was a Suggestion that other Businesses were not really British.
The Use of the Term "Racist," is, of course completely fraudulent. It shows the Feeblemindedness of those who use the Term simply to brand as unacceptable Something of which they do not approve.
The Shop might well be described as "Culturist" a Celebration of British Culture. But only in a World which savours perverse Self-Denigration could this be considered to be inappropriate. If a Store should be opened featuring Vietnamese Artifacts, or Canadian Aboriginal Art, we suspect that not a Peep would be heard from the politically correct. That is because they think that Vietnamese Artifacts and Canadian Aboriginal Art are essentially inferior, and must be protected from Criticism.
The essential Motive in this Case is to find Offense in anything which may remotely to suggest a factual Matter: that the British Culture one of the more successful in the World by objective Standards is worth celebrating.
A second Item concerns the Dismissal of a Teacher who had the
Temerity to say in Class, in Passing, that he disagreed with Abortion. A
Student went to an Administrator to complain that the Remark had
"triggered" her and that she felt "unsafe." She also was of the Opinion
that Men have no right to have their Opinion because of their Sex.
(National Post, December 8)
Quite rightly, the Student was cautioned for her sexist Remarks and disciplined for wasting the Time of the Administrator.
Oh, no! We are in Error! Upon reading further in this Article, we discover that the Teacher was dismissed.
In this Matter, it is clear that, in the Need to protect Feelings is paramount. Common Sense, Freedom of Speech, Reality Sanity itself must be sacrificed to a foolish and impossible Ideal.
Finally, we must note the Knots into which the British Broadcasting Corporation is tying itself in its attempt to create "Diversity."
In their "Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2016-20", the corporation is committed to engineering "a workforce at least as diverse, if not more so, than any other in the industry".
They said they aimed to hire: "50 per cent women on screen 8 per cent disabled people 8 per cent LGBT on screen [and] 15 per cent black, Asian and ethnic minorities on screen, on-air and in lead roles across all genres."
However, according to the 2011 census, ethnic minorities make up less than 13 per cent of the population and just 1.7 per cent of Brits consider themselves LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered]. (Breitbart News, December 8)
The trouble with such Notions is that the Focus on Equality must necessarily remove the Focus from Merit. The Assumption is that Talent is distributed evenly across Groups labelled "disabled," "black," or "female." It is just as likely that Talent is distributed evenly among Groups labelled "left-handed," "brown-eyed," or "bald."
Thus it would appear that the Corporations Approach is woefully insufficient. We fail to see why the Promotion of Diversity does not include such other Categories. If separating People into Groups for the Purpose of Hiring is meant to create more Equality and satisfy the Appearance of Diversity, then surely the Number of Categories should be vastly expanded.
In the real World, the Attempt is made to hire the best Individuals to get the Job done. In the Ideal world, Jobs are awarded on the Basis of Membership in a Category. Logic suggests that the Quality of Achievement must decline as Recognition of Merit becomes increasingly irrelevant.
This Breitbart Article on the BBC noted that "In October, an award-winning comedian was dismissed, claiming it was because he was white and male and therefore didnt fit in with diversity targets."
We feel blessed to live in such interesting Times. We are waiting for the Crash, and the Splintering but perhaps our Metaphors are inappropriate. Perhaps there will only be a gradual Awakening, with a terrible Hangover as from a Night of Carousal a reckless, intoxicating Flirtation with impossible Ideals.
November 24, 2016
In this gloomy Time of late November, we have searched the News for some Tid-bit of happy Hopefulness, some Smidgen of reassuring Sanity to relieve the Angst of our winter-tide Anticipation.
And lo! As it has been said: "Seek and ye shall find!"
In the National Post of this Date we learn that Kathleen Wynne, the revered Leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario "has accepted the blame personally" for the disastrous Mess of Ontarios Power Industry which has resulted in oppressively high Prices for Electricity. (National Post, November 24)
How noble an Act is this! What Caring and Compassion is hereby shown and demonstrated!
We are gob-smacked at the Altruism and Self-Sacrifice of one whom we had previously dismissed as a rather silly Woman entranced by leftist Delusions, and challenged by the dreaded Spenditis a governmental Disease which spreads with the Rapidity and destructive Rapacity of an alien Blob.
But we have been inspired by her Example!
We have decided to accept personally -- the Blame for all the Wars in The Middle East!
Like Ms. Wynne, we are willing to bear the Brunt of all evil Thoughts, vile Imprecations, and Expressions of Hatred arising from such Wars. Like Ms. Wynne, we do not anticipate any actual Costs or Interruptions of our daily Life on the Account of our Misdemeanours. But we think it important that People have a focal Point for their Anger, Frustration, and Disappointment.
We are willing to be that easy Target.
Now, once we had made the Decision to accept Blame for all the Wars in the Middle East, we did consider other Sacrifices.
We thought for instance -- of accepting Blame for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Justin Trudeau.
But we found alas that we lack that Degree of Virtue to which we aspire. Indeed, even to accept the Blame for Justin Trudeau alone is beyond the Capacity of our Generosity. There are some Things so Dark, that we must despite our Compassion let them bear the terrible Brunt of their own unfortunate Existence.
But we digress!
The Article in the National Post quite correctly observes that Ms. Wynne admirable though she is in accepting Blame for the Ontario Power Mess is not solely responsible.
Indeed, we have always found the former Premier, Dalton McGuinty, a Man of many Wretchednesses to be the Founder of the Disaster.
Our Analysis has always been that Mr. McGuinty, a Man of Modest Talents, and no Capacity for independent Thinking, was so enamoured of the Theory of Anthropogenic global Warming, that he swallowed it Hook, Line, Sinker, and Fishing Rod with David Suzuki firmly attached to the other End of it.
In his Mind or so we imagine Mr. McGuinty saw the Opportunity. He must have reasoned thus: "How can a Man of modest Talents and no Capacity for independent Thinking achieve Fame in the Present, and earn the Adulation, Reverence, and Gratitude of later Generations?"
The Answer must have been enticingly simple: "Put Ontario at the Forefront of the Green Energy Movement! Override municipal Objections, forget the Cost, and Go, Green Go! Your Name will go down in History as a Seer and Visionary, as an early and revered Saviour of the Planet!"
Ms. Wynne, being a Woman of modest Talents, and no Capacity for independent Thinking has simply followed in the Footsteps of the Giant who preceded her.
Indeed, we have seen a Depiction of Ms. Wynne, jogging along a Country Road, vowing her Determination to stop Climate Change.
As we have noted Elsewhere "The trouble with brains is they are so easily washed."*
The Legacy of Wisdom and Prescience has been too much for Politicians to resist. It is always the Hubris of Governments to believe that they can foresee the Future, and make the great disruptive Changes that will meet with the imagined Approval of the Years to come.
But most great changes are not sudden, and not planned. They take Place incrementally each Improvement building logically and reasonably on the last.
As yet, those studying Climate have given no Indication that they Understand the Factors which affect Global Temperatures. Their Predictions of Disasters have failed and so have their Predictions of a rise in Temperatures consistent with a Rise in Greenhouse Gasses.
Why anyone would think that they can effectively manage Temperatures over the next Century is a Mystery.
It is a Mystery bound up with the Irrationality of the human Mind.
It is interesting that Ms. Wynne has decided to accept Blame for high Electricity Prices. If those Prices come down, it will only be because it has become politically expedient to provide Subsidies by taking the Money from other Government Coffers.
Big bad Decisions based on unproven Hypotheses rather than Facts are not easily undone -- no Matter who takes the Blame.
November 13, 2016
Every time you think weve touched bottom in the abyss of human stupidity, another deep crevasse seems as if by magic -- to appear. (Observation # 863)
"Safe spaces" are inherently flawed -- for they offer no protection from that state of stupidity implied in the belief that reality can be avoided in a "safe space." (Observation # 867)
It is seldom that good News appears in the Guise of a Snowball rolling downhill, gathering Mass and Momentum as it turns.
But -- no sooner have we written about the Advancement of Compassion at Yale University where a midterm Examination was made optional in the Wake of the terrible Assault of the Trump Victory but we discover that the University of Pennsylvania is not to be outdone!
Administrators at the University of Pennsylvania reportedly provided students upset over the results of Tuesdays presidential election with emotional support puppies, coloring books, and chocolate. (Breitbart News, November 12, 2016)
We must rejoice at the Perspicacity of the University in this Matter! It would appear that they have realized the Limitations of the Intellect: the human Being is, above all, a Creature of Emotion. Rationality is, properly assessed, all but a Sham and a Faηade. The chief Aim of Mankind is not to understand the real World but to feel as happy as possible within any Version of it that can be reasonably put forth.
A Puppy is a wonderful Symbol of Happiness! Eager, playful, and loving, the Puppy will never confound with a difficult algebraic Equation or engage in a distressing Conversation about the Futility of Existence.
A Colouring Book apparently coloured Pencils were also supplied
allows the Students to return emotionally to the Days of Childhood,
when the World seemed ordered and controlled not riven by Uncertainty
And finally Chocolate! Who cannot lose himself in the sensuous Pleasure of Taste where Richness vies with Sweetness to banish the Worries of the Moment, and to hold at Bay the Uncertainties of the Future?
We should note that Classes at the University according to Reports abandoned the Silliness and Pretense of academic Work: they were turned into "Safe Spaces" where Students could express their Concerns for their Futures.
This is the only Element in the Response of the University that we would question. Is not such a Discussion of Uncertainty likely to engage Emotions of Fear and Distress?
It would have seemed more appropriate to screen Films of Action and Suspense filled with Car Chases and unlikely Deeds of steel-jawed Heroism. Or possibly the Students could engage with Video Games.
Our favourite Suggestion would be the reading in a quiet, controlled, supportive Manner of Stories beginning, "Once upon a time..." In this way, the Students could be taken back to their Days of Innocence and Certainty.
However, this is but a minor Quibble. It is encouraging to see that our Institutions of higher Learning have begun to realize that emotional Health and untroubled Happiness are the chief and best Aims for the future Citizens of our improving World.
November 12, 2016
Amid these turbulent Times, we have taken to a hopeful searching of the News for Signs that our Society is becoming kindlier, and more gentle that it is moving further along the sacred Path to Nirvana.
Many a Day goes by when we are disappointed, but every so often, through the Clouds, we see a Ray of beneficent Sunshine.
We hardly need mention that the Victory of Mr. Trump in the recent Elections has been a great Disappointment to many Citizens. Many of the noblest of our Number had their Hearts set on the Election of the dainty, delightful and above all virtuous and impeccably ethical -- Mrs. Clinton.
Instead of the Universe unfolding as it should -- through some extraordinary Perversity of a deranged Electorate --Mr. Trump, who defiantly rejects all of the Perceptions and Advancements made by the revered Obama, was elected to succeed him.
The Groans, the Tearing of Sackcloth, and the frenzied Rolling in Ashes has nowhere been more evident than in the academic Community. Tender young Minds, filled with Hope at the Election of the virtuous and impeccably ethical Mrs. Clinton, have been savaged by an unfathomable Reality. Their Aspirations, their Ideals, their Sense of the Rightness of the World have succumbed like a Gossamer in a Hurricane to a cruel Disruption, a chaotic Disassembling.
But here is the Ray of Sunshine after the Devastation: a Professor of Economics at Yale, responding to the Distress of his Students, has, with a Wave of a Wand of Compassion, made a Mid-Term Examination Optional.
The Professor, who has not been named no Doubt he eschews Publicity believing that Virtue is its own Reward was much moved by "heartfelt notes" received by Students who are "in shock" over the election returns. (Breitbart News, November 9)
Some Students had "rightly or wrongly" as the Professor notes feared for their Families.
On the other Hand, some other Students had worked hard to prepare for the Exam, and it was unfair to deny them their Chance to shine.
The most reasonable and compassionate Course was to make the Exam optional.
We are much heartened by this Account but, further it seems to suggest Possibilities for great Advancement for Society as a whole.
We see no Reason why the "Optionality Principle" should not become a Mainstay of the caring and compassionate Society.
For each Citizen it would seem under the present System -- is faced with unwelcome Deadlines and stress-inducing Demands.
If he is employed, he is usually required to appear for Work at a fixed and unvarying Time. If he pays Income Taxes, there is the obdurate Demand for Payment by April 30th. There are Bills for Hydro, Rent, or Mortgage Payments. There are ruthless Requirements for Licensing and Vehicle Registration. Indeed an ordinary Life seems filled with Rules, Obligations, routine Oppressions, and unhappy Consequences.
Would not Life be immeasurably improved if the "Optionality Principle" were to be more widely observed?
We look forward to this happy Event surely the next great Leap forward in our ever-evolving Communities of Sweetness and Light.
October 27, 2016
It is necessary to distinguish between a legitimate claim for equal rights, and the self-indulgent desire for special treatment -- between reasonable accommodation and the tyranny of the minority. Political correctness is a pre-judgment -- the triumphant value is personal and self-determined: it is the right not to feel offended. (Observation # 835)
We see there is much Brouhaha at the University of Toronto because a Professor of Psychology, Jordan Peterson, has announced his Refusal to use the Pronouns desired by those whose Perception of their Gender does not accord with the Gender that Nature appears to have -- somewhat foolishly assigned to them.
The University Administration is, quite rightly, horrified and we sincerely hope that Professor Peterson will reconsider his Position.
The Tradition of referring to Males as "he" and Females as "she" has long outlived its Usefulness and is not in Accord with the new Recognition that personal Perception is more important than objective Reality.
It is a Sign of the great Progress made by Civilization that we now realize that individual Feelings are sacrosanct, and should be protected at all Costs.
A Society can only function at its very best when its Members are serene and confident; thus, Self-Esteem should be the chief Aim and primary Virtue for all Citizens. The great Enemies of Self-Esteem are hurt Feelings, lack of Achievement, and Inequality.
The Matter of hurt Feelings is slowly being addressed. Human Rights Commissions are readily available to those who have been in some way offended, or have experienced Disdain, Anger, Mockery or Contempt.
We anticipate further Cases for such Commissions as their good Work becomes more generally known.
The Matter of Achievement for those of little Accomplishment is, perhaps, a more difficult Task.
But there is increasing Recognition that finding a Matter about which to complain, holding Protests, petitioning Governments, and bringing an End to traditional but offensive Freedoms is a promising Path towards solid Achievement.
Inequality is, of course, a terrible Scourge. There is little Doubt that Equality is at the true Heart of Existence for do not Electrons and Atoms exhibit a most wonderful Equality of Appearance and Function ?
The manifold Inequalities which we observe in human Society the
Squabbles of Striving -- are mere Superficialities which must be
scrubbed away to reveal the true Harmony of Equality underneath.
Indeed, this Matter of Gender Recognition is most properly seen as a Question of Equality. Should not People of every Gender Perception and we admit there may be many such Perceptions* be granted a special distinguishing Pronoun?
Now we admit to a certain personal Interest in this Matter. We have been reluctant to mention this before but the recent Controversy has emboldened us. We admit to a certain personal Perception of Gender Fluidity.
This Fluidity seems dependent upon Activity.
When we are cutting down a Tree, or repairing Drywall, we seem enveloped by an almost mystical Sense of rugged Masculinity.
When doing Laundry, cooking, or choosing a Paint Colour, we feel our Psyche softened, laved -- perfumed, almost, with an exotic sense of Femininity.
Further, the Edges of these Perceptions are not clear-cut. The Masculinity of Tree-Cutting may, on occasion, be subtly invaded by the Recollection of the Making of Muffins. And the Delicacy of Choosing of a Paint Colour is often leavened by the Notion that a Drywall Repair may be needed before the Application of the Paint.
To complicate Matters even further we have noticed that the Cutting of an Oak Tree confers a different Style of Masculinity than that bestowed by the felling of a White Pine. Muffins containing Cranberries bring out a different level of Femininity from that evoked by those made with Raisins.
We are reminded of the famous Remark of Walt Whitman: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
Indeed, we think it only reasonable that our Multiple States of Gender be recognized with different Pronouns. We see no reason why we should not be addressed in the Manner appropriate to our mental State at the Time of Interaction.
We are now emboldened. We will compile a List of appropriate Designations. We doubt that Thirty-One will suffice.
*According to a recent Article in the National Post, there are 31 Designations of Gender recognized and protected from Discrimination -- by the City of New York. (National Post, October 21, 2016)
October 23, 2016
Science rests on reason and experiment, and can meet an opponent with calmness; but a belief is always sensitive. (James Anthony Froude, 1818 - 1894)
It is well known that Ducks are identified, chiefly, by their Appearance. If Something looks like a Duck, swims like a Duck, and quacks like a Duck, it is commonly identified as a Duck.
The same Reasoning would seem to apply to Climate Alarmists. They claim to have Science on their side, proclaiming that "the Science is settled." But their Actions often suggest that "the science is essentially religious in nature, and is exceptionally vulnerable to critical analysis."
Indeed, when Climate Alarmists consistently look, swim, and quack like the Purveyors of Snake Oil, it does not seem unreasonable to assume that the Product they are pitching is a Slickness of herpetological Origin.
We have been amused to see that Rebel Media was recently denied Press Accreditation at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Marrakech.*
It is well known that Ezra Levant, Founder of the Rebel Media is an anthropogenic Climate Change Skeptic. The Refusal of Accreditation was defended on the Grounds that the Rebel Media engages in "advocacy journalism."
What this really means, of course, it advocates for a different Point of View than that to which the Climate Alarmists are committed.
Mr. Levant has made public a Recording of the Response of Journalists when the Paris Conference of December 2015 reached an Agreement. There was Applause and Cheering.
That such Journalists might be inclined to engage in "advocacy
journalism," would of course --be a dastardly Aspersion on their
In an Interview, with Nick Nuttall, the Head of Communications for the Marrakech Convention, we were surprised to hear Carol Off, of the CBC an organization known for Climate Change Orthodoxy expose Mr. Nuttalls obvious Prejudices.
Mr. Nuttall had determined that the Rebel Media was full of unconventional Opinions, and did not think Mr. Levant was being "helpful." (National Post, October 20)
The Message was quite clear: critical and unhelpful Coverage was not welcome.
But if the "Science" were really so "settled" would not critical and unhelpful Opinions fall and fail of their own unsupportable Weight?
What the Climate Alarmists have failed to explain, of course, is their Failure in making accurate Predictions of Global Temperatures. They do not provide Evidence of their Ability to make Predictions, but ask for Faith.
If it claims to be Science, but looks, swims, and quacks like Religion its obviously a religious Duck wearing a Lab Coat.
*We should note that our present Commentary is based on the wonderfully titled "Writhing on the Marrakech Express" by Peter Foster in the National Post of October 20. We heard the same Interview on the CBC to which he refers.
October 16, 2016
We note that there is great Buzz and much apparent Excitement about the "New Wave" of Transportation: the self-driving Automobile. It appears that many Manufacturers are earnestly devising and testing such Vehicles.
The Idea is that sophisticated Machines are more reliable than fallible human Beings, and Transportation conducted entirely by Machine will be much safer.
Our personal Response to this Idea from the very first Mention was that the Likelihood of putting our Trust in an unsupervised Machine was on the distant and remote Side of below Zero.
We do not claim that human Beings will never be comfortable with autonomous Vehicles; the Future is notoriously resistant to Predictability. But we find it difficult to believe that those accustomed to looking out for their own Safety at high Speeds will be easily convinced.
We are reminded of an Observation by Edward Gibbon, the eighteenth Century Historian:
The laws of probability, so true in general, so fallacious in particular.
While it may be accepted that, in general, self-driving Machines may be safer it is human Nature to focus, not on Generalities, but on Particulars. It is difficult to give up the Perception that we are best suited to monitor the Risks to our own Survival.
An Article in the National Post of October 14 confirms our own reflexive Response. A Survey by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation discovered that only Fourteen per cent of Respondents wanted to give up their Autonomy to a Machine.
It notes that one Difficulty with the Machine is that it is likely to make ethical Decisions impartially. If the Machine must choose between the Safety of Four Pedestrians and One Vehicle Passenger, it will with admirable Morality chose the Safety of the Four Pedestrians.
One suspects that such a Decision will always be the Subject of Debate: the Morality of the Machine, is, after all, based on the Assumptions of its Programmers.
Then too, the Survey notes the Difficulty of inclement Weather. What happens when Snow and Ice obliterate painted Lines on the Highway?*
Indeed, this raises the general Question: can a Machine be programmed to take Account of the myriad Variabilities of real Life? Is such a Machine safer in general, but more dangerous in the Particularities of unusual Circumstances?
Finally, we would note that Machines have -- on extremely rare Occasions, to be sure -- suffered Failure, Collapse, and Exhaustion. If such Failure should result in Injury or Death, would not some perverse Nit-Picker claim that human Intervention would have saved the Day?
A driver-supervised "self-driving" Machine may have some Advantages. One that is completely autonomous would seem to represent the unscientific Triumph of Theory over Practice.
The National Post Article ends with this Sentence:
For those predicting a swift conversion to fully autonomous automobiles, its a chilling reminder that consumers still need a lot of convincing.
We are not sure whether the Writer is on the Side of the swift Predictors or the Skeptics. The word "chilling" suggests he occupies a different, and significantly colder Planet, where Conversion might be welcomed, and Consumer Resistance might be seen as unfortunate. As a Skeptic, we would have used the word "stern" -- in order to suggest a Rebuke to Folly.
*There are currently many Dirt Roads and narrow Tracks in the Countryside. No painted Lines. And which Vehicle decides to back up and park to one Side at the nearest convenient Place on a narrow or obstructed Road? (Near Wind-in-the-Pines, there is a private Cottage Road on which a sharp one-lane Curve is followed by a one-lane Bridge. Vehicle Encounters require creative Solutions.)
October 15, 2016
We are generally opposed to Religion, because it claims Knowledge without Evidence.
We must admit, however, that irrational Belief has some Advantages. That which is believed without Evidence, has a Kind of Carte Blanche. It is resistant to Demands of Proof, and, like the famous Roadrunner, can keep running long after it has gone past the Edge of the Cliff, where firm Ground no longer gives Support.
Tribes of many Kinds have doubtless been made more ferocious and successful because of a Belief that God is on their Side, and that Death is merely a temporary Inconvenience.
And finally, there is no Doubt much Comfort to be derived from a Belief in pleasant and flattering Impossibilities: that Ones own Consciousness has a direct Relationship to the Divine, and One will be rewarded with Milk and Honey in the Afterlife assuming that One has shown, in Life, a Subservience of acceptable Magnitude.
Opposed to such practical Advantages are certain practical Consequences. The true Believers find it only natural indeed virtuous to impose their own Irrationality on Others.
If Religion could only be reduced to a passionate but restricted Loyalty like that of Devotion to the Home Team it would be less troubling. Few Fans of the Toronto Blue Jays expect to convert admirers of the Cleveland Indians to a particular Blue Jay Perception of the Cosmos. When the Emotion inspired by the Field of Battle is over, loyal Fans can return to real Life to deal with other Matters uninfluenced by their sporting Pieties.
The Battle between observable Practicalities and principled Objections is currently being shown in a Dispute over the functioning of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Lawrence Knight an Atheist, joined Alcoholics Anonymous, but found Difficulty with the Idea of seeking a "spiritual awakening," or surrendering his Will to the "care of God." (National Post, October 15, 2016)
According to John F. Kelly, a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University, Prayer and Meditation have positive Effects:
"Prayer is hope, and hope is a positive emotion," he said. Studies have shown it lessens the effect of alcohol triggers and is a predictor of abstinence in teenage addicts. Spirituality also tends to increase over the course of recovery. Kelly compares this to the physics of light. Just as light separates through a prism into its constituent colours, so does spirituality separate into positive emotions: gratitude, hope, bliss, empathy, compassion, awe, etc. These, in psychiatric lingo, are the mechanisms of recovery. (National Post, October 15)
This seems to us to be perfectly reasonable; apparently Bill Wilson,
a Co-Founder of the Organization, spoke of God as a "pragmatic recovery
The Difficulty arises -- not surprisingly when the "pragmatic recovery tool" becomes an oppressive Requirement.
Mr. Knight operates an agnostic Alcoholics Anonymous Group in Toronto which is fighting Expulsion by the main Organization, claiming Discrimination. Alcoholics Anonymous is arguing that it is a special Interest Group which has the right to restrict Membership.
In this Matter, we find ourselves on the Side of Alcoholics Anonymous. If an Organization offers a Cure for Conniption Fits based on the Practice of soothing Incantations while burning Herbs by the Light of the full Moon at Midnight, we see no Reason why they should not prohibit Membership on the Basis of Herbal Heresy.
The more troubling Element of Compulsion arises when Membership is enforced:
In another case in British Columbia, Byron Wood is objecting to being forced into AA by his employer and his nursing union, arguing this constitutes discrimination on the grounds of religion and mental disability. He claims he objected to the 12 Step philosophy, denied the existence of a "higher power" and tried to discuss scientific approaches to recovery, only to be told he was in denial of his powerlessness, which he found humiliating. (National Post, October 15)
We think there is an obvious Need for an AAA which has nothing to do with Automobiles. It would, of course, be the Agnostic Alcoholics Anonymous Organization.
We must consider the Possibility that such an Organization would have lesser Efficacy than the One employing the pragmatic Recovery Tool. In that Case, we still think it should remain as a Choice: No One should be compelled to pray to a God in whose Existence he does not believe.*
Freedom from Religion is as important as Freedom of Religion.
*We are assuming the Problem is conceptual, not terminological. We sometimes think God would do better if he simply changed his Name to "Universal Mystery."