June 29, 2011

Taking Something Away vs. Not Doing Something

I while ago I read Sam Harris's book, The Moral Landscape, which I have referenced a couple times in previous posts. Harris, at one point, talks about how taking away something is viewed as worse then not doing something, and gives an example using two people.

The first person is a girl who has an 160 IQ and great musical ability, this person isn't given the correct treatment and because of that her IQ drops to 100 and she looses her musical ability. This is contrasted with a girl who has an IQ of 100 and with a pill given at the right time would have her IQ go up to 160 and gain a great musical talent, but the pill isn't given so she remains the same.

Now the end result is the equal and each girl has lost something, but people view the first girl as suffering much more than the second. It is from answering questions like these that it is learned that an act of taking something away from someone is viewed as much worse then not doing something to help someone.

This I don't really have a problem with, because it is worse to lose something then never get something, because there is a greater appreciation of what was actually lost, the old adage, "You don't know what you have till it's gone."

I do have a problem when this line of thinking is combined with the belief that anything natural good, or is at least acceptable, and this recently came up in a conversation. Somehow the topic came of reincarnation came up and a older woman said that, "If it's true than you should be good or you'd come back as something like a worm."

Now I don't believe in reincarnation, but I wouldn't usually have had a problem with other people believing in it, or someone talking about it, but that statement I do and did take offense too. There are people with the belief that if you have done something bad in a previous life that you are punished in the next life for it, so nothing should be done for people who face a 'natural' problem and thus they should be left in a state of suffering, which is horrible. 

So I interrupted the person and stated exactly what I summarized in  the paragraph above, when another lady, who happened to be very well educated, disagreed with what I said and talked about how living with a problem could be a learning experience and lead to enlightened/diverse perspectives.

Only someone educated could come up with such stupid reasoning to accept the suffering of others, and actually come up with a justification for finding nothing wrong in doing nothing at all for someone in pain.

It's as if because something is natural then it can be said to be alright, so if someone goes blind it might lead natural path, but if I stabbed someone in the eyes then it's a bad thing. The scale has tipped too far in the direction of taking something away being bad and not doing something being thought of as alright.

Not doing something is bad, should someone have to live with ALS, MS, or Cancer because living with them might lead to a different life view, or should people born deaf not have the hearing restored because some deaf people don't see it as a disability.

Ask anyone with hearing if they would go back and make it so they couldn't hear when they young, and it'll be easy to see the ethics in changing somethings natural course. Not doing something may not weight equally with taking something away, but it still has weight.

Thanks for reading,
-the moral skeptic

June 17, 2011

Sighting in A Field

Well, congraz to the Bruins and shame on the premeditated riot. Anyway, onwards and upwards to some skepticism about a local 'sighting'. A friend of mine has a field camera set up to catch pictures of wildlife, and got some pictures that were quite unexplainable to him and without further ado here they are.

I was asked what happened in these photo's and I didn't really have an explanation for what the blue thing in multiple camera shots was, although a camera flash illuminating a bug very close to the camera lens is a pretty obvious explanation for what happened in the cool looking next to last photo.

So this is the part where I say I used to be a skeptic, but! ... well not quite. Both my friend and I, looked at the pictures, didn't really have a good explanations as to what happened and thought the pictures were pretty interesting. Yet, not interesting in the fact that they were conclusive proof of Aliens, Ghosts or Telepathic Bigfeet, which is quite the opposite stance of what a lot of anomaly hunters would take.

This can really be seen in the literal meaning of the word UFO and what it's default explanation is now. The literal explanation is pretty accurate, an unidentified flying object. Which is pretty good, except 'flying' doesn't really cover planets/stars because no one would described either of those things as 'flying', but they do happen to make up the majority of UFO reports.

Thought that isn't the meaning that comes to mind when someone says, "I just saw a UFO!" Little green/grey men with large eyes and a saucer-like craft that carries them is what comes to mind. This often leads to a UFO being presumed to be of the nature just described, until proven otherwise, which turns the burden of proof on its head, like a person being presumed guilty until proven innocent.

As Hume describes and Carl Sagan popularized, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, so a few photos that are interesting and unexplainable doesn't make me break out the famous "I used to be a skeptic line" and to my friends credit he made no assumptions as to what it was a picture either.

It is fine to admit that you don't know.

I am content in my stupor, but if anyone does know would would give a picture that sort of blue effect an answer would be nice to have.

Thanks for reading,