GMO Labeling

A, uh, “debate” broke out on my facebook newsfeed about the labeling of GMO’s. I have a lot of thoughts about GMO’s, but I often say that I’m uncommitted on the matter, simply because a proper explanation of my position would likely put me at odds with both of the pre-established sides of the argument and be misunderstood.

It tickles me that the primary argument against labeling GMO’s is that they’re “safe,” whatever that means. Water, we know, is perfectly safe, and is listed as an ingredient on lists of ingredients. And my produce tells me it was grown in Canada or Mexico or Missouri or New Zealand. My apple juice even tells me the origins of the apples used to make it. Pointing out that GMO’s are safe, whatever that means, is clearly a complete red herring.

The question: Why should GMO’s be the exception? Why should they alone be kept a secret?

It seems clear to me that the only people who don’t want GMO’s to be labeled are the people who would suffer profits due to  public distrust of GMO’s. Here, let me be clear. I used the word “distrust.” You’ll find in these arguments that the group who fights to be left ignorant demands specific evidence that GMO’s are harmful, with the assumption that they are harmful to eat. Is it necessarily the case that the harm from GMO’s or even pesticides or what-have-you relates to their being consumed? Why this assumption? My every bit of squeamishness about GMO’s has very little to do with the eating. I know I’m eating GMO’s. I know I eat non-organic foods. They’re perfectly safe to eat, usually, probably, I expect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe in general.

And I don’t have to know that they aren’t safe to distrust them.

I don’t have to trust your experts — you know, those people who stand to gain a profit from telling you they’re safe.

But, again, whether GMO’s are safe or not is entirely beside the point. They should be labeled as a matter of course. As mentioned before, water is labelled as an ingredient. Countries of origin are listed on labels. I’d rather we didn’t need labels. I’d rather we lived in a simpler world where we had an intimate understanding of what went on about us, especially regarding our food. I’d rather that most of my food came out of some community garden or something similar. But we don’t live in that world. We instead live in this one. Labels are a thing. We’ve had an oversight and now we’d like to correct it.

An argument you hear continually is that genetically modified organisms are identical to selectively bred organisms. This is an argument you hear continually and I haven’t any idea how people are dumb enough to believe it — never mind, I do, actually. The two clearly, unmistakably involve completely different processes. I won’t teach you biology here. Go educate yourself instead. Just recognize that the two are, in fact, different processes. Genetically modifying an organism is incomparable to anything else we’ve ever done when it comes to breeding — notice the two key words are “engineering” and “breeding.” Not the same. If you can’t see something as simple as this, then there’s probably no hope for a reasonable discussion on the matter with you. Sorry.

All of these people, these little henchmen for the those entities who stand to profit from selling GMO’s, have nothing to gain from their side of the argument. Arguing to be kept in the dark on any subject is extremely unlikely to be in your best interests. So it seems that, suddenly, the “pro-science,” pseudo-skeptic community is a huge fan of ignorance. But they always sort of were, weren’t they?

Participating in these arguments is like facing terror at the thought of not immediately obeying preordained experts. These people apparently lose their grounding because they fundamentally distrust themselves. They’ve been trained to distrust themselves, to trust only the priests of their deficient pseudo-religion. It’s a little amusing. It’s a little frustrating. Mostly, it’s worrisome.

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Why Is Life So Exhausting?

It’s not “life” that is so exhausting but your life that is exhausting. Ask yourself that question — who else is going to know something like that?

Reading between the lines, now. This is a common question in our world today and I personally think it all the time. I’ll use myself as an example because I know myself best.

I had asked myself this question today even before sitting down at the computer, as like most days. Why? In my case, I have, as of yesterday, picked up three new shifts at work to make sure I can make a payment on medical bills I’ll be paying for a long while yet. I have also chosen to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo and have challenged myself to begin and finish writing a novel of no less than 60,000 words in a month (I chose to go 10,000 words higher than the suggested total because I hit 70,000 last time). I also have a little blog I had been keeping but have for the past two weeks been completely neglecting and that weighs on me as it feels like a responsibility of mine that I am failing on, though it is my choice alone to keep the blog in the first place. My partner teaches at the University in town, runs the speech team, and frequently leaves for weekends or a whole week as is the case now. My partner’s worries and concerns, which are many, weigh on me also, as I feel responsible for helping to carry them. I just ordered a book I promised myself I would read this week and I haven’t touched it, as much as I want to. I have laundry and dishes to do, seemingly all the time. I need to organize my desk. The nature of my job is to run about and try to squeeze every ounce of efficiency and productivity while smiling all the time despite the occasional rude, demanding, difficult, or simply horrid customers, who tend to look down on me as lesser even if they are the nicer more cooperative ones, unless I am, instead, standing around for an hour and a half waiting for all of it to happen on the slower days when business just might not happen at all for no comprehensible reason. It weighs on me that I never finished school after, five years ago, I lost my job, a relationship, and my home, and then had to move near family, a few of whom I refuse to speak to or vice versa, and now for some reason have no inclination to go back. Why would I not want to go back? I feel bad about this one, all the time. One of my meds had caused me to lose weight and at ~120 pounds I really can’t afford that and that really concerns me (though I am making progress somehow). I have been neglecting a project on a video game I play and that has been weighing on me also.

This all has just been an example, and the list could go on. My point: none of this needs to be the case. Not a bit of it. If I were living, say 100,000 years ago, living as a hunter-gatherer or whatever, I’d have some personal struggles and they might be quite significant, but I wouldn’t have so many responsibilities weighing on me, and I wouldn’t be inclined to constantly remind myself of what they are as I do, often necessarily because of the restrictions of time and everyday, constant demands placed upon memory and attention. I would, 100,000 years ago, be afraid of snakes, I would be afraid of hyenas, I would be conscious of illness and accompanying struggles, and the hazards of the weather. I would not be worrying about any of these things, I would not feel the need to have anything done by any given time, of which I would have a completely different sort of concept, and almost nothing would feel like a disaster if it didn’t happen, certainly not in quite the way we would feel it now.

You’re probably tired because you have the weight of a civilization obsessed with efficiency, productivity, and guilt upon your shoulders. In this civilization, for example, you must perform the impossible task of building an identity that is authentically you — see the contradiction — so people who don’t know you can pretend to understand you. Every single part of that is stressful as some instinctive part of you doesn’t like strangers for obvious reasons, and it is insulting on some levels for people to act as though they understand you when they obviously don’t, yet, in this civilization, you must act as though that’s normal. Do you see the drama of such a simple act as choosing which hat to wear? Decades, even centuries of associations to wade through and wrestle with just when it comes to introducing yourself — your religion, your political beliefs, your relationship status, past relationship statuses, philosophical perspectives, not to mention race, gender, sexuality, age, etc. (also, how well you play out the expectations of your race, gender, sexuality, age, etc.) — for which you will be judged immediately and endlessly forever after. You may forget this, but it will be the case regardless. It’s what we call “getting to know each other”.

You have the game that is money constantly pressing upon you no matter who you are or how much of it you have. You are judged for being either prudish or loose with your sexuality in a heavily ambivalent environment on the subject — all of the centuries of evolving expectations fighting against instinct. The fight against instinct — against who you truly are — does not stop, ever, nor does the guilt of failing to prevail against yourself, whether the subject be food, meeting social norms, speaking properly (you’d be ashamed if you weren’t literate or far less articulate than someone else, wouldn’t you?), sex (some people are taught to be more ashamed of masturbating than — notice the punch of the word!), your attention span (perhaps you hear parents shouting at children to quiet down and pay attention — because they are “bad” for not paying attention and will always remember this), or what-have-you. The list goes on and on.

We’ve been at this for far more than 6000 years and it is all on your head to act out and act out properly. No one can escape from this, not even the “hippie” types who pride themselves on being carefree and authentically themselves — if so, how is it that they are playing the role of “hippie”? The dreadlocks didn’t happen on their own, nor did their clothes or the pot, and do you think they then don’t feel the pressure to some degree to be a good sort of “hippie”, the most authentic of the bunch, not a “poser”, but truly, truly genuine?

You have to work. You have to be a cog in the machine. It’s how our particular civilization is run, so enamored it is with the ideal of the machine and as we have been for the past three hundred years or so, and possibly longer. That is the number one reason you are so tired, as I tried to illustrate in my own example. You have to be efficient and productive, no matter how contradictory that is to your true nature as a creature akin to a gorilla or bonobo, whose species is capable of giving rise to the Buddha.

You’re exhausted because you are stuck within a mode of living in which one must work and in which to make anything better must work harder — what you accomplish is irrelevant, apparently, only the working — and if one wants to escape the mess, escape the utter purposelessness of running about inside of a mouse wheel, one must work yet harder, endlessly, always, forever, consequence oriented to an insane degree yet wholly lacking any sort of purpose or telos.

You’re exhausted because you are expected to do dozens of impossible things every day and then shamed by them, by yourself, as you have been raised up to possess above all the skill shaming yourself, blaming yourself, and guilting yourself as the remnants of old culture-spanning doctrines, such as the doctrine of original sin and the existence of Hell and the like continue to direct us subconsciously if only for lack of an alternative within our means of functioning. For example, we still operate with the Biblical notion of time: everything began, everything carries forward, a big important event occurs in the middle, and everything follows as a consequence until the end. Every new discovery must somehow be shown to propel us forward or suffer the sins of having been a waste of time. Nothing can merely be interesting, valuable for contemplation or simply for being knowledge itself. The question will always be, “How is this useful?” How can it be technologized? As though every last noetic particle must somehow be capable of being turned into a gadget or gizmo.

The weight of this last part is placed upon you, too, you know. Asked of you:”How is this useful? How can it be used?”

Where do you fit in the glorious machine run on impossible notions? And what is the best way to discard you for scraps if you don’t end up fitting anywhere?

You better run if you want to live. You better play those games.

That is why you are so exhausted.

[originally intended to be an answer to a question on Quora]

Applying Myself

I had lost my will to write for a long while. Then I decided that I would accept the NaNoWriMo challenge, which completely consumed me for a full month and more. The challenge is to complete a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. I didn’t realize at first that the goal was only to have a first draft completed, which was more than enough to be called a challenge, but I met the word count in less than two weeks and finished an entire book in sixteen days. But the story clearly hadn’t ended, and a second book was begging to be written, and obviously a third. I am currently most of the way through the second book. Neither of the two feel satisfactory to me, though I’m sure they’re better than quite a lot of first-draft stories spawned from NaNoWriMo. I might have seen one at the bookstore in town by a local writer. It was clearly self-published and a glance was enough to tell me that satisfying my curiosity was not worth the pain of more than a second’s examination.

It’s not easy to say that my writing is better than anyone’s.

My task for October had been to read a few books on my reading list. It was only partially successful, which means I failed. My task for November was NaNoWriMo. My task for December was to begin to learn code, to program, as much as I reasonably can every day, stopping, maybe, if I’ve reached the end of a subject and it feels right to wait until the next day to move on. I don’t have a clear purpose in mind for this. I only came across the Free Code Camp at the end of September — the 25th to be exact — and saved the link. Now I’m 70 hours in, as they measure it, out of 800 total. That is, of course, slightly less than ten percent. The task has extended into in January, and will continue past spring and through the year, as will my writing project. At first it felt that I was picking up a new project every month, but it seems clear now, a week and a half into January, that these two things are the projects I have selected for myself, at the very, very end of my Saturn Return, and the momentum of the two will carry.

Now I’m taking James Patterson’s writing class on the MasterClass website.

I can’t think of coming to a genuine point, so I’m going to end this here, having updated it, and remove it from drafts.

Response to Mooney

This began as a comment on a facebook post to this article.
It is riddled with assumptions.
This article seems to say repeatedly, “It’s biological, therefore it can’t be changed.” It seems to be a major argument of the article, and it’s simply wrong. It’s stated too many times without even any support for this matter in particular. How does the author, Chris Mooney, know that these studies mean that maybe a person’s mind can’t be changed due to biological factors? Pure speculation. Ideology. His words: “…and calling into question the notion that in politics, we can really change.” Perhaps he has support for that argument, but it’s not present and really should be given that it seems it’s kind of the point he wants to make by writing the article in the first place. He describes the study as identifying that “political conservatives have a ‘negativity bias,’ meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments.” That’s all he says.
And then at the end: “All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science.”
Bullshit *>= 5

1.The minds-change assertion.

2.Yes, your opponents are perceiving things differently from you. Obvious, solid fact. Not related to anything other than that your opponent isn’t you.

3. The assumption is that the perception difference is a fixed biological one and not a whole-person matter. It’s unmistakably implied. He wants to say, “Oh, you have xyz genes, therefore you’re a conservative” in the same way he can say, “Oh, he had three apples and was given two apples, therefore he has five apples.” (do you see the childish impulse here?)

4. That science can create an orderly system based on “cold hard” mathematical laws — he doesn’t say this, but it’s so close, I feel I can rant about it.

5. Science is my lord and saviour Jesus Christ — I mean, Science is my lord and saviour, the light and life of the world.
Bullshit.
There are lots of nasty things that are a part of us due to past evolutionary pressures, but we don’t actually do quite a lot of those things.
Example: I am supposedly created by strong evolutionary pressure to compete with other men for dominance and to father as many children as possible, in whatever way possible, including by force (over simplification, yes). Yet I will do none of those things, except maybe compete, as one could argue this argument is a form of competing for dominance, but do you see how different it is from the pressure that formed the biological trait in the first place? This is because I am not merely a collection of evolutionary imperatives.
Genes are not fate. Genes are not a computer code.
The idea that they are has to go, hard and fast, however comforting it may be for some people to believe that we are ‘nothing but’ a fixed series of digitized units of information subject to manipulation and control according to ancient fantasies spawned by men who, like children, were overly excited by their new toys and considered themselves enlightened because of them, arrogantly and ignorantly looking back on their predecessors as medieval and primitive.
Hence a broader problem and certainly not the only one: a lack of a sense of history. This article cites studies which are very narrowly focused, measuring things under very controlled circumstances and projecting them only on a narrow range of phenomena. How do these studies enlighten us about those medieval people you feel so superior to, snub your nose at, and thereby emulate through ignorance to repeat their mistakes?

“Science is my lord and saviour and I am nothing but a series of mathematical symbols subject to manipulation by its arbitrary, omnipotent, omniscient whims,” is an idea, a meme, a myth increasingly underlying the behavior of society and it is even more dangerous than that which spawned it: the corruption of the Christian church so many centuries ago.

It is obvious that the growing worship of science is built upon the same Christian framework with a few critical elements shifted, tilted, or removed. Science — that is Science, with a big ‘S’, not ‘science’ as Aristotle would understand the term — is the mutant bastard child of Christianity and more dangerous than Christianity ever was.

Love for the Credulous

There is a place for the credulous. I find a beauty in uncritical enthusiasm. That they are wrong, if they are wrong, has no effect on them but upon us – those who think they are wrong – while in their apparent wrongness they may yet have something to show us. We can’t know that we are right and they don’t bother to consider whether they are wrong. Credulousness will not go away. It must not go away. It can not. A convergence on any truth would appear identical to it; the stronger the convergence, the greater the credulity.

The truth of a belief system is so evident from within that belief system. That it may not be apparent from a viewpoint within another belief system does not diminish that sense of truth. Truth, after all, as far as it is ever possible to know it, is just a kind of feeling. An extensive logical process is only a tool for generating that feeling, but that in no way diminishes its value.

Perhaps the credulous see things we might like to see and could if only we stopped fighting against that feeling of truth with the emotional tool of skepticism – but not all of us, and few of us completely so. Realize that we have a selection process for our beliefs. Only from within one’s own belief system is it obvious how one’s filter should be formed.
It suddenly occurred to me one day that I hadn’t been arguing in a struggle for Truth but as a means of holding an emotional state, and the state I’d been holding was just a limited expression of the shape of my character. There was something deeply dissatisfying at that moment about that emotional state and I realized that a fuller and healthier expression of the shape of my character meant abandoning what I had considered a commitment to the struggle for Truth. This does not mean that truth can not be found, but rather it is acceptance of the fact that truth is always a personal matter. Sure, there is a single perfect truth – the Great Triangle in the Sky – but so long as we are distinct individuals our experience of truth will be individual. Given this, it’s useless to hold others to our understanding, but that’s not to say our understanding should not be shared. Let it spread where it will. Trust that truth will speak.

At the same time, we are left still with the task of finding what we will call truth for ourselves. We are never completely lacking a part of it, as we have an answer for questions such as, “Is the sky above you?” without which we can not function. How we deal with the less obvious is the question here.

When the credulous come across certain statements, some may immediately recognize the statement as true. Their experience of truth, keep in mind, is identical to your own, even if you happen to view the particular statement as absurd and obviously false. Here’s the second part: is it possible for you to experience that same statement in the same way? Whether it is or is not is dependent upon the emotional states you seek to hold, which are dependent upon how the shape of your character interacts with the rest of the world. Truth is only ever found in this way. An extensive logical process is neither better nor worse than a sudden realization. But it does stand that if you don’t see whatever I see, I can’t hold you to it based on my seeing it. At the same time, for the same reason, we are not required to hold ourselves to something we do not see as true simply because others see it.

Dismissing something straightaway as obviously false when others hold it uncritically as obviously true is the problem I am pointing to. That they are uncritical – insufficiently skeptical – about their own beliefs is only true from a certain perspective. It is the case that the credulous hold some beliefs but not others, and so, in a sense, have a selection process that can’t only be seen as inferior from within another selection process, both of which are in essence equal. The crazies may have something you’re looking for. Perhaps you just need to learn to see with eyes like theirs. You can only ever have a piece of truth. Which piece are you trying to see?

Those who are seeking are never trying to discover something independent of themselves. They are seeking, always, for a collection of emotional states, centered around the emotional state that gives rise to the thought, “This is true.”

What’s true? Who are you?

Thanks for listening.

Crazy Ramblings on Number

The number one in a sense is zero. Zero is infinity. In another sense the number one is two and two is three. From the number one emerges the whole of number.

1+1=2

And thus, from these two ones, we have three, which is the two.

If there is only one thing, there is nothing because there is nothing to compare it to. True nothing can have no limits, so is infinite. Somehow, 0=∞. A finite one must contain two if there is to be anything to compare it to; there must be the thing and what is not the thing. Given the thing and what is not the thing we have what is both the thing and not the thing, which is three born of two. Three always emerges from two, which always emerges from a finite one, as infinity emerges from the zero of a non-two one.

0+1=2

1+1=3

One thing and another are a third.

If numbers have pure forms, they do not operate quite like we imagine. 1x + 1x = 2x operates by way of placing a restriction on the numbers. One rock and another rock are two rocks, yes, but not only. They also give rise to four. A universe emerges between them.