I plan on covering alot in this post – as much time has gone by. The first is I wish to define reality, explain the differences of the individual as well as the group and the concept of generalizations. Lastly I plan on touching upon insecurity and arrogance.
Now, before I go on as if I know everything – I’d like to point out a few things: 1) this is a tautoligical argument – therefor it is somewhat self defining and self refering, if you take it for truth, then there is no argument. If you think I’m wrong, just simply by the fact that I am writing it and you are critiquing it calling it wrong validates it (it says that you think you’re so right that you can call my opinions and thoughts wrong). If you belong to another camp of thinking – saying that I’m right but missed a few points and could clarify things better – then you are right – as thats most likely the case. That being said, I’ll go on to make my argument.
Let me first start by defining reality. I’ve done this before – not sure if it was done here or in a previous blog but I know I’ve discussed reality quite often – as it is the one thing that we cannot escape.
I would like to also note that I link the definitions of Reality and Truth – claiming that you can pretty much interchange the two words – most people would like to believe that there is only one truth and only one reality – but that is not the case I will be making. Recently, South Park made a case that anything that effects the real world should be considered real – and therefore exist. There are two different kinds of events – concrete events and non-concrete truths. A concrete event is one that can be scientifically proven and validated – such an example is that a hurricane that we labeled Katrina struck New Orleans. Then there are non-concrete events – such as why the levees broke in New Orleans. People can argue that they were poorly built, or that they were built fine but katrina was too powerful. Others can argue that it was lack of funding and that the government COULD/SHOULD have done something to prevent this – all those “facts” that surround the event are really all up to interpretation – due to that, those facts are really not facts – just plausible possibilities.
Now – there are also cases of concrete events in which the “truth” has been bent. History is a shining example that one event can not only be looked at from a different angle, but that events can be nearly erased. If you can get your hands on a history text book (US or world history, american published) from the 1970s or 1980s – I recommend you do. Look at that and wonder what people were thinking when they wrote it. 80% of it is still correct (or VERY close to correct), 10% is sketchy and somewhat wrong, and 10% is almost comically wrong or biased. Also – if you can get your hands on history textbooks printed in the south versus the north. Up until the early 1990s there were still history books that portray the north (in the american civil war) as the evil invaders and near declare the south the winners of the civil war. Now – if people reading this text book believe it to be true, and propogate that knowledge – what makes it false?
One of the more interesting characteristics of the human brain is its misrepresentation of the 4th dimension – time. People can easily grasp a baseball and throw it as they understand the concept of a sphere and the dimensions are easy to determine from a cursory glance. But, when it comes to determining the past, most people are happy to say: “well, it looks like this now, therefore it must have always looked like this.” The earth is round – something that really has only been within the realm of human knowledge for a few hundred years – before that we believed the world was flat. Now – I will NOT argue that the world is semi-spherical TODAY, but, who’s to say that 1million years ago it wasn’t much flatter and has been rounding out as it gets older? Now – in this example, there actually is enough scientific evidence to show the shape of the earth for quite some time, but, it still proves my point fairly well
Since reality (and therefore truth) are subjective – who gets to decide what the public believes? Well – wouldn’t it be nice if things were democratic – if everyone could be presented with all the supporting evidence and they could vote on what the truth should be? First of all – the US can’t get more than 50% of its population to vote in an election for president, how could they possibly get a reasonable % to vote on something like pluto being a planet or the victors of the american civil war? That also being said, we now come to the inherant nature of humans as being leaders or followers. Now – there have been numerous studies to determine what a leader is, and how many there are in relation to followers – and the only thing they agree upon is that there are for more followers than leaders. Since I’m a firm believer in statistical variance – I’m going to say that 20% of people are leaders and 80% are followers.
With that laid, 80% of people define their truth based off what the 20% believe as reality. Even amongst these 20% – the leaders, there are a handful that have such a strong personality and sense of reality that it causes other leaders to believe that. One of the greatest examples of such a leader is Jesus. People can argue the fact that Jesus was the son of God, or that Jesus was ressurected, but there is one inarguable fact – a man named Jesus lived and he spent much of his adult life wandering around and preaching the principles that defined christianity. (Actually, even that it is almost unrefutable that someone named Jesus lived, there is no body, nor direct proof that it is true. Yes, the writings of the bible were supposed to be chronicling his journey from his closest followers (who themselves were leaders). Everyone may have their own reasons, but people follow the reality that is brought upon them by the leader with the strongest reality.
If nothing else – I hope that I’ve pointed out that truth and reality really are shaky. And the biggest reason that I point this out – especially in the way that I have, is to force people to look upon what they believe is reality and what they believe to be truth. I often find myself saying/doing things that I later regret in some small way because the truth i believed earlier was not the truth I believe now. The only way to combat this is to constantly re-evaluate what is truth and also to be open to the fact that truth can change. Prejudices are the greatest destroyer of society, and I know I have mine, but, I have been active in attempting to break those and to look at a situation from all angles – the only way to be sure that at all times you’re making the right decision.
The Concepts/Truths of the Group and the Individual
There is a religious belief – that all humans are built from pieces of God and that everyone is a complete individual. As time has moved on, people have strayed from that belief when it comes to the physical body. We all believe that a human has a heart, a brain, hands, etc. Whenever someone has something abnormal – we call it a genetic anomoly or a mutation. Yet, when it comes to our personalities and beliefs – there is still a firm hold that everyone is unique. I plan to show that the same statistical variances that govern our physical anomolies cover our mental anomolies. Also – I plan to make a case about how a majority of personality is nurture.
Humans are social creatures. We thrive on social interactions and need the group to exist. There is constant debate about generalizations and profiling – if they are moral or if they work. The issue of morality comes based on profiling based on race, sex, or religion. But, if we take a look at the rate of repeat offense for sexual offenders. According to the american legal system, a criminal who is charged and convicted of a sexual offense, they have a 75-80% chance of repeating a similar offense when they are released. Now – I’m not going to push the debate that due to this statistic – that sex offenders should be dealt with in a manor that they won’t repeat their offenses, that isn’t the point of this argument, but, what I do want to point out, is that the bit of information that someone was previously a sex offender can be very useful.
Lets say you have a neighbor move in who is a registered sex offender. It is wrong to immediately assume they’re a horrible person (theres a surprisingly high number of very minor offenses that get you on that list. Also, there are the 20-25% that never repeat). Lets say you get to know the person and they seem respectable. They are nice and you become friendly with them. Now lets say you have a child who needs babysitting. Would you call upon this sex offender? Well – I would recommend you do not. There is a great example of a situation in which generalizations come in great handy. If you weren’t to make a generalization, then you would think: “Oh, they’re a nice person, they seem respectable so far, they can babysit my child.”
Now, there are generalizations that are incorrect – as stated above, truths really are just “now” truths and can be changed. So, along those lines, I will state that there is SOME truth to MOST generalizations. Due to the immense amount of people on this world, no generalization will be true for everyone. Even making a statement like: “All people with skin that can produce hair will have hair” or “all people desire to be happy.” So what % of truth makes a generalization useful? Well – I bring up the economic idea of risk/reward. This theory states that for every action there is a risk attached to it as well as a reward. In economics, these risks and rewards are measured in dollars. A good decision has a reward that outweighs the risk. When it comes to social theories, one could place the same ideals. Take the sexual offender as mentioned above. If the generalization is 50% correct, then I’d say the risk of not letting the person babysit is worth having to find another babysitter. If the generalization was only appropriate 1% of the time, then I’d say the risk/reward would RATIONALY be fine letting your child stay (I say rationally because you probably have a 1% chance of having someone from a babysitting service or any other friend that you know abusing your child. Still people wouldn’t take the risk, but it would be an irrational choice based off emotions…)
So, all generalizations have a few factors:
1) All generalizations have a % correlation of correctness. For the sake of the arguments that I make, if a generalization is true for a majority of people (51% or more) I consider it to be a useful generalization
2) All generalizations will have outliers and extreme outliers. Outliers are people who prove or somewhat go against such useful generalizations. An extreme outlier is someone who goes completely against the generalization or completely verifies it. For example, if I say that “Women like chocolate and use it as a comfort food.” I don’t have statistics on this (although I’m sure I can dig them up to prove that more than 50% of women like chocolate and use it in some way as a comfort food) but it is something that should be easy to digest. The outliers are those women who like chocolate and somewhat use it as a comfort food – and those who aren’t huge fans of chocolate and/or don’t use it as a comfort food. The extreme outliers are the women who can’t go a day without chocolate and if they are sad, chocolate better be near or they’re going to kill. Also there will be outliers that hate chocolate and think its silly to have comfort food. – I’ll go more into this later (yes, i understand that outlier is usually a term for a deviation over a z-score of 1 or 2, but i’ve decided to define them as such. If you wish to argue semantics, we can do so, but thats beyond this argument)
3) A generalization with a 80% correlation of correctness or more is considered a social truth. If only 20% of the population doesn’t follow a belief – its fair to say its a good judge to form a prejudice.
OK – Now, I’m going to show usefulness of the above. I’ll start by explaining how due to the fact that there are extreme outliers does not prove or disprove a generalization.
Well – i’ve had this post in draft for some time, and while I find it useful to finish it, I’m not motivated enough at the moment. Although I will recommend you read “Black Swan” for more on this topic…