Thursday, March 10, 2011

FLORIDA and THE PRIME DIRECTIVE


I'm back from Florida, where I only barely survived, as you can see in this photo. Florida has a lot of indigenous prehistoric reptiles and you have to be careful not to get too close to them. Luckily this one spit me out just after the photo was snapped.

My next stop is a return visit to sassy Saskatoon. The appearances I have lined up there are as follows:

Thursday, March 17:
7:30 pm - Reading at McNally Robinson.

Friday, March 18:
11:30am-1pm -Talk on Sex, Sin and Zen/intro to meditation, ARTS 146 on U of S campus. (Note Room Correction! That's ARTS 146).

2:30pm - meditation at the Multi-Faith Centre at Rugby Chapel, the old church on the west side of St. Thomas More College on College Dr.

7:30pm - introduction to meditation at
Ken Sailor's house, 422 10th St E.

For more information please contact Jan or Ken at 665-3430 or
ken.sailor@gmail.com

Those of you with Facebook can check out this page for the events.


Oh and I gotta show you the birthday cake the fine folks in Florida fed me for my f-f-f-freaking birthday. Isn't it adorable? I kept the dinosaur. He's on my window sill now.

What can I tell you? How about I present you an article I put together for Suicide Girls and then decided not to send them? Special thanks to Brian Gilman who sent me a bunch of old articles of mine that I had deleted from my original webpage. This one probably came out less than a year after 9/11/2001. So I updated it a lot.

The Prime Directive

I've been thinking about the Prime Directive lately. For those of you who aren't regular viewers of Star Trek, it's a science fiction TV series set 300 years in the future. In the show there is a U.N. type group called the Federation that governs the activities of the intelligent beings on various planets throughout the galaxy who have developed space travel and enjoy exploring other planets. The Prime Directive is the Federation's law that says that none of these explorers must make contact with, or give advanced technical knowledge to planets whose inhabitants aren't sufficiently developed socially to handle such contact or such technology.

Although it’s science fiction, this law makes very good sense. We usually don't think about it this way, but the development of advanced technology is very much dependent upon a society's ability to abandon traditional views based on superstition and baseless speculation, and embrace a more realistic outlook based on straightforward, dispassionate observation of the real world.

On September 11th 2001 a group of religious fundamentalists used jet airplanes to destroy two of the world's largest skyscrapers. For the past ten years we’ve wondered and speculated about why they did this. Some people have talked about the various elements of economic repression wielded by Big Oil and the anger this creates. I don’t doubt that this has a lot to do with what happened. But I’d like to put forth my own speculation, which I think gets more at the heart of the matter.

The very existence of jet airplanes and skyscrapers stands as undeniable proof that the worldview these religious fundamentalists held dear is utterly wrong. In fact the existence of these things is proof that all forms of religious fundamentalism are wrong. It is tangible proof that neither the Qu’ran, nor the Bible, nor even the Buddhist sutras are literally true.

You'll recall from your high school science and history courses that there was tremendous opposition by the Catholic Church towards the scientific theories regarding the Earth's position relative to the sun and stars when they were first proposed. Scientists who supported these new theories did so at the risk of their careers and even their lives. If the traditional view of the cosmos with Hell somewhere underground and Heaven way up in the sky was not true then the Bible, or at least the church's very literal interpretation of it, was wrong. If the population at large accepted such a view the church knew its days of power and influence were numbered. In this at least, the church was absolutely right.

The construction of a jet airliner or a skyscraper takes a very sophisticated understanding of scientific theories that stand opposed to fundamentalist beliefs. Only a society that has abandoned such fundamentalist ideas can produce jets and skyscrapers. The proof that scientific humanism is true is right in front of you. The computer you're using couldn't possibly exist if it were not. Furthermore, only a sufficiently humanistic society can produce the kind of resources needed to justify luxury items like computers. If a fundamentalist terrorist really wants to be true to his beliefs he should never use any type of advanced technology.

For a very long time I embraced the idea that societies around the world are held back by the unfair material and economic resources of the West, that if only they had these advantages they'd be able to stand on their own. I do not believe that any group of human beings are in any way fundamentally more or less intelligent than any other.

But recently I've begun to suspect that the thing that holds many societies back more than any other is their inability to abandon their cherished ideas about the world.

Economics is an important factor, but not the decisive one. One of the reasons Japan can compete with the West on its own terms is that the Buddhist worldview that underlies their society has allowed it to abandon its previously cherished ideas upon seeing that these ideas were mistaken. Sure there was a massive amount American money pumped into that country after World War II. But money wasn't really the key. If money alone was the decisive factor, the oil-rich nations of the Middle East would all be first world countries by now.

This is, of course, a very complex situation. But one really important factor that seems to be overlooked in all the talk about these matters is the inability of most human beings to admit when they are wrong, to admit that reality is at odds with their ideas and to be sensible enough to side with reality instead of fighting it. We'll go to any length, it seems, to avoid owning up to the fact that we've made a mistake.

I have no idea what sort of civilizations may exist on other planets. But I agree with modern scientific thinkers who say the chances are very good such civilizations do exist. It's entirely possible some of them are more technologically advanced than us. If they are it is because they have a worldview that is more realistic than the one our society has. Maybe there are intelligent aliens out there exploring space right now. If so, I hope they have something like the Prime Directive. Whatever technology they use to explore space might be so at odds with our current worldview as to make us a threat to them should they allow it to fall into our hands. We might try and use their technology to destroy them in a futile attempt to preserve our own mistaken ideas. And if we did we'd be as blind to our true motivations as our terrorist friends are.

If you’re basically a liberal like me, it’s very difficult to think in terms of civilizations here on Earth that are more socially advanced than others. I always want to give everyone their due and be able to see the beauty in any culture. I know that there is much that a society like ours can learn from the seemingly primitive ways of other cultures. I also know that the idea that some societies are more advanced than others has led to all kinds of tragedies, like slavery or the slaughter of the Native American and Australian people just to name a few obvious examples.

But I also feel that humanity as a whole is moving in a certain direction, and that direction is toward a higher and more rational civilization. We have a long way to go. And there are ways in which our own society is very advanced in some ways, yet positively retarded in others. Still, this movement toward rational humanism is real and cannot be stopped.

It is impossible for us to adopt a kind of Prime Directive when it comes to our dealings with cultures on our own planet that have yet to adopt a humanistic outlook. They've already been contaminated. Technological knowledge is spreading across the globe at a rate never seen before in history. It may take thousands of years for a society to develop sufficiently to be able to create a jet airplane. But because human beings are all basically equal in intelligence and ability, a fanatic from a far less developed society can learn to fly one in a week or so.

It is imperative that this un-stoppable spread of technological knowledge be paired with the spread of a more realistic and humanistic worldview. And this worldview is, itself, highly threatening to fundamentalist religions.

Some people get pretty upset at the suggestion that what is seen as the Western worldview should be pushed upon people who have their own worldviews. But I don’t really see the humanistic realistic worldview as fundamentally Western. It is the worldview that the West has used to get as far as it’s gotten. But it isn’t our view. It isn’t one viewpoint among equals.

I know some people recoil in horror at the suggestion that any viewpoint is fundamentally better than others. But it seems to be to be undeniably true that some worldviews are actually better. Humanism and realism work because they are more in line with how things actually are than with how we might wish them to be.

Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway and all the rest of the starship commanders and their crews from Star Trek represent a fictionalized speculation about what a society that has taken the humanistic and realistic worldview several steps further than we have at present. I’m sure they’ve gotten a lot of details wrong. But I think the producers of those shows are on the right track. Or Trek.

50 comments:

gniz said...

One?
Liked the article BTW

gniz said...

Rushing to be first definitely curtails ones ability to write an interesting response to said article. Just something I noticed...

Swami Osama Satchidananda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

well done Brad! I heartily agree.

Ghost said...

Setting phaser to: impressed.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Gniz, Quit wasting time fucking off. Get back to work on your website. Or edit the errors out of your books. I just finished the Skeptic. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it was full of mistakes! And you've only made one blog post since Feb.26. What a slacker!

john e mumbles said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult







...and then there is of course the Church of Jack Lord...

Book 'em, Dano!

Me said...

Yay! I really liked the old Brad Warner articles. The new ones, not so much. hope you rediscover your beginners mind and save all beings.......unless it violates the prime directive.

Mumon said...

Actually, the "Prime Directive" is inherently chauvinist: Who the hell says we're qualified to use the technology we have?

And ditto for the advanced fictional folk in the Trek series!

One of the reasons Japan can compete with the West on its own terms is that the Buddhist worldview that underlies their society has allowed it to abandon its previously cherished ideas upon seeing that these ideas were mistaken.

Ah, I could tell you stories, but check out the recent entry on my blog re: Steve Jobs.

On the other hand, we have inherent in American society a kind of backwards prime directive that says: you can't take anything from a non-Western - or even lately a 20th Century European origin, such as universal health care.

We might be the primitives of which you speak.

Mumon said...

Then again that was the point of the Gorn fight and the episode w/ the "primitive" culture that would not challenge the Klingons the way Kirk wanted.

Got a Life said...

Good Lord.

parallel world said...

“Fucking please. The only portion of this article that is correct is the front page blurb describing Ryan as Mr. Mandy Moore. Metal sucks, he sucks, the album sucks, and this review is just one gigantic suck of Mr. Moore’s schlong. Party on, Garth.”


Ryan Adams is awesome, but so is this guy {Mumon). Unfortunately for this guy, he’s awesome in the same way Ryan Adams (Brad) is. Ah, life.

Anonymous said...

Brad is awesome in the same way Kiss is. Which is to say.. Not very.

NellaLou said...

This is one of the biggest loads of bullshit I've seen on this blog for a long time.

Why do so many hate the US?

Start with fucked up foreign policy that revolves totally around self interest. Continue on to supporting fascist dictators for oil, invading sovereign nations for faked up WMDs, holding poor countries hostage for oil, exploiting immigrant foreign workers to the point it resembles slavery, arming the poor people to fight your cold war (can you say Mujahadeen) and then declaring them enemies...it doesn't fucking end.

Maybe you ought to go testify at King's senate hearings on the horrors of Islamic terrorists. What you have written here is about that ill-informed and ignorant.

Wish I had time to rip you a new one here but I don't right now.

So I'll just save a copy of your stupid post and when I get time later in the week, do it real slow. I'll send you the link when I'm done.

Anastasia said...

We have consumed a troll!
We have consumed a troll!
We have consumed a troll!

merciless said...

Oh Brad.. Are you running out of things to say?

Bizarro Seagal said...

I'm on the patch right now. Where it releases small dosages of approval until I no longer crave it, and then I'm gonna rip it off.

Anonymous said...

coulda said it in two paragraphs,

so much work and yet so lazy at the same time--

rather than re-work an old article that just can't help being old, a whole brand new article or just fresh observations with what's going on

on a different topic:

I think Brad, you should get yourself a regular job.
A part-time regular job.
A place where you can meet people (spell that g-i-r-l-s, women)in a non-zen format.
I don't know quite what it would be, but you'll find it.
It will lead to infinitely more interesting writing.
I mean your own life has served well in your books up to now, but...time to go further perhaps?

Mike Marinos said...

I think the idea of culture and how it is acquired and how they compete in the "meme" space is tremendously important. The more I get hints of dependent causation the more sobering the thought that if I had been born somewhere else I would be unlikely to have a western humanist outlook. I am sure glad I do but then again is it possible for me to think any other way??? Great article.

Excalibur said...

Words and letters will get you nowhere.

Roadsign said...

Better than nothin, - isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Blogger Mumon said...
"Actually, the "Prime Directive" is inherently chauvinist: Who the hell says we're qualified to use the technology we have?"

x act ly

be sides it is alien. technology

from xemu

Get back said...

http://pencilsatdawn.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/nowhere.gif

Seagal Rinpoche said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seagal Rinpoche said...

"I don't know" is the first principle. Do you understand? The first principle cannot be known in terms of good or bad, right or wrong, because it is both right and wrong.

Mumon said...

Hope everyone you know in Japan is OK.

Ran K. said...

The reading of the last post raised one serious thought: What am I reading this blog for?

Ran K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm struck by a common thread that runs through some films that have been released in the last few months: The Fighter, True Grit, The Town and Unstoppable. They range in quality from great to good, but what they have in common is that they are films for adults. This is unusual in the infantile culture of contemporary America, where most films taken seriously by adults are children's films, such as Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings. This is a country in which adults repeatedly watch such films, and can quote from them. At what point did America become this way? - Barry Graham

Ran K. said...

I don’t watch ST but I might very well guess Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway and all the rest of the starship commanders and their crews from Star Trek represent the stupidity of the human culture and particularly its American self-confident nothingness. - Steiner says [that] somewhere along the path of initiation a person sees all his previous education collapsing, - stone by stone. - That is because it was nothing in the first place, - I would say. - Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway and all the rest of the starship commanders and their crews from Star Trek represent the way people today imagine what things are going to be like in a future as distant as they imagine would be a good idea to relate to. - Such American programs are usually aimed at the lowest common denominator, as to make the highest possible income.



- The abilities of the creators coincide.

Again and Again said...

Typically puffed up, superiority complex driven pablum from Ran. His hero, Rudolph Steiner, was a well known fascist and racist:

http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=480

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:50 PM:

I think you should turn tricks for crack. Why is your opinion about Brad's life any more relevant than mine about yours?

Enjoy the tricks, and the crack.

Anonymous said...

Western freedoms are like a pie in the face for the reality tunnels and tight worldviews of fundamentalist muslims .You would kill your own daughter for commiting adultery because your belief is so strong but you know that somewhere else there are americans watching porn and wearing bikinis , it becomes impossible to compromise these two glaringly obvious contradictory worlds so you must go out and attack !!! ATTACK !!!!!

Anonymous said...

"But because human beings are all basically equal in intelligence and ability, a fanatic from a far less developed society can learn to fly one in a week or so."

Captain Russ Wittenberg

Others

*sigh*

Anonymous said...

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”
--Adolf Hitler

Anonymous said...

The prime directive was too Utopian even for star trek, they fucking broke it allll the time on that show!

BTW, a purely rational society is susceptible to falling into hell also(and judging other societies by their standards)... obviously you didn't watch enough star trek. Logic is not all it's cracked up to be.

Rationalism can also be poorly equipped.

Anonymous said...

P.s. That cake fucking rules.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jundo said...

Hi Guys,

Thank you for the thoughts. ABle to uborrow internet for a few minutes. No water or power no toilets (except the trees), and roof is gone, but we are physically okay. Leon is a bit shaken as he was in school at the time and the kids got tossed around the room, and we have aftershocks every 10 minutes or so. Some pretty big. But, nothing that time won't heal. Many folks in true need north of here.

Taigu is over in the "safe" part of Japan so should be okay.

You may not hear from me again for a day or three, not sure. But KEEP ON SITTING!

Gassho, Jundo

Ran [K. - aka btw [®] & +[®]] said...

Just for the record, - Steiner isn’t a hero of mine.

I’ve referred to this before.

If anyone - Dogen would be, but that isn’t the way it is. It’s wrong to have heroes in the first place, - but that would cloud my initial point. Steiner was never a master who knew the ultimate reality and never claimed to be. He’s quite certainly wrong about certain points. But he does seem to dare describe things in a way it is quite rare to find many doing today.

+ said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=2B4bsqYxwo0&vq=medium#t=60

correction said...

Here.

- Sorry.

correction said...

Here.

- Sorry.

Jundo said... said...

Hi,

Latest information comes from a friend of 20 years, a respected nuclear physicist who checked with two of his friends ... experts on nuclear plant design. He advises that, if the core is not breached (as it now appears) and it was only a steam explosion with a localized effect and relatively small radioactivity ... and if the winds continue not to be facing this way (we are 180K away) ... then we can stay put. However, if it does turn out that there has been a core breach (as does not appear to be the case now), that is a VERY different situation ... and my friend advises us to move 500 kilometers away. So, we are packing to go "just in case" ... but now we are staying put.

One of the lovely things about this Treeleaf Sangha is ... wherever we go, the Sangha comes along and is right there!

Gassho, Jundo

john e mumbles said...

Seriously, Ran, you're a Stanglers fan? Now you're going after my own heart! Thanks for that.

john e mumbles said...

Correction: That should've been The Stranglers...

R said...

- Bauhaus used to be my favorite. I guess Lennon is the best, - objectively. - I like a few Stranglers songs but you can't say I’m their fan. - It seems real funny to me after all the punk initial “ideals” that the stranglers are on EMI and that you need to view a commercial before you can hear their song on YouTube. - Btw. (- Next you’re gonna have the Sex Pistols offering a life changing retreat at Oprah’s promised land, - or in Maui. - She has a house there too.)

Anonymous said...

I think only 3 commenters actually read the post.

Its like the comments section here is just a place mostly for random graffiti.

Not too many take Brad seriously any more.

Anonymous said...

Is "troll" some new kind of chocolate.

Trollhouse cookies. Put them back.