“Lying” By Sam Harris – A Quickie Review

Finally picked up Sam Harris’ “Kindle Single” (a short book/essay approx. 100 pages) “Lying” (not an affiliate link) and finished off the last few pages. I found the book to be unimpressive both in its main premise “Thou Shalt Not Lie”, and the reasoning for it.

A short quote: “Every lie is a direct assault upon the autonomy of those we lie to. And by lying to one person, we potentially spread falsehoods to many others – even entire societies.” Translated: “You should always tell the truth, not doing so might lead to dire consequences.”

Sort of like a butterfly effect of lies, almost; I tell a perfectly harmless white fib with the purest of intentions in Sandy Hook, CT, and a week later a textile sweatshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh comes crashing down killing hundreds.

The book is filled with silly examples and assertions that a bright 5th-grader could easily refute. Having watched a lot of Sam Harris on Youtube I had expected more. Considerably more.

Even assuming that people somehow have a reasonable expectation, or even a right, that I tell the the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth at any given time, this statement is nothing but hyperbolic dramaqueenery©. Denying me the right to lie whenever I’m in the mood is a direct assault on my autonomy (and also the 1st Amendment). Talk about a pompous bag of gas.Two thumbs down.

Hypothetical:
A German SS-Obersturmführer leads his entourage of armed soldiers, Schmeissers held tightly against their chests, from house to house in an Amsterdam neighborhood in November 1942. It’s dark, cold, and a steady drizzle of almost-freezing rain makes the cobblestone slippery under foot. The officer halts at a door and raps it with Aryan authority. A middle-aged woman eventually appears. “Entschuldigung for das inconvenience mein Frau, but hast du any illegal Juden hiding in your loft?” the officer demands.The woman, clearly afraid, stutters, but finally manages to reply in the negative: “No sir, no Jews here. No Jews at all.” The Obersturmführer bows stiffly at the waist as only SS officers do, tips his hat to the terrified woman, utters a polite “danke schön”, adjusts his eye patch, twirls around sharply on his heel and continues on to the next house in search for untermenschen to send off to the work camps in the East. Arbeit macht frei, usw., doncha know!

anne_frank

Lying, runaway Jewess. Picture credit: Bergen-Belsen work camp archives, from a production of “Glückliche Tage” (“Happy Days”) performed by the camp drama troupe.

What a fucking cunt that woman was, lying to the officer like that, knowing full well she had an entire family of Jew fugitives hiding upstairs. You just can’t trust anybody these days.

P.S. I find it much more interesting to read a review of a book, however short and incomplete and biased, thereby perhaps gaining some new insight, rather than just a statement that so-and-so has read such-and-such.

EDITED TO ADD: It appears that Anne Frank was posthumously baptized by the Mormons. Presumably this selfless act by the Latter Day Saints has led God to forgive her for lying and being a Jew, retrieved her from hell and put her in the Heavenly Witness Protection Program where she is now playing dodge ball with Jesus in an undisclosed Heavenly location (Heaven is a big place).

The True Spirit Of The Holidays

It’s called the Holiday (read: Christmas) Season, numbnuts. Love Jesus & spend money and shit. The only way to Heaven is by being a good consumer. Your choice: Spend like your life depends on it (and it does) or eternal damnation and suffering in Hell. Jesus loves you, but not for free. It’s called capitalism. You can’t have Christmas without Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day everybody. Take a moment to self-reflect and give thanks for everything that makes your life happy:

Thank you Lord Jesus for coming down from Heaven and sacrificing your life so I can have salvation. No. That’s a different holiday.

Here we go again:

I’m thankful for pre-Black Friday sales, Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday sales. I’m thankful for our culture of consumerism that makes the American way of life possible. And the Indians who saved the pilgrims.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

(Oh, and let’s not forget all the turkeys that had to die so we can be happy today. Please observe one minute of silence for all our feathered brethren who selflessly gave their lives in pursuit of our happiness. One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi, five-Mississippi…)

turkey day

An artist’s rendition of a turkey. Picture credit: An artist specializing in turkey pictures.

Cogito Ergo LOL WUT?

Cogito Ergo Sum. I think, therefore I am. Or so the saying goes.

Upon being admitted to University in Norway, you must first, regardless of your chosen field of study, complete – and pass – a basic Philosophy 1-0-1 type course known as Examen Philosphicum (them academics likes their Latins). This in order to prepare the student for the basic principles of higher learning, scientific method, critical thinking and so on and so forth.

Those of you who know me may also know that I had my own run-in with Academia and that I lost, shamefully, leaving University after several changes to my major, degree-less and with precious little to my credit other than a student loan, the barest minimum of knowledge and understanding, hardly enough even to get me in trouble, but still sufficient to fool those of even lesser learning and/or wit to believe that I was more learned and/or witty than they were. In other words I knew very little about a lot and used it to be snooty and snarky to cover up my own insecurity whenever the opportunity presented itself. (I have since evolved to become a much nicer person.)

But I do remember the lecture on René Descartes and Cogito. That in order to find truth, you must first deconstruct everything until you arrive at that which cannot be doubted and build from there. And the most basic truth is “I Think, Therefore I Am”. Cogito Ergo Sum. Surely nothing can be more basic and true than the assertion that your thinking is proof positive that you exist.

At first this seemed perfectly reasonable and self-evident to me. But what if “I” myself was somebody’s creation programmed to believe (erroneously so) that I was thinking and therefore I was? This was before the breakthrough of personal computers and the Internets, and I have already admitted that I didn’t stick it out long enough to acquire a greater understanding of the subject. If I had, I might have gotten answers. I was also afraid to appear stupid, so I never asked my professors or discussed the matter with my fellow students. I just took the damn course and got on with what I thought was going to be the rest of my life.

Years pass. Moss grows on a rolling stone. Computers become as common as yeast infections in whores. I am vaguely aware of background chatter about artificial intelligences (AIs), Ray Kurzweil, the impending Singularity Event (when machine intelligence develops self-awareness and processing power skyrockets exponentially, potentially leaving flesh-humans behind in the dust), I watch and enjoy the three first Terminator movies, et cetera, et cetera, but can still not muster up enough energy or interest to go beyond passing awestruckness © (Is that a real word? If not I claim copyright.) and fascination with the subject. The possibility that I may not be an independent sentient/sapient being brings little worry to my life.

Current day. I download a short-story (novella, novelette?) from Amazon on my Kindle (search terms, search terms) by David Brin called “Stones Of Significance” and rediscover my fascination when I see that I’m not the only one who has pondered (however slightly) this existential question. Of course I’m not. I relatively firmly believe that every thought worth thinking has already been thought by someone else, someone smarter, and no matter what I think, I’m not adding anything of value to the pool of human knowledge. But I digress.

Disclaimer: I’m only through 19% of the story, but so far I gather it’s about digital simulations of people – even fictional people! – fighting for civil rights in a post-singularity Heaven where everybody is their own god. How totally awesome is that? I have said on occasion that I hope computer science advances fast enough and I live long enough to upload the contents of my mind to the Heavenly Server and live out eternity in virtual reality, digital bliss if you will, where your every whim and wish is possible at the speed of thought. I don’t know how realistic this is, but I quit smoking four years ago and try to live as healthy (or as little unhealthy) as I can. But my determination wavers, after all I am only human. Or am I? Maybe I am just someone’s really good simulation of “Me”, in which case it doesn’t really matter.

So here we are, waiting to die. Or to be saved by The Singularity. Or for someone to hit “Delete”. Just wanted to put it out there.