One of the most curious things about trying to view the universe the way it really is, rather than the way we wish it would be, is that we have to remove ourselves, completely, from the equation.
For example, when Einstein first described the special theory of relativity, what he was really doing was trying to reconcile the laws of physics for every imaginable frame of reference. If you’ve ever done the gedankenexperiment (thought experiment) he did, you’ll see why this is important.
For instance, consider what a bystander sees when a train is passing by, and simultaneously consider what the passengers of the train see. Then think of what passengers on a train passing in the opposite direction see, as well as passengers on a spaceship traveling close to the speed of light. When you can reconcile all of these with each other, without changing the speed of light for any of them, then you understand what is really going on with our perception of time and space and speed and distance.
I won’t try to describe the truth to you. I honestly can’t. No one can. Those who refuse to perform the experiment so carefully laid out in his original paper will never really understand the special theory of relativity. They are left to beg for scraps from the table. They will be forced to accept whatever slivers of knowledge those who know are willing to share, and then left to try and interpret them into a consistent world view.
Science, knowledge, the art of knowing, not just guessing, but actually knowing what is out there, is not something you learn in a classroom. It is not found in textbooks. It is found in one-on-one interviews with the universe itself. It’s primary goal is to eliminate error from the scientists’ thinking. After all, we are all free to think what we wish, including the thought that we somehow know of ourselves something we cannot know for ourselves.
The reflexive nature of science started, I believe, with the simple twin commandments, “Love God, Love your neighbors as yourself.”This is encoded in a simple phrase, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When we really think and ponder what that means, it leads us to the reflexive property of science. Simply put, what is true for me is true for you, and is true for all. Conversely, what is false for me is false for you and false for all. Truth and error are thus beyond the definition of humanity, but something that exists whether or not any thinking creatures existed at all.
What is the truth? When you try to find laws of nature that satisfy this reflexive requirement, you quickly discover that there are only so many possible laws just like there can only be so many knots. Most ways of combining things together are really combinations of even simpler things, just like fantastically complicated knots are really one or two knots put together in a sequence or pattern.
In economics and politics, two “sciences” which seem to be the most distantly removed from reality, despite the fact that they are so important to our well-being, the reflexive property is hard to be found. “Do as I say, not as I do” is everywhere. We detest it, innately. We label it as one of the grossest crimes any politician can commit: “Hypocrisy.”
Some of us take it a step further, and suppose it is not unlike the hypocrisy that Jesus denounced, and so it is. However, the subject that the pharisees were being hypocrites with were laws of nature, particularly nature’s God. We cannot imagine that our politicians are committing a crime so gross when they act hypocritically in their respective fields.
Another property thinking reflexively, really the point of this whole post, is when people think some people in one place are fundamentally than other people in another place. We see this in two principle divisions.
One is government vs. business. Somehow, we have allowed ourselves to believe that government magically transforms people into angels. I know why this idea exists: it certainly benefits government. A similar parallel exists within business, that you are justified in doing whatever you wish economically, as long as you make profit, since by making profit you are transformed into angels of wealth. Neither of these do justice to the fact that humans are human. Humans are one step away from the angels, but likewise one step away from the devils. I cannot trust myself, morally speaking, anymore than I can trust anyone else. I am well familiar with my failings, despite the fact that those who know me best claim that I am fundamentally good. And so I know the same is true for the people around me.
Let me put that in plainer language. People in government are only human. Just like I (and doubtless, you) feel tempted to do things that are morally wrong, and sometimes I act on those things, people in government are the same, maybe more, maybe less. People are the same everywhere, really. The reflexive property demands we understand that.
What is the best political policy then? Simply this: empower people to control their own lives. Give a tiny bit of power to your neighbors to interfere with your life when you’ve obviously gone too far. Government should always be a tiny fraction of our life, something distant, something unnecessary except for when people cross gross moral limits.
When we empower others, people who do not care for us more than we care for ourselves, we give them an awful power. They do not have to live with the consequences of their actions, and so there is no control mechanism. See, in our life, if we make a bad choice, we suffer the consequences. If we give the power to choose to someone else, and they make a bad choice, they say, “Sorry,” and move on with their life, suffering no consequence.
Two, and this is important, is our thinking that we are somehow superior to someone else. One of my brothers once said, “People are stupid.” I nodded in agreement, thinking he had lumped himself into that group. Certainly I knew I was stupid. But then he added, “We can’t let them choose for themselves.” I shuddered at that thought. What made him think his special brand of stupid was better than other people’s brands of stupid? The reflexive property demands that anyone who thinks they are more or less human, or rather, anyone who thinks anyone is more or less than human, is wrong. Yes, circumstances are different, our intellectual capacity, our education, our habits, may distinguish us. But where is there among us someone who knows enough, who is wise and mature enough, who has pure moral intentions, and who can tell us which one of us is better or superior, or worse? Nowhere.
The Reflexive Property demands that the judge of humanity must himself be non-human. If he were human, he would judge himself, and that would make him an impartial judge. We certainly can’t have that. That’s why I ascribe all powers of judgment not to men or a man, but to God. We can’t influence him one way or the other, we can’t even understand his mind, but for fragments he feels we are ready to accept. (Not unlike those who are trying to understand relativity but only feed on the scraps of knowledge that those who really know share.)
That’s why I feel all Atheists must, immediately, create a God to worship, something that is distinctly not human, something worthy of our powerful instinct to worship and revere and trust. Then we can move forward, applying the Reflexive Property between us.