Bad skeptic!

There's a problem with modern skepticism.

When somebody objects to charlatanry on the grounds that its principles are wrong, that's bad skepticism. I've seen people object to homeopathy, for instance, by pointing out that the Law Of Infinitesimals contradicts known scientific fact. Bad skeptic! No biscuit!

The scientific mindset doesn't require you to prove how something works, or why something works, but that you prove THAT it works. Double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials (that old chestnut) do not prove that a researcher's reasoning is valid; they prove that some particular testable prediction was correct or not correct. With error bars.

Knowing WHY something is, is a very different thing from knowing THAT it is. The former is deep, and rich, and in some cases might in fact be impossible (maybe fully understanding quantum mechanics, say, takes, in some inescapable information-theory kind of way, two more square inches of cortex than you've got in your skull). The latter, though, we have a chance at, and sometimes may even get a firm grasp on.

But bad skepticism happens a lot. People who think themselves intelligent, un-gullible, alethetropic, or epistemically virtuous, often engage in bad skepticism. When they should know better.

It happens because of a deeper problem. I think it may be connected to the Myth Of Reason. We've allowed ourselves to get so cocky about being logical, that we've begun attributing to logic powers it doesn't have.

Which, if we do not correct it, will make us no better than charlatans ourselves.



This morning I saw
on Lexington Road
on the bank of a stream
by a well-manicured house
a wheelbarrow
rotting into the ground under a pile of brush.

We none of us can maintain our worlds
keep them in good repair
and proper order. All decays.

I am on Thoreau's railbed, I think.
And here is a graveyard
on and on.
Lives that came and went.

But produced, evidently, headstone-carvers
who survived them.

Someone made the wheelbarrow new, once.

So what I crave to know
is someone somewhere building a wheelbarrow today?
Will someone again build a wheelbarrow tomorrow?



What's on my mind? My mind. It slurs, sloshes. It's troubled, but not by trouble. Just turbulent. Waves. Eddies. I knock on the glass, and within I answer back with a smile, and bubbles. And swim away, drifting loose in the bowl. I mouth the words. He shakes his head in reply. This is real, he says. This is us. We're happening.

But if nothing comes of it? So much disappointment. So much guilt, embarrassment at hopes forgotten, expectations not just unfulfilled, but denied the honor of regret.

Slow, slow. And one says that's the way, and one says that's nothing, that's void. Lack.

And I won't know. Even in the final accounting. So the question remains, as ever, what to do, when the answer will never be known. Alethetropy assumes return, not question alone. So if there is no answer, if the sum is never taken, what then? Then, then. Then there is no alethetropy. Only as an exercise, only the subjunctive. But the subjunctive is. Its referent absent, still it is, and gives power. So is alethetropy. It is not something we can have. It is a direction, not a destination. All we can do is cast the rope ahead, for the next. The best we can give them, is that we looked about, opened our eyes, and tried to discern the light, before we let go.


Needle and thorn

Walk, before you die, among catbriar and pine. Drink their lofty dappled air.

A haze of vegetable steel. Twining vines, sharp points. To walk that path is to yield to its piercing embrace, enveloped, bound, penetrated.

I would, if I could, stand still. Let the questing soft climb enchain me. Become the heart of a swaying pillar of this bark-walled cathedral to the filtered sun. Be grasped caressed gently inexorably by sweet curling tendrils jade.

And my troubled turmoil rot, sink to loam, and feed the singing still forest mind.



Why am I running? Why am I running away from what I have to do?

I rationalize. I suggest, well, maybe it's for the best, because what you're supposed to do isn't really what you're supposed to do. But that doesn't sit well. First of all, it's obvious rationalization, and rationalization is an epistemic vice. Second, if it were true, I'd expect it to look more like doing something else, and less like just not doing this. I don't exactly have a bias toward action. And I feel like I should. I suppose it's possible that the right thing to do right now is nothing, but my upbringing tells me otherwise. My upbringing says, no, you only get to use that excuse if you're doing something more important, not if you're doing nothing at all. And then the rationalizer says, well, I'm always doing something; suppose breathing or daydreaming is the more important thing? And we go around again.

I also have learned helplessness. And what an apt learner I am. Even when I protest, it's always phrased as "Why can't I?" Never do I suggest that maybe I just could. There is implicitly some savage dark power shackling me. It must be dark, indeed. However I peer into the shadows, I do not see it.

Certainly we can't have evolved lazy. I admit, it makes sense to conserve resources. It makes sense to minimize risk. But there has to be evolutionary pressure to do what we must.

What if that's it? What if we have evolved to do what we must? And here, in the Age of Fructose, there is so little must to go around, action escapes us. We're content to sit in a great crowd, picking nits from one another's fur, and we don't get up to forage for fruit, because fruit is all around us. At our fingertips. Clinging to us. Weighing down our bellies and buttocks. Instead of hiding in the trees where it belongs, beckoning to us to climb.


You can't make the truth not be. Once it is written, it cannot be unwritten. You can add to the truth and thus change it, but you cannot remove what is, once it is. If you make a mistake, you can never not have made it. But you can fix it, if it's the sort of mistake that can be fixed, and thus bring the sum of some facet of the truth back to where it was. And, probably, that facet is what you wished to change to begin with.

The universe is write-once memory.