Uncertainty

four quartets

I once saw a documentary in which a herd of elephants is hit by a sandstorm. One baby elephant gets separated from the herd and in its hurry to find the others starts running in a random direction. From the helicopter filming from above we can see that the little elephant is heading off in precisely the opposite direction to the herd. You want to shout, ‘Stop! The other way, turn around!’.

I sometimes feel I might be like that baby elephant. I read books written by race realists (aka horrid racist bigots) and am convinced that they are right and their opponents, the nice people who believe that everybody is equal in all ways are wrong. I feel in my bones that my position is right but then I would, wouldn’t I? And I’m sure the kumbaya-singers also feel in their idiotic bones that they are right. And what if I am right in a narrow sense but wrong in a big sense, like an expert on Christianity who knows more than me about transubstantiation and the Trinity but is wrong about the existence of God. Such a person is living from false premises.

There is clearly a ‘Founder Effect’ in my thinking. The Founder Effect in genetics is where a small group breaks away from a bigger group and because a founder member happened to have, say, blue eyes, then an unusually large number of the descendants of that group will also have blue eyes. In regard to my beliefs my intellectual progenitors, Richard Dawkins and John Derbyshire, have both had a large Founder Effect on my thinking. In this way I have fortunately – so at least it appears to me now – avoided the influence of charlatans like Deepak Chopra and political ideologues like Noam Chomsky.

Is there any way of knowing whether or not I am on the right track? Most people would say ‘Look at the evidence’ but which evidence do you look at? The evidence that suggests race realists like Richard Lynn, Arthur Jenson, J.P. Rushton and Helmuth Nyborg are right or the alleged evidence of their opponents? I suppose you could have a headcount of experts and then come down on the majority side but since when has majority opinion been a good touchstone for what is true? Politically correct, state sponsored ideologies with their rewards and punishments can skew a the view of many modern scientist just as surely as the Counter-Reformation and communism skewed those of European and Soviet scientists.

It’s mainly when I come across something impenetrable which nevertheless gives the impression of deep meaning that I start to wonder if I might be not that intelligent and thus probably wrong. I get this feeling when I read T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, the first part of which, Burnt Norton, you can listen to here. The ideas in the poem are very strange:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.

So it begins and it continues in a similar vein for the next 52 minutes. Whether T.S. Eliot’s poetry is good or just pretentious twaddle I find it impossible to say. Unlike football, I need other people to tell me what constitutes good poetry. It could be that what appears double-Dutch to me, albeit nicely expressed double-Dutch, could actually be deep and meaningful. Despite not understanding Four Quartets it fascinates me in a way that poetry I do understand doesn’t. I feel that at any time the true meaning behind the strange ideas will hit me like a revelation and make me palm my forehead and say ‘Aha! Now I see!’

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This entry was posted in General.

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