Sanity for the simple

Many people have admirable aspirations, but lack the mental resources to achieve them. I feel that something should be done to help them, starting from the very basics of understanding the human mind. 

I had a brief interchange on Google+, where I mentioned that there are days when I wish I could upgrade the brain of everyone with improved software. One of my online acquaintances replied: “You never know whether that would crash them completely (RAM problems)”.

But I have already given that some thought. I believe that, in fact, it may be more gain from upgrading the “program code” of brains that have less memory and less processing power. I certainly think this is better than the modern path of just adding more and more data to them.

Today, education just goes on and on. Whereas my grandfather went to school for 7 years – and I believe 3 days a week, at that – and I took a few college courses after high school, young people today need 3-4 years of college to get a job, and sometimes stay in schools until they are closer to 30. That is not in and of itself a horrible fate, but if you have “RAM problems” – not very good memory – it must be a taste of purgatory. To know that you either have to cram all that knowledge over and over, or face a life as an outcast, unable to win your own bread.

This cannot be necessary. There must be better way to teach people to think than to just throw books at them and hope that the information overload will make their brains shift into a more effective way of thinking to deal with it. I acknowledge that in our information age, younger people seem to become steadily more intelligent (the Flynn Effect), but I don’t think the excessive schooling is the cause. It starts too early in childhood for that, and it also started before the current “education bubble” – we can trace it back to right after World War I. It is more likely that the Flynn Effect has opened the way for the education society. But not everyone fits in that mold. And frankly, it seems a bit of a waste of time and resources.


I think we should still teach basic skills like reading, writing and basic maths. But rather than trying to teach everyone a whole lot of knowledge they most likely won’t need, the next stop should be to teach basic thinking skills. And not just logical thinking, but brain use more generally.

Mediation. Self-control, how to get along with basic instinct and primitive emotions. How to deal with insomnia.  How to avoid destructive stress behaviors like overeating, booze and drugs. Self-reflection, seeing oneself as if from a neutral person. And yes, basics of logic, the use and limits of generalization and prejudice.

Study techniques: The different types of memory, how to learn by spaced repetition, association, triggers, involving more senses. How to sort what is most important to remember, and when we can wing it. This can help prevent cram purgatory and the despair of forgetting anyway.

This does not need to take decades. And it would pay off for the rest of their life, for them and for those around them and society at large. The more people we could get onto this, the greater the benefits for their families, their neighborhoods, their country and the world.

Even learning mind skills poorly is a huge improvement from not even knowing that they exist. And it is particularly valuable for those who haven’t picked up these skills at home or figured them out on their own. The current situation causes a lot of suffering. It needs not be that way.

Problems of our time

She's grown up to be really considerate of other people

If we could grow up to become really considerate of other people, we could overcome the challenges of our time. It is this we lack, more than money or technology.

Modern technology and economics have certainly made life easier for billions of people. But the challenges we face now in the 21st century are mainly challenges of the mind. I don’t mean necessarily insanity and such, although of course mental health problems are widespread and very troubling. Rather I mean what we might call “spiritual problems”, although they should be obvious even to those who don’t believe in spirit. Perhaps we could call them “problems of attitude”?

The error of our times is to try to fix attitude problems with technology, economics or legislation. I will not say that these are entirely ineffective. But they can be compared to fixing a leaky roof by placing umbrellas. Not only does it look absurd to those who see it from outside, but it is a short-sighted “solution”, suitable only for those who have no responsibility for the building and are planning to leave soon with their whole family. Hopefully we won’t all be in that situation with regards to this world.

For example, there is now plenty enough food in the world for everyone to eat their fill, and then some. But that is not exactly what happens. True, obesity is now actually afflicting a greater number of humans than is starvation, but there is still starvation. It usually only happens – at least widely – in countries at war or civil war. So it is certainly a problem of attitude, although not necessarily the attitude of the starving. (Although that can certainly happen too, that they are one of the sides in a war, and have some responsibility for it. That is not always the case, though. And in most wars, it is the stronger who attack the weaker.)

Speaking of obesity and health challenges: I know, I know. There are various hormone and metabolism problems that cause people to gain weight at an unnatural pace. It seems unlikely, however, that a fifth or so of the population have mysteriously mutated over the course of a generation or two. In any case, there are good news from science: Even if you are heavier than recommended, this will do little or no harm if you are physically active, exercising at least at moderate intensity for half an hour a day or so. (Or an hour every other day.) So unless you have a mutated metabolism and also a broken spine, you should be doing fine. If you have the right attitude, that is. The attitude that makes you force your body to do things it does not particularly like sometimes.

Unfortunately, many people really exercise their mind making up excuses instead. If people would eat when they were hungry and stop before they were full, and be physically active at least some minutes each day, that alone would stop the huge growth in health expenses in the rich world. I am not kidding. Sure, there are many expenses that come because we can treat illnesses that were fatal in the past. Treatment for these is typically very expensive. But living a life of moderate self-restraint will dramatically reduce the risk of falling gravely ill. Mind you, we are talking of risks here, possibilities and percentages. It is not like the law of gravity which is very simple and predictable. So you can eat right, exercise regularly and die horribly anyway. But on a large scale, like that of a whole nation, a more responsible lifestyle would have a dramatic impact.

Then there is the whole thing about fearing death. Now, this is an attitude that I sympathize with personally to a very high degree. There are few things I want less than death! But even so, here is something to think of: A very large part of the medical expenses in an average human life happens in its last year. This is independent of the age. If you live to 90, most of the expenses will be in the year from 89 to 90. If you live only to 50, most of the expenses will be from 49 to 50. Of course, this is not without exception, but it is the rule. In other words, a great deal of our hospitals, our doctors and our medicines are employed to prolong life by months or weeks. Of course, in some cases we just can’t know. There is a chance, even if it is small, of survival. And there is nothing we want more, usually.

Still, if we are actually old and we have an illness that is anyway going to end our life within months, I feel that there should be an option to submit to the course of nature. I am told that in America this is what happens if you are poor. But for those who have nothing to fear from death, I feel that it should be an option even if you could afford to stay around for a few months longer. In days of yore, it was not uncommon for old people to feel that they had accomplished what they came to Earth for. “Now let thy servant depart in peace.” I can’t say I feel like that now, but I hope to be able to say that some day. We may long for eternal life, but it is folly to think that science can do that for us, even with tax-financed health care.

Another attitude problem is that we consider our personal luxury more important than the planet. There has been some progress in this, in some parts of the world. But not enough. We are still destroying the biosphere at a terrifying speed. Species go extinct all the time. Fertile soil is washed away or blown away by the wind because of thoughtless agriculture that leaves the soil open to the elements at times when flooding or drought occurs. Forests are cut down that protected the soil, wetlands are drained that absorbed floods. And of course arable land is covered with roads and buildings. So far we have managed to keep food production high enough, higher than ever actually. But we cannot afford to lose more arable land as population is still set to grow. And we should not unravel ecosystems except in the most dire emergency.


In short, the great challenges of our times and probably the next generation as well, is our attitude. As long as we think in terms of money and not time, of luxury and not happiness, of receiving and not giving, of being done to and not doing – as long as we think in this way, it will be difficult to solve our problems, and new ones will appear. The roof will leak in more and more places until it collapses on our heads. For now, we have only this one planet, and we must share it with each other better than we do today.


The day everyone walks

Yes, we love this country! Or at least some of us really like the countryside. ^_^

May 17 is Norway’s national day – unlike most nations, it celebrates our constitution rather than our independence. Arguably, our independence comes from this celebration of the constitution. It was a highly politically charged tradition during our union with Sweden, up until 1905 when the union was dissolved. By then, the tradition of celebrating May 17 was established as a joyous occasion for the whole family, although the original reason for having the May 17 marches headed by singing children was probably to discourage loyalist police from shooting at the marchers, as happened occasionally during the early years.

Be that as it may, Norway and Sweden are now best friends, but the celebration continues, headed by singing children waving small flag joyously. It is the one day of the year when nearly all Norwegians actually walk, an activity that we should do a lot more in order to keep our health care expenses (and bodies) from ballooning. (Children holding balloons have become a part of the May 17 tradition, but ideally the children should not look too much like the balloons!)

In the mid to late 1800s, Norwegians stood together in the face of a challenge to their cultural identity. As a result, we not only got this particular tradition: We got a national cultural renaissance of epic proportions for such a small nations. Writers (including Ibsen), composers (including Grieg), artists (including Munch) and even some capable politicians. Those were the days. Today, we are a success story of a nation, widely recognized as the world’s best country to live in. And we are not only unremarkable: We cannot even be bothered to walk half an hour a day to save our own lives, much less to save billions on health expenses. Even a quarter of an hour would be a great help, say scientists. But we can’t be bothered to do even that for the country we love – or for our friends and family, or even for ourselves.

A Norwegian proverb says: “It takes a strong back to bear good days.” I suspect this applies to everyone, but it certainly does here.

Fallback strategy: Simplicity

Screenshot Sims 3

Many of my sims enjoy painting and decorating their homes with their own paintings. Me, I enjoy playing The Sims and decorating my journal with my screenshots. ^_^

I am not really a pessimist on behalf of civilization. I think it is entirely possible that by 2050, there will be 9 billion humans who are richer than I am today, eating whatever they want, traveling wherever they want, having more entertainment than we can even imagine today. Why not? The arrow is certainly pointing in that direction, and has done so for generations, and change is happening faster and faster.

But there is also the possibility that some critical resource will run out and there won’t be any obvious replacements. Actually, we know that many of our resources will run down over the next generation: Oil, gas, probably coal, and some metals. Freshwater in some areas, various types of terrain probably. As of today, alternatives are more expensive or less effective, which is why they haven’t already replaced the original. This may continue, and we would then end up with a world which is simply more expensive to run, so to speak.

Unless there is some kind of breakthrough (or breakdown),  this is where we are headed, a world where most of the world’s population competes on roughly the same playing field as we for resources that are limited either in quantity or quality. This is not a disaster exactly, but it means there is a good chance we will have to scale back our expectations of becoming richer and richer year by year. Is that really such a horror? Until a few generations ago, the whole world was what we now call “third world”. Your ancestors and mine included. Even if we never get to take a trip to the moon, as my 10 year old self expected to do, we have much to be grateful for.

The value of material peak experiences is highly overrated.

People look forward for years to retirement, when they will do everything they did not have time for while working. A few months after they retire, most have scaled down their ambitions, and quite a few wish they were still at work. (And their family members wish it even more!)

People save up for years to go on a particularly rare vacation, and look forward to it with ever mounting expectation. The actual experience is usually pretty good, but nothing like the excitement in advance. It is like that with pretty much anything. A new car, a new house, marriage, divorce – while you usually don’t quite regret them, the awesomeness you waited for is nowhere to be found. Wherever you go, you still bring yourself with you, and this is the main part of every experience. Your self colors all you experience. It is the most important part of your life, so be sure to make it the best self you can.

Once you see through the fallacy of the wonderful peak experience, and are willing to settle for 95% happiness every day instead of 100% happiness “someday”, a lot of options open up. Everyday things can get you that far: A hobby that allows self-expression, spending time with friends, perhaps pets, or books. These need not cost a fortune, and you need not travel far for them.

Do you really think you should be number one? In the prehistoric time of scarcity, it may have been important. If you were not at the top, there might not be enough food for you, or you might not get to choose a suitable mate. Today? There is already more food in the world than needed for the world’s population; if you read this on the Internet, your problem is more likely to be too much food than too little. As for mating … I hope that depends on other things than being number one, now.

Once you let go of the need to be number one, life becomes so much easier. We don’t need the newest and best, we can enjoy whatever works, and can find happiness in simple things that don’t impress anyone but are enjoyable to ourselves.

Free yourself from the need to impress others, and you have a lot more time to do the things you really want to do. Which are those? They are the ones you wish you had chosen when you reach the end of your life. That is when you no longer feel the need to impress anyone, no longer wear a mask, when you are finally yourself. Why not start earlier?

We don’t need to be rich or famous to be ourselves. We just have to be honest. It is not easy, but it is affordable. Less pursuit and more happiness.

Using all that CO2

You may try this in your own garden, but be careful if you make your own charcoal, the process can create carbon monoxide while it lasts. There is also the obvious fire hazards.

Yesterday I wrote at length about the futility of carbon taxes: Almost all the fossil fuel will be in the atmosphere within the lifetime of most of my readers anyway. Today I will tell you how we remove some of this carbon dioxide at a moderate cost, and in the process feed multitudes for thousands of years. It is really quite simple. Even if our high-tech civilization should fall apart, this particular thing is still easily within our reach. After all, I am talking about something that has been tried successfully before, ranging from about 450 BC to around 950 AD.

During this period, the Amazonian rain forest was populated by a native people which we suspect was the ancestors of some of the nomadic people living there after the European invasion. The soil in this rainy area is of poor quality, as the rain washes nutrients out of the ground and the rapidly growing plant life mops up what is left. Yet many patches deep in what is now forest have a strikingly fertile, deep black soil that is ideal for farming: The so-called Terra Preta, the black soil of Amazon forest.

When clearing forest, these people may have used smoldering instead of wildfires, covering burning trees and bushes to reduce them to charcoal. Charcoal can also be made to more exact qualities and quantities by recent but still fairly simple methods. The charcoal was mixed with manure, compost and  the occasional pottery shard and buried in the resource-poor soil, creating a new type of dark soil with amazing properties. It yields triple the harvest without any extra fertilizer, binds nitrogen and even regenerates itself for more than 2000 years – presumably until it is removed by force.

The charcoal, of course, consists largely of carbon, which is not released to the atmosphere as it would have been through burning. Once out of the air, it stays in the ground for the aforementioned thousands of years. This has historically not been a great idea, as the climate has become slowly colder for about 10 000 years, until quite recently. Today we have a new chance: There hasn’t been this much carbon in the air since the age of dinosaurs. If there ever was a time to mass produce terra preta, now would be that time.

In addition to the old-fashioned kilns for making charcoal, modern technology opens for a process of pyrolysis, where leftover biomass (like straw from corn etc) in addition to wood can be broken down to “biochar”, releasing flammable gases in the process that can not only supply continuing energy to the process but also produce energy. This may still be out of reach for parts of the third world, but while you were not looking, most of the tropical nations stopped hunting with spears and started getting mobile phones. Whether this in reality turns out to be part of the solution or part of the problem, I cannot say for sure.


 OK, we have a way of extracting carbon permanently (or very nearly so) from the atmosphere, in the process greatly increasing crop yields without artificial fertilizer. It is possible even with simple technology, and can use either wood or worthless byproducts from agriculture. The new fertile soil regenerates itself beyond the foreseeable future. Should our civilization one day collapse, having transformed the soil of the tropics this way would vastly improve the chance of any survivors to bounce back quickly.

Why aren’t we already doing this? What could possibly stop us from cheaply, harmlessly providing food for our descendants for thousands and tens of thousands of years into the future?

Well, there is the small detail that you can get more crops THIS year with less work and less expense, by using artificial fertilizer.  Since the overwhelming majority of people are like your neighbors, not like you, this is reason enough. The second reason is of course that they have never heard about it. Now you have. For more information, just search the Internet for “terra preta” and “biochar”, while we still have an Internet.


Two confidences

“Just how perfect can I be?” There are two very different ways one can arrive at this feeling. One of them is very much more likely when you are young.

Pew Research, who (fittingly for their name) found out that American Christians knew less about religion than anyone else in America, have also found out that Democrats also know less about politics. The parallel is striking, if you ask me. The less you know, the more you are into it… or?

It is a bit more complex than that, in both cases. See, the study shows that the Democratic party has two very different groups of voters. The one that gives them the bad score is the barely literate working class workers who are connected to the party through their union and don’t need no facts to disturb them. The other part of the party, much smaller but quite important, is the academic elite. They tend to do the thinking for the party, and are pretty well informed. They also tend to be a bit remote from the mainstream, to put it that way. (Luckily for the Democrats, the elite of the Republican party is not exactly the man in the street either.)

The Democratic party, like all leftist parties (of which it is quite possibly the least leftist in the world, but by American standards it is leftist) has these bold plans to reform society. There may be two very different points of view that lead to this aspiration, and I will show how these fit the two main voter blocks mentioned above.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is the overconfidence of the ignorant. Because they know so little, they think there is very little to know, and so they overestimate themselves. Looking at others, they have no clue how to estimate them either, so will randomly put them down or up depending on unrelated factors.

Once you learn a bit – not a lot, but enough to get an overview of that particular field – you realize that you have been an idiot, and your confidence plummets to record lows. It stays low for quite a while as you continue to study, but gradually climbs as you amass a wide and deep knowledge base. In the end, it is clear to you and your fellows in this particular field that you are a leading expert. You start getting used to the fact that others just don’t know what they’re talking about, and gradually you stop listening to them. In this way you enter the second and last overconfidence, the overconfidence of the elite.

You may wonder why I call it overconfidence when they actually are the best, head and shoulders and chest above the rest. The answer is: Because they are still not God, they are not omniscient, not by a long shot.

The exception to this rule is Ryuho Okawa … according to Ryuho Okawa. I have mentioned before that I can totally understand why he thought he was a god. When you read (and write!) more books in a year than most successful people do in a lifetime, it is hard to find your place in the rank and file of what normally pass for humanity on this planet. Not that I am like that or anything, I am just an ordinary superhuman. ^_^

Now the tenured elite in America have not actually come out and called themselves God and Savior, but they clearly do believe there is no other being in the universe that is above them, and they have bold plans to make life better for the lesser humans, this time through social engineering.  Wanting to reshape the very soul of a nation according to their untested ideas (or, in some cases, tested and failed) is almost certainly reaching too far.

Luckily democracies are really good at oscillating, so that after a few years of Democrats there will be a spell of Republicans and so back and forth. Religion does not have this natural oscillation. This is why I would rather have democracy than theocracy, no matter how well-meaning the theocrats are. In fact, the more well-meaning, the more likely to go completely overboard. The more certain you are of your own righteousness, the more clearly evil are those who oppose you, and unfortunately they just have to be removed with extreme prejudice.

Socialism, as I have said before, is essentially a political religion. It is no coincidence that communist regimes, the extreme of socialism, murdered millions and millions and millions of people over the past century, not just in one country but several. For the betterment of mankind, of course. (Social democracy, on the other hand, is still subject to oscillations. To refer to a country like my native Norway as “socialist” is pretty ignorant. Rather, any democracy will eventually move in the direction of the majority voting for money to themselves, from the savings of the past generations first and then by borrowing from the future, until the creditors shut the door. As we say about Greece: When your socialism fails, blame capitalism!)

But enough about the sad political religion of the left.  Let us see whether true religion also has two prongs, like politics have. The large mass of staunchly religious would be those who don’t know enough about religion to even doubt it. Then there would be a large number of doubters in the middle. And finally at the other end there would be those who have studied religion in great detail, both in theoria and praxis, and have confidence because they truly know in what they believe.

And unlike socialism, which wants to change the world from the outside, changing circumstances, true religion seeks to change the individual from inside. Therefore change always begins with ourselves. As the Christian Bible says: “It is now the time when the judgment begins with God’s house.”  Such a confidence can be tested quickly and effectively through the experiences of daily life. In fact, it cannot avoid being tested. Then our divine nature (or lack thereof) will definitely show itself.

But once you have studied religion enough to realize your ignorance, there is no going back (unless you stop really early, I guess). Madness is not the only danger in books: There is also the danger that something may be understood that can never be forgotten. You have to keep learning, working your way up from the lowlands of doubt until you reach the city on the hill. And our understanding, or lack thereof, will be tested in our own lives sooner or later. A saint or sage can say: “Come follow me!”. Listen for this from your pastor or rabbi, and the same from your congressman, and it will serve you and your country well.

The other fools’ days

Do people on your planet save each other because they want something?

“What, do people save each other on your planet just because they want something?” You could certainly get that impression sometimes. Don’t be fooled though!

I won’t write much, since this is April Fools’ day. People are naturally skeptical of whatever is written on this day. I certainly understand that.

What I’d like was if people would be skeptical of the foolishness of the other 365 days of the year. (Since it is a leap year, I mean. The other 364 next year.)

There are people trying to fool you every day. Fool you into buying something that you don’t need and which won’t make you happy. Fool you into supporting policies that will cause more misery than happiness. Fool you into believing in wrong myths that only close your mind instead of opening it to the true brightness.

For the most part, those who wish to fool you have something in common: They want something from you. Or if not, they are fooled by those who do, and are running their errands. Trace the chain of command back and see whether you find someone who wish to give or someone who wish to take. This is your best bet, I believe.This is what I was taught when I was young, and it has served me well so far.

I hope you will find that I, and the One that I revere, want to see you happy for your own sake. We do not want or need to take anything from you. But if you don’t believe me – and it is understandable if you don’t – then look at those who tower far above me. Buddha, who left a castle and a kingdom to seek Enlightenment. Moses, who chose to suffer with God’s people rather than be called Pharaoh’s daughter’s son. Jesus, who turned his back on the kingdoms of this world and all their glory, and testified that his Kingdom was not of this world. And many, many great lights throughout history, who gave without asking anything in return. This is your best bet to find someone who is not out to fool you. Let us rather become fools for your sake, than you for ours.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
-Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah.

You forgot the technology

Staring at cell phones

Seriously? Just how far have cell phones come? A lot further than in the 1970es. But then a lot of things have changed since then.

Economists are none too cheerful about the life of common workers in the USA. The plight of the low-paid wage earners is well known, I think – their work has increasingly been outsourced to other countries, one way or another; and if not, then taken over by new immigrants, some of them illegal. As more and more advanced industry moves to China and elsewhere, the hungry ghost of unemployment nibbles at the toes of even those who used to feel safe.

But salaried workers are not quite as lucky as one may think, either. Adjusted for inflation, they earn approximately the same as two decades ago, but they work longer and harder for it. The standard of living was slowly rising, but largely based on loans and especially mortgage.  In the two decades before that, the family income  was rising for another reason: More women entered into paid work, whereas in the past many married women had stayed at home. This is rare now, and that process is pretty much complete a couple decades ago. Where a man could earn enough to buy a house and feed a family, husband and wife now both work overtime to keep the house – if there is work to find.

Well, it is not always and in all places that bad, but this is the overall trend. While the richest are getting richer, the lower middle class (and not very low either) has to run just to stay in place. Or so it seems, when measured by the standard tools of the economists.

They forgot the technology.


I don’t mean the technology at the workplaces. Economists are acutely aware of that. How much productivity has increased because of email, how much is lost to Facebook, stuff like that. This is not what I am talking about.

40 years ago, even if you were filthy rich, you were unlikely to have several million tracks of music. And even if you had such an obsession, you definitely did not bring millions of songs with you in your car. But today, a teenager on the school bus can choose between these millions of tracks while listening to Spotify on his smartphone.

40 years ago, you could not carry hundreds of books with you wherever you went either. And you certainly could not decide that a minute from now you would have bought an uncommon book and begun reading it. Buying a new book required going to the bookstore and pick one from those that were available. If there were other books, you did not know about them, unless you got the help of a librarian or some other scholar. In the case of books that were not broadly popular, it could easily take weeks to procure them. Now, you can do it while waiting for the elevator.

40 years ago, you could not chat with friends on another continent, or call them almost for free, or hang out with them on video chat. International calls were hideously expensive, and of course you had to call at a time when the person was in the house so they could hear the telephone.

The Internet and mobile phones may be the most obvious of the new technologies, but there are many others. I doubt there were pulse watches at all, even for the rich (although we did have digital watches in the 70es, if memory serves). Incandescent light bulbs were the only way to light the house, even during a heat wave, emitting 90% heat and 10% light instead of the opposite.

Medicine has quietly made a lot of progress. This is a good thing, of course: Back then, heart infarcts were common, arrived suddenly, and usually led to death. These days it is more common than not to  spot the warning signs long before an actual lethal infarct, and treat the condition with medication or, if worst comes to worst, surgery. Diabetes can be diagnosed years before it shows symptoms. Several types of cancers can now be treated that could not in the 70es. The downside is that health care costs have exploded. There is some hand-wringing over this, but the main reason for the huge cost is that we can treat rare illnesses that we used to just give up on. It is generally agreed that being rich and dead is not the best possible outcome. Better to be poorer but still alive!

Cars are safer too. Back in my childhood, 40 years ago, safety belts were still fairly new and highly optional. Now, there is a wide range of security measures to prevent collisions and save your life should a collision happen anyway. And by the way, modern cars pollute far less and also use less fuel.

I am sure I could continue this way, but the point is: You may be working more (and maybe you even are not allowed to read this at work) for the same pay, but on the other hand you can perform miracles that were science fiction a generation ago. That is a cause for celebration, surely! Please take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are to be born in the Age of Wonders.


Why are Christians stupid?

Guys are all moronic idiots!

Also, let us not forget the tendency to see the stupidity in people who are unlike us. This is an automatic psychological mechanism to make us feel smarter.

I have met a number of interesting people on Google+. This social network is particularly well suited for meeting people you are NOT already friends with, unlike a certain other social network. It has more of a sourdough effect, growing through contact – you see someone comment something sane on a friend’s post, and you can start finding out more about them (in so far as they allow it). So due to my nature, I have added a bunch of intelligent, curious people to my list of acquaintances. They are almost all atheists, either missionary or functionally. But why are atheists generally noticeably more intelligent than Christians?

The answer is, “because you live in a Christian country”. Most English-speakers do. And in such a country, most people are raised as Christians, in theory at least. (The behavior they actually see while growing up may be somewhat different from the creed. As Mitt Romney’s guardian spirit says in The Next President: Americans worship Mammon, but officially they worship Jesus Christ.) If you don’t have more intelligence than you need to hold a job, you probably don’t spend it on being contrary. You go with the crowd, and stick to interests that are less abstract.  So the people who break out tend to be the smartest ones.

It is easy to test this, because there are countries in which it is not normal to be Christian. In Japan, for instance, only less than 1% are Christians (although some attend Christian rituals in addition to those of other religions – church weddings are popular, and Christmas is almost universal.) You don’t see Japanese suddenly convert to Christianity simply because they are stupid. Clearly it is not the stupidity that does it.

A more relevant example is my native Norway, which used to be a Christian country, in theory. Actually, it still is according to its constitution, but people just politely ignore that now. The elderly are often still Christians, as they were raised that way. But from my generation (around the age of 50-60) and downward, it is more like 10% who are Christian. Most people are agnostic or rather, they are atheists but don’t stir up trouble about it. So does this mean that 90% of the Norwegian population is as smart as the smartest 10% of the US population? Well, Norwegians may think so. We tend to have a ridiculously high self-esteem. But judging from such factors as the frequency of very high education, we don’t excel. Clearly the loss of religion does not come from a sudden surge of intelligence, and neither has atheism made us geniuses.

On the contrary, we are now in a situation where stupid people just accept atheism without thinking, and mindlessly parrot atheist fantasies that are at odds with science. For instance that millions died in the witch hunts (the actual number is a few thousand, not that this is not enough) or that Christianity caused the Dark Ages (the Germanic migrations did, whereas Christianity provided the last refuge of literacy during that time), or that  Christians burned down the Great Library of Alexandria (burning it down was a fairly regular occurrence, even Julius Caesar did it according to Plutarch, and later so did Aurelian; its final destruction happened under Islam. While Christians destroyed the temple, contemporary pagan scholars make no mention of books being destroyed. Nobody knows where and when they met their end.)

Stupid people tend to have a stupid understanding of religion. And so do most smart people, because it is not really something they think a lot about. The main difference is that they don’t just do whatever their parents did, but try to create an identity of their own. In this generation, in English-speaking countries, atheism is often a part of that. In the 60es, Hinduism and Buddhism were popular. Who knows what it will be next time. Happy Science, perhaps? It certainly seems to be a hit among the upper classes of Japan, as a religion that subtly implies that intelligent people are spiritually superior, born to rule and that it is for the best of everybody that they control the power and money in society. I guess we could be worse off than that.

Sims 3: Imaginary daycare

Sim children at day care

I made the day care provider female because I forgot that in this game there is actually sexual equality, so men are allowed to be surrounded by children not their own. Don’t try this at home, kids.

If you wonder where I’ve been the last few days, the answer is I have a new favorite game, as I mentioned, Sims 3: Generations. (Actually The Sims 3 is the game, which you must have first, and Generations is an additional expansion pack.) But more specifically, I’ve been playing a home daycare provider. It’s one of the most fun things I can remember playing.

OK, this surprises even me. It seems rather out of character. Of course, my character in the game is not suited for this, since he is a loner, and gets a mood boost from being completely alone, and a negative mood from having a crowd around. (A crowd being more than two other people, it seems.)

So I made this woman who is family-oriented, nurturing, friendly, charismatic and good. (I’ve only ever used the last for my own character, and I’ve stopped doing that after some more self-reflection.) Still, the fact remains that I as the player of the game enjoy it greatly.

Day care is kind of fun. Each morning from Monday to Thursday  (not Friday for some reason?) people show up and dump toddlers on your floor.  You don’t need to go to work, you can run around in your underwear and make pancakes until the last minute. When the kids show up, you feed them and change their dirty diapers, play with them, cuddle them, teach them to walk and talk if you feel like it, or just watch them play with their toys. There are no stomach flues, nobody bites each other or pulls each other’s hair. That said, it is pretty hectic.  But then at sunset, the people show up again and whisk away the children, so you have the evening for yourself and can sleep all night.

It may not sound like fun – it does not really read like fun, I admit – but I really enjoy it. Being surrounded by kids is something I … well, I can’t say I miss it since I don’t really think about it normally, but it was something I enjoyed when I was young. In the Christian Church of Brunstad, there used to be lots and lots of children. I think there may still be more than average, but back then it was more family-centric than the Catholic Church. (That is also one reason why I could not fit in, as I would never have a family of my own.)

In the secular society of Norway, arguably the world’s second most feminist country after Sweden, men are watched carefully when they spend time with children, as it is assumed that they will try to have sex with them. There is a lot of writing in the newspapers when this happens, and sometimes when it is just suspected as well. Fathers are generally allowed to be alone with their own children, but once the parents break up, it is not unheard of that the mother argues for sole parental rights on the grounds that a man can’t be trusted around children.  Unfortunately with the sad state of humanity, this is probably often the case as well.

Anyway, in real life I am not going to quit my job as a software call center problem solver to re-educate myself for day care. I think most of my midlife “crisis” is over by now, and it seems to mostly have caused a new interest in books of timeless wisdom and metaphysics. But kids are kind of fun, in their own way. At least imaginary ones. Also, if computers could convey smell as realistically as they do sight and sound, I might have second thoughts about being surrounded by simulated toddlers!