Uncommon Sense

October 30, 2022

Psychedelics: Forgotten Cornerstones of Civilization?

I am a big fan of Benjamin Cain who writes on Medium.com and elsewhere. His latest post has the title above (without the question mark). Here is a taste:

Even setting aside the wildest speculations about the meaning of the peak states of consciousness you undergo while you’re high on psychoactive drugs such as DMT, magic mushrooms, peyote, or even cannabis, the mundane interpretations of them are still revolutionary. That is, even if we assume — as we should — that you’re only hallucinating when you’re tripping or that you’re engaging with your unconscious mind rather than with God, angels, or extraterrestrial races, the implications still rewrite practically everything we take for granted about history, religion, elitist social divisions, and politics.” Benjamin Cain

Mr. Cain goes on to say: “This is to say that our forgetfulness is almost as dazzling as the peak states themselves. The yin of the majestic creativity that bursts from the high mind that’s liberated from social restrictions complements the yang of the dulled, domesticated mind that mistakes the valley for the mountain peak.”

Such discussions leave me largely untouched. It is not that I would never try psychedelic drugs, I have, but that the claims for their benefits are largely speculative. I haven’t read anything about microdosing yet, so maybe that is where their true value lies.

I do nor dispute that psychedelic drugs produce an “altered” state of consciousness, but why describe these as “peak” states? This smacks of the claims for the supernatural. Something is claimed to be not natural, but it isn’t referred to as subnatural or pseudonatural, it is supernatural, thus implying that it is superior to the natural or at a minimum “above” natural. So, altered states of consciousness are “peak states” of consciousness? Why not “valley states” or “plains states”? Again, a bias is built into the terms.

And, as to “unleashing creativity” or “unlocking creativity” (“the majestic creativity that bursts from the high mind that’s liberated from social restrictions”), I wonder. The experience could result in the creation of works different from what was being created by the user before, but are dull, uncreative people suddenly turned into fabulous creative people? I doubt it. I think creative people manifest their experiences through their creations. Creators create. Give them an altered state of consciousness and they will create some things they might not have before.

But have there been engineers or scientists who experienced such states and then gone on to invent or discover things never thought of before? If so, there haven’t been a lot of stories told about these experiences because surely I would have heard of some. (Kekule’s dream hint at the structure of the benzene molecules being the only one that comes to mind.)

Now, claiming that such altered states of consciousness allow people to get closer to the numinous, to a god, are also hogwash as the reports show that the gods “encountered” or hinted at are the same gods the users were indoctrinated to believe in, that is their “altered” experiences were not accepted as they were but were shaped to conform to the god blueprints the users carried in their heads before.

I remember seeing a Deepak Chopra video way back when, when he was “new and fascinating.” Mr. Chopra started talking as if he were a scientist and within ten minutes he shifted to discussing “chakras.” I turned the video off. Clearly he was repackaging his childhood religious teachings.

I think psychedelics played a role in any number of religions. I will grant that their effects could open up the users to new lines of thought. Beyond that, the claims are just that: claims. Of course, our repressed culture doesn’t sponsor much research into such things so it is likely that it will be a long time before we have much concrete data to discuss.

When is the Incompetence Suit to Be Filed?

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:42 am
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Our version of “Hell” as a place is not in the Old Testament, aka Jewish scripture, although the word is used by OT translators, but I think incorrectly. (The Jew’s afterlife, in Sheol one and all, was nothing hellish at all.) The modern concept of Hell, with everlasting torment, the Lake of Fire, etc. comes in the New Testament. Here is just one reference:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Mathew 25:41

So, Hell was “prepared” as a prison, a particularly nasty prison, for the Adversary/Satan and “his angels,” aka demons. Yet, Satan seems to have no trouble escaping his prison as he is reported to be here, there, and everywhere. Same goes for demons. They are reported to be all over the place.

So, the Christian god is grossly incompetent if he throws Satan and those demons into a slammer purpose built to contain them and they get regular weekend passes.

Wait a minute. This god created the angels, no? And they rebelled against him, actually waging a war in Heaven, for Pete’s sake!

Then this god created human beings and the first two he creates rebel against his authority and he banishes them to miserable lives, so miserable that he decides to wipe out their descendants and all other animals and plants in a year long flood that covers the entire globe.

Since the Council of Gods assigned Yahweh to be the god of the Israelites, I guess it is reasonable to assume that all of those gods were assigned to the Earth by some higher council.

If so, we need to petition for a new set because the set we got are grotesquely incompetent.

The Software Curse is Falling on Meta, aka Facebook

Filed under: Business,Culture,Reason,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 9:36 am
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I was responding to a post on Nan’s Notebook, and this is what I wrote:

Re “Years ago, pundits assumed the internet would open a new era of democracy, giving everyone access to the truth.” (Robert Reich)

“Sure . . . and you weren’t suspicious of a messaging app that originally limited messages to 140 characters (not words, characters). What democratic statement can be made in 140 characters? This “service” wasn’t designed for democratic discourse, it was designed for snark and sneers. Would the world be a better place or worse if Twitter were to disappear?”

What this brought to mind is a concept I call the software curse. For example, the first “word processor” I used on the Intel platform, was WordStar, then came Microsoft Word, then came version 2 of Word, then version 3, then version 4, . . . , I don’t know what version they are up to now (upwards of 16, so 17, 18?). In any case, each version promised cool new features that you were somehow able to live without. It wasn’t long after I realized that I needed none of the “new, improved features” in each upgrade. I am, for example, typing this on the version of Word that came with Microsoft Office 2003 (Word v. 11.8xxxxx) and never run into a problem that my word processor can’t handle. I am only using that version because I got a special deal on it way back when.

Now Word is notorious for implementing “new features (Yea, hurrah!)” that nobody wants. Remember “Clippy”? Remember how they changed all of the menus in 2007? Here’s one reviewer’s experience with the changes:

“What the fuck was Microsoft thinking when they built this piece of shit?? Every damn function that I use I have to go on an expedition to find it! Nothing is where I would expect it to be. There’s a toilet in the middle of the living room and the kitchen sink is out in the garage. I still haven’t figured out which light switch controls that big honking’ huge crystal chandelier that’s in the broom closet.”

I bought a copy of Word 2007 for instances where it seemed I needed it, but I avoid it like the plague because I can’t find anything in the menus. Microsoft also changed the file format for Word files, for somewhat good reasons, and there was such an uproar that they released a free (yes, something free from Microsoft) program that would translate the new and old Word formats back and forth.

This is the software curse. You pay for an “upgrade” and what you really get is confusion and a steep learning curve. The axiom they violate is the software you know how to use is much more valuable than the software you do not. So, people stop upgrading and the software companies are finding new and novel ways to force you to do so.

Currently Adobe has adopted the policy that they have stopped “validating” installs of their older software. If you are unaware, the “activation” or “validation” process was implemented at the publishers behest, not yours. It was there way to stem piracy. But by no longer verifying installations of their older programs, owners of the older programs cannot install those programs, even if they originally bought them from Adobe. They own the software. They have the right to use it. Adobe refuses to allow them to use the software. Instead they insist that you upgrade to a newer version.

Imagine of your car manufacturer, implemented a kill switch that stopped your car from working and when complaints came from people with cars that no longer worked they told people they would have to buy a newer model to get a working car. Yeah, like that.

So, the software curse is that when considerable changes are made in the software, people prefer the software they can use and don’t upgrade. Meta, aka Facebook, is finding this out first hand. Their “transition” to a suite of virtual reality spaces is going over like a lead duck, in other words, it isn’t flying. The people on Facebook now know how it operates and are comfortable with it the way it is. Zuckerberg and his staff geniuses are trying to make Facebook into something it is not, and people are not buying it. Why buy into a steep learning curve when the “upgrades” aren’t desired or even conceivable.

Since Facebook is just a large data collection factory for our corporate overlords (they buy scads of Facebook “data” and that is how Zuc gets paid for his “free” service) if it were to go away, would the world be a better or worse place?


Filed under: Philosophy,Social Commentary — Steve Ruis @ 9:28 am
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I once had a goal of dying with no regrets. It sounded almost like a definition of having lead a good life. I am closer and closer to the dying by not so much on the no regrets part. I certainly have them and I suspect you do, too. But, to get from X regrets to 0, how does one get rid of a regret?

And when one entertains a question one often sees or hears an answer. I read this one less than two minutes after typing the question!

Specifically, the act of examining what could have been, and our foregone opportunities — is a chief, and irrational driver of regret. Why is it irrational? Because we tend to assign improbable values to what could have been.” Sean Kernan

(Some say that the “Universe” responded to my question, which I think is silly. I think it is instead a manifestation of the “green car effect,” which is when you buy a green car, you tend to notice all of the other green cars on the road and you will hear people comment, “I never knew there were so many green cars on the road.” The reason you didn’t notice them was because your attention function wasn’t primed with that concept.)

Okay, back on topic. Sean may have a real handle on these things. Regrets are based upon “woulda, coulda, shouldas.” If only I had done Y instead of Z, then . . . is the formula. Sean’s point is we automatically assume the alternative, the thing not done, the road not traveled, would have been better, usually much better. But, would it have been?

The approach I am taking is admitting I made a mistake in the past and accepting that I am a human being who makes mistakes, just like all of the other human beings. Actually, any number of things that I later thought “Gee, maybe I shouldn’t have done that” turned out quite well. To think otherwise, I now think, is to be looking for certainty in our lives, which is a fool’s errand. If we don’t do things that do not turn out was we expected, or don’t turn out “well,” then we aren’t taking chances, we aren’t trying unknown things, we are living a very timid life.

My goal now is to have processed all of the things I consider to be regrets before I die. I don’t want to leave them on the table, as it were.

October 29, 2022


I recently read a post about a woman who created and posted a video of herself in which she spoke of a situation she was in and then was overcome with emotion and sobbed, so much so she had to break away from the video and restart it later. I will not comment about the topic of her distress, apparently too many have already done that, but I do want to address being overwhelmed by emotions.

I think allowing oneself to be overwhelmed by one’s emotions is dangerous. If you view any scene in which violence is done, you will see bystanders crying out, crying, sobbing, etc. This has become a trope in movies, the extent of it signifying the amount of violence occurring. The more violence the more hysteria on the part of observers.

Just for a minute, stop and consider how this helps the emoter. Yes, it may be a signal to those nearby to “run the other way,” or “come help me” but the person overwhelmed by emotion cannot take any rational life preserving actions as they are frozen and unable to act.

How did this come to be? Honestly I have no idea, but I suspect that we exacerbated the issue socially. It seems to me that emotional feelings are real, that is there is a physiological basis for them, e.g. fight or flight syndrome. But our emotional responses seem to be trained to a large extent. Children watch the adults around them like hawks, observing what kinds of behaviors are accepted and which are not. Female children (I hate the word girl as it is an ugly sounding word, almost like a growl and reflects none of the characteristics of female children—on the other hand, boy sounds ebullient, buoyant even, reflecting some of the characteristics of boisterous male children.)—sorry—female children observe adult women getting overwhelmed by emotion, crying, sobbing, etc. and these women are soothed, comforted, consoled by other adult women. Adult men are alerted and are protective. When the female child is hurt and crying, they get soothing actions from the adult women around them. Female children see crying as an accepted form of expression and often try it on as a manipulating behavior. And yet, just crying is not close to sobbing hysteria, but that is just a matter of degree. If they observe that the more upset they are, the more soothing care they get, well one thing leads to another. Crying becomes a “take care of me signal” which it is with all babies.

Male children, however, are not treated the same. They supposedly will become adults and be part of the protective forces of the family/tribe/village. They cannot afford to be overcome with emotion. They have to act and act rationally. They can’t just flail around with a club, knocking down good guys as much as bad guys. They have to “seek and destroy,” so they need to be operating rationally. So, when male children are overcome with emotion, they are told to stop, that “big boys don’t cry,” and other such nonsense. Crying blurs the vision so suck it up, child! They are taught an emotional response quite different from the female children. The female children get approval and comfort for overt crying, the male children get the same for not crying.

Some modern researchers into emotions have come to the conclusion that whatever emotions are, emotional responses are learned. (I am reading a book by one such proponent but haven’t finished it yet.)

What do you think?

Preservatives, Not Conservatives!

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:45 am
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Conservatives should be renamed Preservatives for all the work they’re doing to preserve an American oligarchy. They aren’t interested in conserving water, air, the climate, democracy domestic nor abroad, America’s soft power, school children, women with dangerous unviable pregnancies, national security, ethical personal behavior, or even ideological consistency.” Dash MacIntyre

Sounds like a plan, are you on board?


The whole piece is worth a read. You can find it here: Donald Trump Is F**king The Elephant Corpse of the GOP

Here’s a taste of the rest:

“Republicans can convince themselves that literally anything is justified to “keep Democrats from ruining the country”… even ruining the country.

“Republicans being the party of fiscal responsibility is the greatest myth in American history.

“Two Republican presidents in a row have inherited booming economies and wrecked them, inherited respected US statures and defiled them, and inherited falling deficits and ballooned them.”

October 27, 2022

Whenever Faced with a Choice of Two Things Always Take the Third

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 1:37 pm
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The title of this piece was a bit of supposed wisdom from a Grandmother of a specific ethic group (and I am not going there, so we will just refer to her as “Grandma”). The proverb is illustrated by the story of Grandma going to the Greengrocers and asking “How much are the cantaloupes?” The Grocer replied “Two for 89 cents.” Grandma asks, “How much for just one? And the Grocer replied “One? Just 45 cents.” Grandma says “I’ll take the other one.”

Now, the clever Grandma saved a penny, so you can tell how old the story is but the proverb is basically to never let someone else restrict your choices unnecessarily.

My topic here and now is Free Will and Determinism.

These two concepts are presented as absolute opposites and we must choose one or the other. Either our actions are all determined by outside events or are determined by some mysterious interior “will.” You can only take one. Either the universe, as a whole, is deterministic, or it’s not. Choose.

Not so fast, Bubba. Why can we not have both?

Under some circumstance the universe is deterministic. For example, a sniper has taken a bead on your head from 1000 yards away. When he pulls the trigger, a 2400fps bullet will fly from his rifle to your head, which will take about 1.25 seconds. Half way to its target, I think your future is determined as you can’t move fast enough to dodge that bullet. Determinism in action!

But there are many cases in which you make choices that have nothing to do with external physical factors. You go out to dinner and you order a kale salad even though you do not like salad, and kale even less, because your girlfriend will approve. How can that not be a free choice? (And, please, this is not social conditioning, Machiavellian, maybe.)

Are our absolutist tendencies getting us to argue from nonsensical positions? Free Choice! Determinism! All or nothing!

Seems as if it may be so.

Look What You’ve Done! I’m Melting! Melting! (God of the Gaps)

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:46 am
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A favorite argument of creationists is the God of the Gaps Argument. Basically they point to some gap in our scientific understanding of nature and sneer “See, you scientists can’t explain everything!” and then they state things like “You don’t know why the Big Bang happened, well we do: God did it!” Every gap in the human understanding of nature is filled by their god, according to them. Of course, the argument is specious because they have no way of determine what did what, they are merely speculating.

The major flaw in the God of the Gaps arguments is that the gaps are becoming smaller all the time if not downright being filled completely. Here’s an example:

As Science News reports:
A tiny Scottish fossil is having a big impact on our understanding of lizards.
“Measuring just six centimetres long, Bellairsia gracilis would have roamed around freshwater lagoons in what are now the Inner Hebrides over 166 million years ago.
An almost intact specimen uncovered six years ago provides a snapshot of a crucial time in the development of lizards, snakes, and limbless amphisbaenians (collectively known as squamates).
“It has a mixture of features found in both ancient and modern squamates, showing that some of their abilities, including those which help them to feed, could have been possessed by the ancestors of the group as a whole.
“When Bellairsia’s characteristics are included in a family tree of the squamates, it helps to clarify early lizard relationships. Disagreement between molecular and fossil evidence had led to confusion over whether geckos or iguanas were the earliest evolving modern squamates, with the new study coming down firmly on the side of the geckos

And these “discoveries” happen on a daily basis across the width and breadth of science.

As the gaps in our knowledge become smaller and smaller, the powers of some god needed to fill them also become smaller and smaller, so the God of the Gaps becomes smaller, smaller, smaller. . . .

Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! Melting! (God of the Gaps)

Note—Apologies to L. Frank Baum.

October 26, 2022

Please Don’t

Filed under: Blogging — Steve Ruis @ 11:11 am

I wrote a post “You Can’t Make This Shit Up” on January 8th, 2022. Since then it has acquired over 150 comments, which would be fine, but the comments are not about the post, they are about related topics.

People, this is not a discussion site. If you want to tell me why my post was right or wrong or how much you agree or how far up my ass my head is, that is fine. But back-and-forth discussions are not the purpose of this blog and just chew up a lot of storage space. I have gone so far as to disallow further comments on that post, but I hate doing that because somebody might come along, read the post and have a comment that might teach me something but now they cannot.

So, if you find yourself responding to another commenter at length or multiple times (and I specifically mention ragnarsbhut and carolmalasia) please don’t. I do not want to block your comments globally, but if this practice continues, I may have to.

So, make a comment and then go on your own blog and expand on your comment to your heart’s content, please.

October 24, 2022

How Embarrassing for the American League

Filed under: Entertainment,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 1:08 pm
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In 2013 the MLB Houston Astros franchise was moved from the NL Central to the AL West to create two North American major baseball leagues of the same number of teams each (15). Two years later a rebuilt Astros squad shocked the baseball world by adding 16 wins to its total from the previous campaign and advancing to the playoffs.

In the ten years since the move the Astros have made the playoffs seven times and won the “world” Championship once.

Last night the Astros qualified to contest this year’s World Series against the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

So, this year there are two National League teams seeking the championship. How embarrassing for the American League.

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