Progress by its very nature requires refinement and correction of ideas and error. Clearly, the progress achieved by out species could not have been acquired without the profound sense of curiosity, unfounded beliefs, and speculation that originated in the minds of primitive man and his human genotype. Early in development, this inherent curiosity, about the existence of things in the environment, found expression in a felt need to "explain" that existence.
Out of these innate human attributes emerged the foundation of our ubiquitous and seemingly unsolvable ills, largely through not only our uses but particularly our abuses of language, such as conflating the term, 'faith' with the term, 'truth.'
The biblical Tower of Babel, it has been claimed, was being erected during the 6th or 7th century in the city of Babylon, after which the Lord said,
“Come, let Us go down and then confuse their language,
that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
(Gen., 11, 7) “Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord
confused the language of all the earth. . . .” (Gen., 11, 9)
It is clearly evident that such uses of language have also advanced our worlds of the various arts: music, painting, poetry, sculpture, etc., and particularly entertainment, in its myriad forms. But few teachers, if any, of such subjects, including mathematics and science, clarify the metaphysical and/or abstract linguistic aspects of their subjects.
In addition, non-analytic philosophers and theological authorities throughout the world adroitly manipulate and conflate the philosophical and scriptural language of metaphysics, transcendentalism, supernaturalism, absolutism, and “truth” by definition with reality and verifiable truth and knowledge.
The harm caused, by such conflation, is compounded by the refusal of our schooling institutions to differentiate and emphasize the important distinction between verifiable, i.e., testable, and unverifiable, i.e., untestable and unfalsifiable language.
To this day there are vast numbers of people, billions, who adamantly adhere to many beliefs, though they are distilled old wine in new bottles that originated with cavemen.
The term, ‘exist’ and all its synonyms and derivatives, as used in any national language, are probably the most abused of linguistic usage. It is most often used in the sense in which Saint Anselm is presumed to have proved [read: verified] the existence of God. If we insist on the Anselmian, “If you can think it, it must exist or you would not have been able to think of it,” it immediately becomes apparent that we can have countless thoughts of “things” that most of us would deny exist. There are many who would deny the veracity of his proof, and, nevertheless, strangely, attest to the existence of “objects” named with abstract terms. For instance, most people, as well as some present-day philosophers believe in the myth of abstract existents like ideas, love, mind, democracy, gods, morals, evil, good, numbers, logic, mathematics, laws, rules, principles, spirits, an afterlife, souls, dimensions other than our presumed physical world, and countless more, as if they came into existence with or after the Big Bang. As Bertrand Russell said:
"There is something feeble and contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. [And] There is a widespread belief that people can be induced to believe in what is contrary to fact in one domain while remaining scientific in another. This is not the case. It is by no means easy to keep one's mind open to fresh evidence, and it is almost impossible to achieve this in one direction if, in another, one has a carefully fostered blindness."
Of course, in conventional grammar, the existence of such abstractions is implied. It is to be admitted, that it is often practical to use abstract words AS IF they name existents. We use abstract terms to help us understand the world by thinking of them AS IF they exist. To quote David Hume, however, there is a caveat from his Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding,
"If we take in hand any volume of
Divinity, or school metaphysics, for instance,
let us ask, 'Does it contain any abstract reasoning
concerning quantity or number?'
No. 'Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and
existence?' No. Commit it then to
the flames; for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."
Moreover, when the terms of claims refer to unverifiable deeply held convictions that are equated with actual existents, that even clear evidence cannot undermine, therein lie so many of the problems of the world.
The dictionary does not give us the “meaning” of the term, ‘exist,’ or any other linguistic symbols. It reports past usage, obsolete usage, slang usage, present and conventional usage, stipulative usage, explicative usage, and contextual usage -- not meanings. Moreover, we use words emotionally, expressively, practically, poetically, and on and on. But when language is abused by those who refuse or are unable to reason because of conditioned deep-emotionally-held convictions imposed by those seeking to retain their grasp of power, it is obvious that George Orwell got it right in his book, 1984, when he posited that those who control the use of language are in control of our thoughts and behavior. This is attested to even today in the year 2006.
Unfortunately, most people have not been educated to understand the distinction between the dictionary’s reporting how we use words and the meanings WE attribute to them. The general public does not seem to be aware that words do not have inherent meanings; nor is it aware of its ignorance of the consequences of the fact that it believes they do. For most people there is an irrevocable and absolute connection between a word and what we mean by it. How then, given the above, can a case be made for the non-existence of “objects” named by abstract terms? We would do well to begin by comparing the many uses of the term and the consequences of such usage.
An informed person would not equate reality WITH language, since it is a tool we use to speak about a presumed reality beyond our sense data, particularly in view of the fact that no two of us ever have identical perceptions of the "things" in the physical world. But were we unequivocally declaring the existence of a world beyond our perceptions, as I would, based on deductive argumentation and on the assumption of the veracity of inductive argumentation, my argument still holds.
For example, we should not equate the term, ‘book,’ with the perception of an assumed object that, in English we NAME “book.” Conventionally, the term, ‘book,’ is considered a CONCRETE term because it refers to an assumed “object” that, presumably, causes us to have a perception, even though not an identical one that anyone else, from all over the world, with normal sense faculties, would be able to experience. We tend to ignore the use of the term, ‘book,’ when it is used other than to name the object, book. There are concrete terms, also, that can be equally confusing in relation to the term, ‘exist.’
Consider Heraclitus’ argument that the fundamental nature of everything is process, exemplified in his, “One can never step into the same river twice.” When we use the term, ‘river,’ referring to a body of water flowing in an inclined and extended depression in the earth, we are using it concretely. But the term, ‘river’ is not concrete in the same sense that the term, ‘book,’ is. Yet, conventionally, it is often assumed to be.
What is a river?
Certainly it is not the flowing water alone. Water spilled on a flat level surface flows until the forces of molecular cohesion of the liquid and friction of the floor inhibit its movement. Obviously then, the inclined depression in the earth is a necessary condition for a river but not for flowing water. There must also be a continuing source of flowing water such as a spring. This raises the question, “When does the water of a spring contribute to the formation of a river?” If one consults a very good dictionary the issue of what is a river becomes even more complicated. Consider the use of the term, 'river,' in the song, "Cry Me A River." Then there is its use when the term, ‘river,’ modifies the term, ‘bed,’ or is combined with “bed,” i.e., “riverbed,” the implication is that a riverbed is something different from a river. But without the flowing water the inclined depression is not a riverbed. It is merely a gully. Without interdependency between the inclined depression and the flowing water, there would not be a river. One could, of course, argue that the “riverbed” is part of the river. True, but it is not the river. So, again, what is the term, ‘river’ naming? Is it not naming a construct?
For the moment let us digress. As “No man is an island, . . .“ so, by extension no object is “an object” without its necessary environment, i.e., necessary conditions for its existence. To believe otherwise is to abstract it, i.e., our perception of “it,” from our perception of its environment. We are, in fact, abstracting our perception of the assumed object from the reality presumed to exist beyond our perceptions. Understanding this should lead us to the fact that all language is metaphor. In a strict sense even “concrete” terms are abstract. It is only in a particular convention of language that we consider them concrete. It is for convenience that we designate some terms as dead metaphor, i.e., “concrete or denotative” and some as live metaphor, i.e., “abstract or connotative."
To return to Heraclitus, then, in view of the available evidence regarding the nature of the universe, and none to the contrary, how can one deny the truth of his statement, as some philosophers do?
If, as I have shown, the term, ‘river,’ strictly speaking, is an abstract term, when we use such a term to claim that it names something that EXISTS, we are, in a sense, analogously, accepting the thesis that one can step into Heraclitus’ river twice. With all due respect to those who disagree with him, I do not.
Redefining the “meaning” of the term, ‘river,’ as some philosophers have been prone to do, certainly does not alter the verifiable facts. For those who define the term, ‘river’ as the flowing water, the “gully” through which the water flows, the “permanency” of its geographical location, whatever, they apparently must accept Parmenides’ plenum wherein the universe is unchanging. The facts verify, in a strict sense, the flowing water, the gully, and even the physical location of the gully are in process, i.e., in a constant state of change.
Consider Plato’s distinction between appearance and reality. Few philosophers today would deny that we are in touch with the assumed physical world only with our sense faculties, though others may argue to include our deductive abilities, and that various regularities and constancies in those perceptions induce us to deduce the existence of a physical world. Not to do so, of course, would be quite irrational. But, it does not change the fact that we experience only our perceptions of the presumed physical facts.
Out of our inclination to communicate with each other and our evolving nature, our species succeeded in creating symbols of various kinds to convey the “content” of our minds, which, of course included our interpretations of our perceptions. A study of past history attests to how strange we consider those interpretations, i.e., ancient conceptions, of the presumed physical world. An additional concept that history has revealed to us is that according to available evidence, the underlying characteristic of the universe is that everything constituting it, as I’ve shown above, is in process, as even some of the more perceptive thinkers of the past had deduced.
As must be evident, my concern, here, is not to defend Heraclitus. Rather, I am concerned with the way we use and abuse language to the enormous detriment imposed upon the occupants of this planet. Admittedly such abuse in the process of objective argumentation often has the positive affect of stimulating new and useful ideas.
However, when predicated on deep and emotionally founded convictions, and a refusal or inability to reason, enormous harm can ensue. History attests to the abuse of the term, ‘exist,’ along with our abuse of language in general. It has been a primary cause of man’s wars, and the ensuing horrendous evil and suffering foisted upon the world today.
Most of mankind and particularly our schooling institutions, given the nature of their educational failures, have not seen fit, nor seem inclined even in the year 2006, to do much about it.
As mentioned earlier, we must, consider, also, that it is sometimes practical to use abstract symbols AS IF they name non-perceptible existents. That is, there are uses of abstract terms that in fact help us to control aspects of the world we live in by thinking of them AS IF they name some existent. The symbols of mathematics are prime examples of a language that not only enables us to relate to the presumed physical world but, has the added advantage of communicating meaning shorn of emotional overtones. Such terms, as ‘number,’ ‘letter,’ ‘straight line,’ ‘sphere,’ ‘circle,’ ‘square,’ ‘square root,’ etc.
But, what is a number?
At the very least, it is a symbol designating quantity. It is a mental construct, an individualizing convention, and an abstraction from a complex of environmental necessary conditions. It is any of an infinity of picturable icons that can be named by an infinity of sounded symbols, for instance, “one,” or “1,” or “1 divided by 1,” or “2 divided by 2,” of any “infinite series of numerical” symbols divided by themselves, or the square root of any of the symbolized “ones.” Let us consider that no two "ones" are equal in reality. A question: Can they, all, be said to exist when mentally conjuring them and said to cease to exist when ceasing to conjure them? One could argue that 2 divided by 2 symbolizes more than just the quantity of 1. But, in the end of the process of division, that it also symbolizes, it is just another way of symbolizing singularity that is, in fact, an abstraction from its environment.
Consider also how a teacher of mathematics uses language giving young students the impression that he is making linguistic sense in his use of the term, “exist,” i.e. one of its surrogates, “ARE.” He teaches that there are as many points on the hypotenuse of a Pythagorean triangle (neglecting to teach that there are no real triangles in the physical world) as there are on one of its legs. Unfortunately, the teacher neglects, also, to use an example of an “infinitely" long hypotenuse with an “infinitely” short leg. Of course, when he also teaches that a point has no dimensions, few students, if any have the presence of mind or insight to recognize that a “point” with “no dimensions” is only a concept, not something real, that it is, in the physical world, “nothing.” The student in fact, fails to recognize that the teacher is saying, linguistically, “There are as many nothings on the hypotenuse as there are on one of it legs.”
Let us now, keeping in mind the distinction between perception and reality, consider the abuse of the term, ‘IS,’ the main surrogate of the term, ‘exist,’ that, for all its practical necessities, leads, also, to dissention, evil, suffering, and the like.
What IS a person?
The “beginning or the process of becoming a person is a difficult concept to pinpoint. Fetuses of various animals near the period of birth no doubt are all acquiring similar experiences of the outside world near birth as they float in the amniotic fluid in the womb. And if there is any truth to the news item of a “wolf child,” to put a twist on Hillary Clinton’s, “It Takes A Village,” it certainly takes a civilized world to “create” a (civilized) person for a newborn child is born a potential savage in need of a civilizing process.
Religious conservatives, particularly that genre of politicians, and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church protest that “a person” begins at conception, i.e., to be specific, at the moment a male sperm enters a woman’s egg. Such an unscientific belief, giving force to the abortion divide, has, to say the least, led not only to differences of belief and wide spread dissention, to hateful and violent action, to suffering of physical harm, but even to the evil of murder.
Anti-abortionists consistently speak of a pregnant woman’s content of the womb, immediately upon conception, alternately, as life, a child, a baby, or a person as if those terms are synonyms. They ignore various stages and constituents of the process of becoming a “person,” such as DNA, RNA, cells, genes, chromosomes, gametes (resulting in a) zygote, morula, blastula, gastrula, embryo, fetus, baby, to mention only a few. Confusing personhood with the human body, they make no distinction among the various stages of the process, i.e., the history of unconscious, subconscious, or, weeks before birth, leading to the moment in the womb, when conscious experiences emerge and personhood begins. Antiabortionists equate life with personhood. It does not occur to them that millions upon millions of living spermatazoa per ejaculate die, after the woman’s ovum has been penetrated by one of them.
Obviously the complex of genes from which we eventually emerge, though “possessing the ‘blue prints’” for the physical and qualitative attributes we call “human,” is not, itself, a human being. A person is more than a blob of protoplasm, a complex of chromosomes, a zygote, or even an embryo.
With all due respect to Aristotle who declared, "to speak of beginnings and endings is unintelligible," even this is not the “beginning," of the species known as Homo sapiens, i.e., man. Ignoring our differences, our “common“ attributes and abilities earn us a place in the human species. To be a person, requires also that one be human and be born of a human being, even if cloned. But, on the face of it, this appears to be a circular use of language.
Consider a newborn baby. Enumerating for convenience: 1) At twelve years of age, it has become a pre-teen; 2) a year later, a teenager; 3) at 21, a young adult; possibly now, a father, and/or a soldier, or a student at college; 4) at 35, a politician, whatever, 5) at 60, a senior citizen, possibly brain impaired, and so on.
A question: At these different stages, is this entity “the same person”? A former psychology professor of mine declared, “Not until one is at least ten years old.” In conventional terms, almost everyone in the world will attest that “it” is the same person. Under certain circumstances, some will make allowance that, “He is not the same person that he was years ago,” -- still thinking that he is, “the same person.” But there are some philosophers who are firmly convinced that one is the same person from the day of his birth to the day of his demise.
Though the above does address the core problem of the harm in abusing the term, “IS” as in, “He IS (or is not) the same person,” when in juridical matters the death penalty may be at issue, my concern is a more extensive one. Is this not an issue analogous to the issue of Heraclitus’ river?
Whatever one’s answer may be, the process of what was once a male sperm penetrating a woman’s egg, the size of the period at the end of this sentence, growing by leaps and bounds in its mother’s womb and in nine months culminating into a new born baby, should give one pause in determining what IS a person.
Is it not clear that Plato had it right when he posited the concept that nothing, in contemporary language, is the same from one nano second to another? In the face of the evidence and with a strict sense of language, can it rightly be said that a child of two years is the same person as one of thirteen, not alone 90”? May we legitimately conflate the “same name” or “heritage” with the “same person”?
To do so is to equivocate, not only the term, ‘is’ but also the term, ‘person.’ The process we call a person, hardly begins on the day a baby is born. Ignoring a retroactive look at the “beginning” of everything, and the history of the evolution of Homo sapiens, part of the human process, of course, includes the human relations that evolve into sexual intercourse. Thereupon a male sperm finds its way to and enters a woman’s ovum. During the interphase stage of the mitotic process, barring “accidents” of nature, the parents’ DNA is duplicated and replicated into identical sets of 46 chromosomes. By the time the child becomes an adult person, his body can contain 100 trillion identical sets of chromosomes. These are DNA blueprints of the parents’ human characteristics and personal parental traits transferred to the body of the offspring.
Moreover, we must consider the history of a person’s social intercourse that enables us to speak of a human being as a social or herd animal. Even “identical” twins are not identical inasmuch as their immediate environments, and, therefore, experiences are not identical. Moreover, let us not deny that we are a species of animal. Even in the early stages of pregnancy, well short of eight weeks, it is difficult to distinguish any differences between a human fetus and the fetus of an ape. In fact we are human apes known as Homo sapiens possessing 98.5 percent of the genes of the genus “ape,” in particular, the chimpanzee.
However, if we do not “ignore a retroactive look at the beginning of everything” we discover that it is also difficult to pinpoint a clear determination of the moment when “dead matter” constitutes part of living matter. Most of us ignore the fact that such “living matter” depends, for its existence, upon “dead matter.” However, in the absence of the “dead matter,” life and mind could not exist.
As to a distinction being drawn between “dead matter” and living matter, we do so essentially by convention. In reality a clear determination of demarcation is impossible. We tend to equate living matter with organic matter. But not all organic matter has the attribute of living matter. Growth, for instance, is an attribute of living matter. However, crystals “grow,” also, but are not living matter. A necessary constituent of organic matter is carbon. Yet, not all substances containing carbon are considered organic, for example, diamonds.
According to available evidence as deduced by Sir Issac Newton, a ubiquitous characteristic of all matter is that it is “sensitive” to other matter. In other words, as per Einstein, a universal gravity permeates the universe. Were this not the case a multiplicity of different substances would not have emerged from the “ashes and dust” of the Big Bang, and, consequently, neither would have life or mind.
Some time during the third century before Christ is said to have been born, Aristotle is reported to have said that Thales, of seventh century BC Greece, and said to be the father of Western philosophy, taught that water was the source of all things. By the birth of Christ, advancing through “air, earth, and fire,” most of the fundamental concepts of the nature of matter were born, though not expressed with the specificity and clarity of today’s philosophic and scientific terminology. Needless to say, if one were to ask, “What is matter?” one would receive a multiplicity of strange answers. Aside from answering that matter is energy manifested in different forms, one of which is accessible to one or more of our sense faculties, it makes little sense to ask the question except in a philosophical or scientific forum, for whatever we claim about our knowledge of it, we must accept that such knowledge is founded upon certain accepted unverifiable concepts.
By “dead matter,” we refer to such things as non-organic substances, rocks, crystals, metals, pure water, the elements of the periodic table and the like. The moon is dead matter. A piece of iron and all its molecular, atomic and subatomic constituents are dead matter. However, those subatomic constituents are also the constituents of living and sentient matter not alone what we call “mind” in all its varieties.
It seems practical, then, that further discussion of the nature of “dead matter” should be predicated upon substances that are, upon the findings and theories of what we call “the physical sciences” accessible to our five sense faculties, directly or indirectly, as well as an internal sense that is referred to as proprioception.
Most of us are ignorant of or ignore that were it not for the ubiquitous characteristic of “dead matter” being “sensitive” to, that is interacting with, other “dead matter,” the process we call life, not alone “a human being,” could not exist.
If the evidence of science has any credibility, and since we have little reason to believe it doesn’t, considering the alternatives, that process “began,” at least, from the state of being from which the Big Bang big banged and continued through the coalescing of the “ashes and dust” evolving from that explosion.
There is no need to follow this line of reasoning further. We can, however, continue to examine some facts just before that moment at which life evolved from that “dead matter.”
For convenience and simplicity, we shall ignore the
constituent-quarks of electron-proton-neutron “building blocks” of the
elements of the Periodic Table. Fundamentally,
it is the various and multiple combinations of those elements that determine, quantitatively,
the evolution of all substances in their diverse and various qualities.
For example, note the difference in substances with different quantities of hydrogen and oxygen: H20, water, and H2O2, peroxide; also, carbon and hydrogen: C14H10, anthrocene; C10H3, naphthalene; C5H8, rubber; C6H6; Benzene; C6H5CH3, toluene. There then comes a point in the process of Emergent Evolution when an extremely complex set of elements and substances so combine that the process we call “life,” followed by a continuing process giving emergence to “mind,” and eventually a human being,” is initiated.
Such a process begins given a particular set of environmental conditions, minimally, water (when hydrogen and oxygen combine, respectively, in a two to one proportion) and particularly carbon if life, as we know it, is to emerge.
It should be clear by now that a person, or anything in the universe, accepting its physicality, is not, as we conventionally speak, a thing. The evidence clearly verifies that “entities” are processes, despite the dictionary’s citation of uses of the term.
In the final analysis, whatever else may be involved, a person IS a process of becoming and a history of “his” experiences -- a fact that applies to every living and sentient creature. In essence, it is the diversity of the histories of experience that determines how we distinguish one species of being from another and even one “person” from another.
Let us now examine metaphysical, supernatural, and transcendental uses of abstract terminology. Aside from technical philosophical usage, the dictionary “defines” the term, ‘metaphysical’ as, “highly abstruse, transcendental, hence pertaining to unverifiable hypotheses”; “supernatural” as, “that which is above or beyond the established course of laws of nature, something transcending nature"; and “transcendental,” as abstrusely speculative; beyond the reach of ordinary, everyday or common thought and experience; hence vague and obscure.”
In essence these words, though often used with slightly different implications, fundamentally “possess” common and identical qualities: unverifiability, unfalsifiability, and untestability. Nor are they subject to evidence or being experienced since they are defined to be “above and beyond” what is spoken of as the “physical“ world. In other words, they are concepts conceived as necessary underpinnings of physical existents, i.e., processes, implying the existence of an a priori unverifiable something or other most often referred to as “first principles,” somewhat comparable to Plato’s universals.
Horne Tooke wrote (Diversions of Purley: II, iv),
"When I say metaphysic, you will be pleased to remember that all general reasoning, all politics, law, morality, and divinity, are merely metaphysic."
Among many other terms, I would add mathematics. Therein, however, it becomes necessary to distinguish different modes of the use of abstract terms, (math vs divinity). For instance, we may speak of a straight line as being a first principle. But what is a straight line? Ignoring a mathematical definition that “a straight line is a point (without dimensions) extended through space,” if I were to draw a straight line with a pencil on a sheet of paper, under a powerful enough magnifying glass we’d see it is a series of dots.
Plato considered mathematical concepts an aspect of first principles, one of his perfect forms of reality. For him the “line” drawn on a sheet of paper was not a real line, verified of course by viewing it under the magnifying glass. He viewed a line as a “form,” a metaphysical Idea not subject to change, from which all lines subject to our sense faculties are derived. Needless to say, a line is an abstract mathematical idea. It is a metaphor, as is all language, for the relations we discover among the physical entities we rightly presume to exist outside the confines of our functioning brains and sensing faculties.
To abstract often implies “to take, draw, or separate from.” Such an implication can be misleading, for it implies an existent that can be separated from another existent, likened to abstracting a splinter from a finger. In the case of mathematical, metaphysical, supernatural, and transcendental “existents,” not only are we not abstracting in this sense but, to the contrary, we are imputing the existence of what cannot be verified to exist. Even Plato, self admittedly, was unable to show a “real” connection between his universals and particulars. In the case of such abstract ideas as “good” and “evil,” for instance, we confuse our sense of what pleases us with “good” and our sense of horror with “evil,” not to mention that one man’s good is another man’s evil. As Bertrand Russell points out,
"The church defines 'sin' not as what harm it does but as what the Bible or church condemns."
Such moral (read: mental and emotional,) “objects” did not “exist” at the time of the Big Bang and probably for billions of years thereafter.
Another misuse of linguistic symbols is neglect of the use of quotation marks when such neglect implies the existence of what does not exist as in the phrase “mental and emotional ‘objects.’”
However, even though the Big Bang did not “initially give” birth to lines, or any ideas, mathematical or other, without them, the technological and civilizing progress of mankind and the gains derived from imagination would not have advanced very far.
If this is the case, what is the harm in attributing existence to abstract terms?
‘Tis a very good question indeed that needs to be addressed even though it does not elicit an easy answer. I suggest that a more helpful question would be, “Why do our schooling institutions not educate us as to the harm that emerges when abstract terms are misused and abused. History is replete with the horror and misery foisted upon mankind because of our conflating language with reality.
Many great thinkers of history have repeatedly warned of the dangers of taking language at face value only to be ignored by the masses and those with the power to force change in our schooling institutions. Instead such leaders cater to the general public’s ignorance of the fundamental requirements for developing curious, critical, and analytical minds. They prefer to place the emphasis on dispensing data that will enable the attainment of “good employment.”
As to the harm caused by accepting language at face value, we need only examine the history of the effect the theistic language of theistic religions has had upon the world and still has upon the behavior and thought processes of most of the world’s population.
They have accomplished this by keeping the masses ignorant of how they abuse language and particularly by predicating the existence of an unverifiable, unfalsifiable, untestable, unknowable, incorporeal, omniscient, omnibeneficent, omnipotent, omnipresent, and first cause of the creation of the universe.
Few citizens of the world are aware of the extent of evil, suffering, and misery, even now occurring, that ensued among the competing religions of history under the names of their separate gods, or, for that matter the source and causes of their beliefs. I regret that I do not have the space to give a vivid account of that history. But if one will take the time to read, methodically, between the lines below, it will be apparent that it is not a pretty picture to portray.
of the conditioning process euphemistically called, alternately,
“indoctrination” and “education,” man’s inhumanity to man has, during
the past few millennia, and still continuing, been founded on the fanatical
religious crusades, religious wars, slavery, terrorism, witch hunts, inquisitions, imprisonment, persecution, dunking, burning at the stake, stoning, decapitation, lynching, debauchery, butchery, holocausts, slaughter, torture, murder, human sacrifices, carnage, instilling fear of Hell and eternal damnation, sex, pedophilia, and rape in the name of God’s Will, fractured human relationships and pogroms.
As J. Bronowski, in his book, The Ascent of Man, aptly stated,
Into this pond [at Auschwitz] were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.
The harm done to the thinking capacity of the human brain, when the terms, ‘is’ and ‘exist’ are used without distinguishing what is verifiable and what is not, is as damaging as anything listed above. The consequent effect upon the human race is evident; we accept much of our heritage of unverifiable beliefs expressed in updated theistic language. To this day, it still controls our thinking and behavior to the detriment of most of the world’s population.
The good that can be claimed to have emerged as a result of such conditioned beliefs, in more recent centuries, by no stretch of imagination balances out the evils perpetrated against millions of people throughout the history of theistic language.
The conclusion to be drawn from the above is that our schooling institutions have failed miserably to educate our children and the citizens of the world to understand that the function of language is not to verify an absolutivity of truth and knowledge but to communicate with each other amicably about our beliefs, perceptions, conceptions, convictions, creativity, and our experiences of a presumed reality.
In the Rotunda of the Washington D.C. Memorial to Thomas Jefferson are engraved his immortal words:
"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
Our schooling authorities willfully fail to recognize that the conditioning abuse of language imprinted upon the mind is an insidious form of tyranny hidden under the aegis of the misused term, 'education.' As Stuart Chase said in his book, The Tyranny of words,
“Language is no more crudely acquired before children begin to suffer from it, and to misinterpret the world by reason of it. Is the fault to be charged to the child or to the language taught him?”
It is not being emphasized or even being taught, in our institutions of learning, that language is no more than a tool we use to relate to each other and to control our perceived environment. If our teachers were instructed and required to expose such abuse, we would probably eliminate most of the causes, possibly even, to some extent, greed, for our miseries. We might, as a consequence, even halt, or at least slow down, the rush to a possible, and probable, destruction of our environment and the ultimate and early demise of the human race.
SEE FILE 21: PERENNIAL QUESTIONS