Tag Archives: Loony Republicans

Isaac Asimov Mulls “How Do People Get New Ideas?”

This past week I was reflecting back on all of my worldly travels, and the thought came to me that those whom have a viewpoint that is so counter intuitive to me, was that they have not seen nor experienced what I have.

Many have heard me say that, “Everyone is the sum of their own lives’ experience”.  I can also pass on the former posting on this site, “Giraffes and Turtles”, and how it can relate to people today.

https://mindsandtimes.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/the-giraffes-and-turtles-parable/

Those whom hold the reactionary conservative views are only stating their views from the limited “Turtle’s” vantage.  This is their major pitfall in their thinking.

As by chance I came across this essay by Isaac Asimov.  It was very obvious, and I recognized, that its contents are as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it.  It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity.

I would ask my readers and those listening the radio program, “Here Be Monsters, The Sunday Show,” to invest the time, read, and polder, the essay below.  You will find it very informative and thought provoking.

ON CREATIVITY

How do people get new ideas?

Presumably, the process of creativity, whatever it is, is essentially the same in all its branches and varieties, so that the evolution of a new art form, a new gadget, a new scientific principle, all involve common factors. We are most interested in the “creation” of a new scientific principle or a new application of an old one, but we can be general here.

One way of investigating the problem is to consider the great ideas of the past and see just how they were generated. Unfortunately, the method of generation is never clear even to the “generators” themselves.

But what if the same earth-shaking idea occurred to two men, simultaneously and independently? Perhaps, the common factors involved would be illuminating. Consider the theory of evolution by natural selection, independently created by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.

There is a great deal in common there. Both traveled to far places, observing strange species of plants and animals and the manner in which they varied from place to place. Both were keenly interested in finding an explanation for this, and both failed until each happened to read Malthus’s “Essay on Population.”

Both then saw how the notion of overpopulation and weeding out (which Malthus had applied to human beings) would fit into the doctrine of evolution by natural selection (if applied to species generally).

Obviously, then, what is needed is not only people with a good background in a particular field, but also people capable of making a connection between item 1 and item 2 which might not ordinarily seem connected.

Undoubtedly in the first half of the 19th century, a great many naturalists had studied the manner in which species were differentiated among themselves. A great many people had read Malthus. Perhaps some both studied species and read Malthus. But what you needed was someone who studied species, read Malthus, and had the ability to make a cross-connection.

That is the crucial point that is the rare characteristic that must be found. Once the cross-connection is made, it becomes obvious. Thomas H. Huxley is supposed to have exclaimed after reading On the Origin of Species, “How stupid of me not to have thought of this.” But why didn’t he think of it?

The history of human thought would make it seem that there is difficulty in thinking of an idea even when all the facts are on the table. Making the cross-connection requires a certain daring. It must, for any cross-connection that does not require daring is performed at once by many and develops not as a “new idea,” but as a mere “corollary of an old idea.”

It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable. It seems the height of unreason to suppose the earth was round instead of flat, or that it moved instead of the sun, or that objects required a force to stop them when in motion, instead of a force to keep them moving, and so on.

A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others.

Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)

Once you have the people you want, the next question is: Do you want to bring them together so that they may discuss the problem mutually, or should you inform each of the problem and allow them to work in isolation?

My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

Nevertheless, a meeting of such people may be desirable for reasons other than the act of creation itself.

No two people exactly duplicate each other’s mental stores of items. One person may know A and not B, another may know B and not A, and either knowing A and B, both may get the idea—though not necessarily at once or even soon.

Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant. However, if one person mentions the unusual combination of A-B and another unusual combination A-C, it may well be that the combination A-B-C, which neither has thought of separately, may yield an answer.

It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.

But how to persuade creative people to do so? First and foremost, there must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness. The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. Even to speculate in public is rather worrisome. The individuals must, therefore, have the feeling that the others won’t object.

If a single individual present is unsympathetic to the foolishness that would be bound to go on at such a session, the others would freeze. The unsympathetic individual may be a gold mine of information, but the harm he does will more than compensate for that. It seems necessary to me, then, that all people at a session be willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.

If a single individual present has a much greater reputation than the others, or is more articulate, or has a distinctly more commanding personality, he may well take over the conference and reduce the rest to little more than passive obedience. The individual may himself be extremely useful, but he might as well be put to work solo, for he is neutralizing the rest.

The optimum number of the group would probably not be very high. I should guess that no more than five would be wanted. A larger group might have a larger total supply of information, but there would be the tension of waiting to speak, which can be very frustrating. It would probably be better to have a number of sessions at which the people attending would vary, rather than one session including them all. (This would involve a certain repetition, but even repetition is not in itself undesirable. It is not what people say at these conferences, but what they inspire in each other later on.)

For best purposes, there should be a feeling of informality. Joviality, the use of first names, joking, relaxed kidding are, I think, of the essence—not in themselves, but because they encourage a willingness to be involved in the folly of creativeness. For this purpose I think a meeting in someone’s home or over a dinner table at some restaurant is perhaps more useful than one in a conference room.

Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues.

To feel guilty because one has not earned one’s salary because one has not had a great idea is the surest way, it seems to me, of making it certain that no great idea will come in the next time either.

Yet your company is conducting this cerebration program on government money. To think of congressmen or the general public hearing about scientists fooling around, boondoggling, telling dirty jokes, perhaps, at government expense, is to break into a cold sweat. In fact, the average scientist has enough public conscience not to want to feel he is doing this even if no one finds out.

I would suggest that members at a cerebration session be given sinecure tasks to do—short reports to write, or summaries of their conclusions, or brief answers to suggested problems—and be paid for that; the payment being the fee that would ordinarily be paid for the cerebration session. The cerebration session would then be officially unpaid-for and that, too, would allow considerable relaxation.

I do not think that cerebration sessions can be left unguided. There must be someone in charge who plays a role equivalent to that of a psychoanalyst. A psychoanalyst, as I understand it, by asking the right questions (and except for that interfering as little as possible), gets the patient himself to discuss his past life in such a way as to elicit new understanding of it in his own eyes.

In the same way, a session-arbiter will have to sit there, stirring up the animals, asking the shrewd question, making the necessary comment, bringing them gently back to the point. Since the arbiter will not know which question is shrewd, which comment necessary, and what the point is, his will not be an easy job.

As for “gadgets” designed to elicit creativity, I think these should arise out of the bull sessions themselves. If thoroughly relaxed, free of responsibility, discussing something of interest, and being by nature unconventional, the participants themselves will create devices to stimulate discussion.

The Shame In Murietta, California

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Citizens of this country use to hold up with pride these words that were emblematical of our values as a nation.

July 1, 2014 when I saw the news footage of the “foaming at the mouth” lunatic hordes of people brandishing their venomous insults towards the Border Patrol’s buses filled with Central America’s growing migration crisis of women with their children refugees, my heart was saddened at the loss of compassion for others that has become so prevalent today in this country by the Extreme Reactionary Conservatives.

“The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I cannot help but think of the poor Italian mother who had to send her child, particularly her male child, to this country for a better life. One that could provide the hope for employment to combat starvation, to put a roof over their heads, and with the hope of a safe life to build a family around.

A hard, and heart tearing decision to send off her child to another country from that of her birth, but the only survival choice, and prevention from being absorbed into the corrupt, criminal Mafia that was so prevalent for the poor in Italy at the turn of the 20th century.

I thought of the Irish who were starving in the land of their birth when a wealth of food was being shipped out to England by the controlling wealthy 1% in Ireland at that time.

In a single day on the 15th of September, 1847, at the height of the famine, the following goods were shipped out of Cork Harbor for England:
186 bags of flour
286 barrels of barley
334 barrels of wheat
96 casks of ham
486 boxes of eggs
219 head of cattle

“Eighteen forty seven,
Was the year it all began,
Deadly Pains of hunger,
Drove a million from the land,
They journeyed not for glory,
Their motive wasn’t greed,
Just a voyage of survival,
Across the stormy sea.”

I thought of those of Jewish descent for centuries who had to flee from countries such as Russia and Germany to keep from being exterminated by the ignorance of others in those countries simply for the beliefs of their faith.

This country was built and prospered from the many waves of immigrants over the years looking for a better life not only for themselves, but more importantly for their children. That is a pretty good motivation to succeed in a person’s adoptive country. The real plus benefit for our nation is this indisputable truism. “Sometimes from humble beginnings, greatness can bloom”.

Immigration has always been the fresh blood transfusion to keep our country growing and aided toward its progressive development. It is this diversity that makes us, The United States, great.

So I will close with sadness for how far many in this country clamming to be “good Americans simply trying to take back their country” hollow, bull shit verbiage, but while tomorrow as we celebrate our proclamation to the world on July 4, 1776, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

I give this last example of the ignorance, the intolerance to their fellow man, and claiming Christian Values, when their actions are anything but. To the “Tea Party, Ultra-Conservative, Whipped Up Nut Jobs,” I say; “You are not the answer, you are the problem”. I hope your hatred will be short lived for the sake of the United States of America.

Why Does The Reactionary Right Republicans Embrace Ignorance As A Virtue?

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I want to start off this posting to clarify that I do believe in God and embrace the qualities and values of being a 32nd Degree Freemason in the Scottish Rite. I am an active Republican with a family 150 year history of belonging to the Party of Lincoln. So from this perspective I can speak out on this subject.

Now that being said, as a man of science, I have to ask that even far beyond the current “War on Science” why does the Reactionary Right Republicans embrace ignorance as a virtue?  I dare say it has even become somewhat a point of pride.

Like the old joke, “What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?…. I don’t know and I don’t care!”

Even in the face of those with scholarly degrees with the expertise and facts of the liberal arts, you will find those claiming  the mantle of “God’s Religious Revaluations & Conservatives of Christian Values” being belligerently ignorant, and offended by anyone daring to suggest their wanted ignorance is less desirable than another’s educated knowledge.

I would refer you to the great American science fiction author and once Professor of Biochemistry at Boston University before his passing in 1992, Isaac Asimov’s statement, “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

The sad part is that this attitude has become the “Go-To Position” for many of the conservative politicians stumping on their campaign speeches.  As a true litmus statement of too many voting citizens in the U. S. is that sadly, this strategy is working for them.

Another question would be is how does a critical thinking person argue in a debating fashion the value of evidence and reason over wishful thinking and wanted ignorance prejudices? When confronted with the facts, this “Group Think” segment of Low Information Voters” (LIV) will just blow off any fact based logic as, “This is just your personal view.” With regards to the “Group Think” mentality of this demographic segment, I usually pass on George S. Patton’s quote, “If everybody is thinking alike….then somebody is not thinking”.

For this, I give you the example of the Tea Party loons. Among the Republican Party Leaders just a few years ago, the attitude was that this Tea Party segment was good to easily motivate and get active at election time.  They were calling it, “Whipping Up The Nut Jobs”.

The Tea Party subset of the Republican Party are even downright proud of their ignorance. In essence it has become a badge of honor.  It also displays their distain against what they view as a progressive thought value in knowing what a person is talking about before offering an opinion. This lack of employing any critical thinking logic has no value in what I would call a “Reality Based” thought for this shallow DNA gene pool segment.  My only explanation reasoning how this segment comes to their conclusions is there has to be a chromosome missing somewhere.

This of course is not the first time in the country we have seen this phenomenon, nor will it be the last. In closing I will end with a quote from John F. Kennedy: “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought”.  The ignorance of the John Birch Society that Jack Kennedy had to deal with has just morphed itself today as the Tea Party; both being funded by the Koch Family Funds.