Is there a black elephant in the room?

Advertisements
Chicago, 1957: a couple who moved into an all-white neighborhood looking at graffiti in front of their home. [Source: Historic Photographs]

Many people are discussing these days the racism topic.

A black man – George Floyd – was some days ago killed due to – as it seems – police brutality. This sparked a series of protests some of which were violent.

People started to talk against the protests and that violence. Others responded that the violence had started actually from the police. But no matter the details, the question of whether racism is a problem in the US was prevalent in all discussions.

For me, this is an elephant sitting in the room.

All we have to do is see it.

But as in the elephant example, what I see is not what you see…

For some, there is no solid ‘proof’ of racism in the US. And to be fair to the other countries as well, I will extend this to all other countries: For those people who deny the existence of racism altogether, there is no solid evidence for racism against blacks in the West in general (cannot really speak for other countries). There is no ‘proof’ that this group of people is treated unfairly.

The arguments the proponents of this ‘There-is-no-racism’ view have, vary from wrong to ridiculous – with a strong tendency to the latter.

RELATED ARTICLE: The source of ethics

So for example in the case of George Floyd, I have seen many people asking “How do I know that the police officer did what he did because of racism? Perhaps he is doing the same to white people as well”. That could be a good counter-argument. If we had actually data to support it. If not (which is currently the case), then this counter-argument is just a generalized counter-argument based on ‘doubt’ which we anyway have for everything in life – even for things we see in front of our eyes.

Hey, it is raining.

(But how can I be sure that it rains?)

This counter argument used by those denying the existing racism against blacks (and gays and women etc) is the cornerstone of hypocrisy. They see something (in that case we even have a video) but they choose not to see it because of something else that… might be true. They do not know whether the police officer could do something like that to whites as well. They just assume it. And then based on that assumption, they build their theory.

Convenient is it not?

Sure is.

But simple things are never simple.

The denial of so many in the face of something so evident is based on something very fundamental in human thought: Our inability to prove (or accept the proof) of anything, unless we experience it. This is something constantly mentioned by Harmonia Philosophica, but with regards to science philosophy mainly. Here it is – wrongly – used to justify injustice. Yes, it is true that there can be no positive proof not only of racism in this case but of any other logical proposition of any kind.

The truth is a philosophically elusive notion and cannot be attained, even for the most trivial and fundamental of scientific beliefs. For every scientific theorem or theory is based on unapproved axioms. Change these axioms and you will reach to a different theory (if that sounds weird, then read more Harmonia Philosophica). So if it is not possible to even prove that 1+1=2 (really, even this is based on axioms), how could one prove that the death of a black man under police brutality was because of racism?

And yet, we know it.

People denying the obvious are in this case doing nothing more than using a loophole in our inherent thinking mechanism to deny what in other circumstanced they would accept at ease. It would be right to say “I don’t know” or “I am not sure”, if you indeed said that every time you are not sure about something. But as said above, we are never 100% sure about anything, nor can we be in any way.

RELATED ARTICLE: Why you can’t be an agnostic

So what is this?

How can we be sure?

The answer is already answered.

By your everyday actions.

By your everyday choices.

By life itself.

Life which transcends the theory and makes us open our eyes beyond the limits of philosophy. Because no matter how you “do not know” whether there is racism, you do choose to be afraid of a black running in the street. No matter how much you are not “sure” of, automatic face detection algorithms you design keep on detecting more black people as ‘criminals’. No matter how much you are not ‘sure’ that there is racism, you still need to revert to nonexistent hypotheses to prove that what you see was not true. Regardless of your inability to pinpoint racism against black people, you do feel weird when standing next to a black person. No matter whether you are – philosophically – certain that black people do have the same rights as other people, it is still true that we have a disturbingly extremely low representation of black people in high-level positions.

Because you see, the greatest problem with science per se, is its inability to testify for the obvious. Even when it is raining, there will always be possible to claim that everything is an illusion and even build a theory based on that illustrious assumption. (Why not? Scientists today even talk about multiple universes which we will never anyway see – and they even get paid for that research) Even when Achilles is running to overcome the turtle, philosophy will still be able to ‘prove’ that Achilles will never overcome it. And even when black people are dying outside, science will still struggle with statistical models to ‘prove’ whether there is racism or not…

So beware of people expressing ‘doubt’.

They are usually the ones with the greatest beliefs.

And when they close their books.

And when they walk outside…

They will be astounded to see…

That Achilles did overcome the turtle.

That the policeman did step on Floyd’s neck…

And some of them, some of them who still have a soul, will come to realize what they knew but they have forgotten. That whatever they know, is because they really don’t know anything at all…

Hey!

Who put that black elephant in the room?!

Important Notes

  • Similar to the argument “How can we know it?” is the opposite argument “But I can prove to you that there is no racism”. In such arguments people tend to use examples of how for example the police was once also brutal to a white person. This is the opposite of what was described above: As it is impossible to prove anything beyond the shadow of a doubt, it is also very easy to claim that you have ‘proved’ something with the relevant assumptions. Again in that case, the very same fundamental limitation of science and our way of thinking is exploited: That whenever we think to prove something, we need to start from somewhere. And that somewhere is always a not-proved axiom/ assumption. With proper models and assumptions, one can even ‘prove’ that our universe does not exist.
  • No case is like the other. I have sure not covered all of the here. There are also cases which are similar to the case of black people suffering racism (e.g. women or gay people suffering discrimination) who are not also mentioned here. This is because the purpose of this post is not to generalize or prove anything. The are sites which do that in a much better way while providing all the necessary data for all these types and cases of racism and discrimination. The purpose of this article, since Harmonia Philosophica is a philosophy portal, is to show that philosophy and theory are good but up to a point. And from that point onward, life itself is much more important.
  • I have deliberately taken a stand not to refer to the violence in the protests during the previous days. Again, I believe there are many sites which cover these facts in an excellent and very professional manner. The goal of this article is to provide some philosophical insight. Nothing more. And, I hope, nothing less.

I am not a robot. Because… (in a minute!)

Advertisements
Photo by Mudassir Ali from Pexels

If you were trying to convince another human that you yourself are also human, what would you say? Probably something about emotions, right? That might work – but other humans are more likely to believe your humanity if you talk about bodily functions.

Specifically, the word ‘poop’.

At least, that’s the finding from a study that sought to determine a “minimal Turing test”, narrowing the human-like intelligence assessment down to a single word.

In a new paper, cognitive scientists John McCoy and Tomer Ullman of MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (McCoy is now at the University of Pennsylvania) asked 1,089 study participants what single word they would choose for this purpose: not to help distinguish humans from machines, but to try to understand what we humans think makes us human. The next part of the study involved figuring out which of those words would be more likely to convince other humans of humanity.

Unsurprisingly, the least successful word was robot. But the most successful – poop – was a surprise. This could, the researchers said, be because ‘taboo’ words generate an emotional response, rather than simply describing one. (1)

Ah those humans.

Amazing beings.

Trying to understand the cosmos.

Feeling love and hate.

Trying hard.

Looking at the stars.

Wandering.

In search for meaning.

Alone with their self.

At the hardest time.

Poop!

Yeah…

Coming out in a minute!

Boosting creativity.

Advertisements

What is creativity, and can it be enhanced – safely – in a person who needs a boost of imagination? Georgetown experts debate the growing use of electrical devices that stimulate brain tissue and conclude there is potential value in the technique. However, use of these machines also raises neuro-ethical, legal, and social issues that must now be addressed. (1)

Boosting creativity.

Because we feel we need to be creative.

Because we are creative.

And we can understand when we are not…

Sounds weird. But don’t all true things do?

Thrown into the cosmos.

Not being able to understand a thing.

Thus, being able to feel everything…

This is who we are.

Artists. Not thinkers.

Let your brain go. You don’t need any boost.

Because anyone who is able to give a boost, already has one…

Sharing.

Advertisements

In the modern world, people cooperate with other people including strangers all the time. Researchers reporting in Current Biology who’ve studied Hadza hunter-gatherer people in Tanzania over a six-year period have new and surprising insight into why people work together. The findings show that it isn’t that people who like to share choose to live with others who also like to share. Rather, people adapt their own sharing tendencies so as to match that of the group they currently live in. In other words, sharing is driven by local group norms and behaviour. (1)

Typical modern scientific conclusion.

Typical modern scientific research.

Ignoring the real problem.

And just pushing back the solution.

Let’s agree with the result of the researchers and say that our behavior towards sharing is defined by the behavior of the group. Does this answer the true question which is why do we share in the first place? Surely not. It just pushes back the problem, since now we must try to find out why the group we are in is favorable to sharing. And this group is made out of people. So again, we are where we started from: To try to understand why people share.

Typical modern scientific conclusion.

Typical modern scientific research.

Ignoring the real solution: Our own free will is the source of all we do. We are the masters of the cosmos, not its slaves. Look at the problem. There is no solution. It is just that there is no problem in the first place…

There is no river.

There is no water.

There is no life.

In the beginning there was just everything. And still is.

Important work…

Advertisements
Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

A very important question asked in the midst of the greatest replication crisis of modern science: Who will do replication work? (1)

Look at those scientists.

Doing important work.

Analyzing data. Publishing papers. They are not like the people outside. They do not care about love, flowers or romance. They have work to do. They need to make important work. And yet. Those scientists grew by a mother who loved them. They were born out of the romance between two simple people. People doing simple work. People caring for their children.

Look at those scientists.

They do important work.

How silly they look…