RADIO SHOW/AUDIO PODCAST
Solutions...with Courtney Anderson! (SwCA)
Episode 168 -
Originally aired 8/14/2014 9:00 AM -
MYTH WARRIORS series -
“Everything Happens For a Reason.”
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TALK SHOW EPISODE NOTES
In the MYTH WARRIORS™ series we are targeting ideas to begin to assess whether they are credible or not. We are warriors fighting to establish clarity between what is accurate and what is simply a myth (or falsehood) in life. This episode is, “Everything Happens For a Reason.”
Our options that we discuss in this show are:
1) Everything happens.
2) Everything happens for a reason.
3) Everything happens for a specific reason (religious based, scientifically based, etc.).
This is intriguing show! Please join in as we explore some ideas that will challenge our assumptions about “what we know.” I did not anticipate that I would be so drawn into examining my own ideas about our world as I was in this show! I am not a theologian, a historian, a philosopher, a physicist or anything other than a layperson with curiosity about these topics. If you do not want to think about the questions this show poses, just go to another episode. My intent is for all of us to be “unsure” about “what we know” by utilizing a process of critical thinking and inquiry.
A) In addressing option 1, “Everything happens,” how do we know what is ‘everything’ and what is actually happening? In the show we discuss that we may be experiencing reality right now or we may not. We may instead be experiencing a facade of reality (or a simulation) like in the movie, The Matrix (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133093/plotsummary). Or, we may be simply viewing shadows that we are mistaking for reality (e.g., Plato, The Allegory of the Cave see https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/cave.htm).
B) In addressing option 2, “Everything happens for a reason,” how do we begin to ascribe a reason to our still undefined ‘everything’ that we perceive to be ‘happening’?
C) In addressing option 3, “Everything happens for a specific reason,” this is where people may become angry in asserting that they have the ‘correct’ specific reason to explain the still undefined ‘everything’ that we perceive to be ‘happening.’ Some people have a religious or spiritual faith that they assert is the specific reason. They often have a requirement in their belief system to share their knowledge with other people to help them (save them from the consequence of having the incorrect specific reason).
Some people have a scientific specific reason that they are working to prove via evidence. For example, Albert Einstein spent decades of his life working on this issue (unified field theory). This unified theory (which string theory may explain), “‘resolves the incompatibility between quantum mechanics and general relativity (which, as currently formulated, cannot both be right).’ […] This launched his 30-year voyage in search of the so-called unified field theory that he hoped would show that these two forces are really manifestations of one grand underlying principle. This quixotic quest isolated Einstein from the mainstream of physics, which, understandably, was far more excited about delving into the newly emerging framework of quantum mechanics. He wrote to a friend in the early 1940s, "I have become a lonely old chap who is mainly known because he doesn't wear socks and who is exhibited as a curiosity on special occasions.”” For the first time in the history of physics we therefore have a framework with the capacity to explain every fundamental feature upon which the universe is constructed." (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/theory-of-everything.html)
Some people are insulted by having their religious, spiritual or scientific belief compared to a different one. Some people argue that their religious or spiritual belief works in conjunction with (or compliments) scientific evidence or vice versa. Some people argue that only proven scientific empirical evidence is acceptable as a specific reason and that it is illogical to compare it to any non-scientific reason. Of course, even gravity is potentially not proven if we are not experiencing reality but instead a computer simulation or shadow on the wall of a cave (back to the option 1 discussion).
D) Another really interesting question is why do humans want to have a reason at all (irrespective of the acrimony over which specific reason may be ‘correct’)?
Some people argue that humans do not want to have a reason but that there is a specific reason (as per their faith in option 2 above) and that is why they believe that everything happens for a reason. If we walk on a floor that has liquid and we slip and fall, is the fall because of the liquid on the solid floor surface that prevented us from having traction to remain standing? Or, is the reason we fell because of a religious punishment? Or, is the reason that we fell because there is no reason and everything that occurs is simply random chaos (http://www.ted.com/conversations/2657/is_universe_design_pre_program.html)?
E) Setting aside the possible specific reasons for an undefined ‘everything’ perceived to be 'happening', is the human desire to want to have a reason based on a psychological theory?
The Just World Theory, from The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, “The need to see victims as the recipients of their just deserts can be explained by what psychologists call the Just World Hypothesis. According to the hypothesis, people have a strong desire or need to believe that the world is an orderly, predictable, and just place, where people get what they deserve. Such a belief plays an important function in our lives since in order to plan our lives or achieve our goals we need to assume that our actions will have predictable consequences. Moreover, when we encounter evidence suggesting that the world is not just, we quickly act to restore justice by helping the victim or we persuade ourselves that no injustice has occurred. We either lend assistance or we decide that the rape victim must have asked for it, the homeless person is simply lazy, the fallen star must be an adulterer. […]
For some people, it is simply easier to assume that forces beyond their control mete out justice. When that occurs, the result may be the abdication of personal responsibility, acquiescence in the face of suffering and misfortune, and indifference towards injustice. Taken to the extreme, indifference can result in the institutionalization of injustice. Still, the need to believe that the world is just can also be a positive force. The altruism of volunteers and of heroes who risk their lives to help strangers in need is a result of people trying to restore justice to insure that the world remains just. […]
Neither science nor psychology has satisfactorily answered the question of why the need to view the world as just exerts such a powerful influence on human behavior and the human psyche. But the research suggests that humans have a need to bring their beliefs about what is right into conformity with the objective reality they encounter--and that they will work to achieve consistency either by modifying their beliefs or attempting to modify that reality.” (http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v3n2/justworld.html)
F) If everything happens for a specific reason, how can we have a just criminal justice system to punish people if they had no control over what they did (because it happened for a reason)? Or, in the alternative, is criminal justice 'easy' as people 'get what they deserve' (just deserts)?
More about belief in a just world (BJW), “Supporting B ́enabou and Tirole’s intergenerational interpretation of their model, the BJW is particularly strong in children. As noted by Piaget (1965:260): “A great many children think that a fall or a cut constitute punishment because their parents have said to them, It serves you right, or That will be punishment for you, or God made it happen!” This fact should come as no surprise given how frequently children’s stories and myths (e.g., Cinderella, Pinocchio, and Santa Claus) “emphasize the rewards that fol-low from virtue and the punishments that follow from misbehavior.”page 10
Lerner (1998) argues that individuals derive utility from believing in a just world, or suffer increasing anxiety and stress from believing the world is increasingly unjust. People are therefore willing to trade off the utility of BJW against the informational benefits from unbiased inferences about the world. There is evidence supporting the benefit of some trade- off, that a BJW correlates with stronger marital relationships (Lipkus and Bissonnette, 1996) and in coping with bereavement (e.g. Bonanno et al., 2002). page 11” [from BELIEF IN A JUST WORLD, BLAMING THE VICTIM, AND HATE CRIME STATUTES by Dhammika Dharamapala, Nuno Garoupa, and Richard H. McAdams from THE LAW SCHOOL, THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, October 2008. This paper can be downloaded without charge at the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics Working Paper Series: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/Lawecon/index.html and at the Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper Series: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/academics/publiclaw/index.html and The Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection.]
G) I obviously do not have ‘the answer’ to these questions. Yet, these issues are all at the heart of courses I teach in criminal justice, ethics, law, and business.
AT THIS TIME:
Some humans want to believe (or believe that they have to believe) that everything happens for a reason, yet it is not universally conclusively proven. We humans have not agreed to answer conclusively what 'everything' is, if it is actually 'happening', if there are reasons why the undefined everything is happening and what those specific reasons are. So, the show episode topic is a myth for the current time in terms of our collective humanity (all of us). Individually, many people believe the show topic is not a myth and that they have defined 'everything,' what is actually happening and what the specific reasons are for what is taking place.
After this show discussion you should better understand the fervor that many individuals have to share their beliefs with others. The motives are usually based a sincere desire to help other people (with 'the answer'). You should also be more empathetic to understanding if someone is not comfortable or receptive to adopting your specific reasons (if they contradict their existing specific reasons). Tolerance of the struggle that we all face when exploring these ideas should be something that we can all understand.
Collectively, we humans will focus on continued research and guarding against our own bias which may provide poor outcomes and/ or prevent us from surpassing our goals. Individually, we believe what we believe and we may be (or are) 'right.' We should be able to understand why it is challenging to ask these questions and we should respect the diversity of 'answers' that people have to these questions (even if we are confident that they 'are wrong' in their conclusions). There are humans studying and exploring every religion, spirituality, and scientific line of inquiry. We should be secure enough in our personal beliefs to accept these multiple schools of thought as not a threat to our individual beliefs but as a product of the diversity and depth of human curiosity and inquiry. Having pity (or mercy) for other humans who 'are wrong' should be something we consider (instead of anger and/or conflict). We shall all see what the future holds! Those who are 'right' will be so and those who are 'wrong' will be so.
NOTE: In the show I mentioned a performer who passed away in 2014 that was the subject of a documentary when she was 87 years old (and still working) and it was Tony and Emmy award-winner Elaine Stritch - http://www.npr.org/2014/03/01/280715944/elaine-stritch-volatile-and-vulnerable-in-shoot-me.
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