Month: July 2014

Three Senses of “FAITH”

In casual discussions, and even often in formal dissertations, the word “Faith” is often used, somewhat loosely. It should be understood that it can be meant in one of three senses.

Faith as in Tenacity, as a belief despite evidence to the contrary.

Faith as in the Will to Believe, a belief in the absence of evidence either way.

Faith as Expectation, a belief based on previously observed evidence in the expectation that that evidence will continue.

The first is what sells Lotto tickets to people who know that the chances of winning are usually astronomically bad. In fact, I am quite sure that the majority who purchase Lotto tickets do so because they know that most weeks someone, somewhere, will win and just maybe one day the Gods will smile on them.

The second fills the pews at the corner church despite the failure of there being a shred of evidence that prayers will increase the chances of a favorable result to their requested outcome. Note the selective memory that is displayed when what they prayed for occurs. “God was looking after me.” But they never accept the logical conclusion for all the times their desired outcome failed to materialize; “God sure had it in for me when the tornado went through town.”

The last sense in which people have faith is what gets the seed corn planted in the springtime.

Because I might buy a Lotto ticket on occasion should never be confused with a belief in some imaginary good buddy in the sky who will bless the numbers I have chosen as long as I promise to tithe the local church, give up chocolate ice cream or mumble through the sixty odd rosary prayers every night for a week..

Nor should my plans to take my children on a picnic next Sunday be confused with anything deeper than that, for all my life Sunday has followed Saturday and the weather in Florida is usually quite amenable to such outdoor activity. It is reasonable for me to act upon that expectation without implying some metaphysical belief that Amun-Ra is personally interested in my tan lines.

Confusing the usage of one with an example of the other is careless if unintended and deceptive if intentional. It often makes logical discussion between well-meaning friends difficult or even impossible.

Substituting a contrived construct like “pre-supposition” for one sense or the other can be acceptable, but the intention of the user will still determine which of the three diverse senses controls the intended meaning. Conflation either way still leads to misunderstanding and confusion. That leads to debaters talking past one another and eliminates any possibility of compromise and agreement.

© 2014, Charlie Jensen, All Rights Reserved


Rushing to Immediate Judgement.

A guest on the Chris Hayes Show, “Up”, (NBC 8AM to 10AM Saturdays and Sundays) today, who is supposed to be an expert on the facts surrounding the Columbine massacre and who wrote what appears to be the definitive account of the events and the participants actions, pointed out that virtually everything reported about the shooters in the first few days after the tragedy there, turned out to be rumor based on innuendo and factually incorrect reports.  As a result, intelligent people step back and allow the investigators the time to gather evidence and supporting facts, withholding rash judgments that are based on weakly understood and often misconstrued sets of reports.

I am reminded of other events of my lifetime that demonstrated a similar rush to misjudgment.

Many of the reports that swirled around the Kennedy assassination in 1963 were equally mistaken and were drawn from people surrounding the shooting in Dealey Plaza who were excited and somewhat traumatized by what they saw or thought they saw on that fateful day.

The same thing happened after the Oklahoma bombing and worst of all, the World Trade Center attack. One of the very first reports from onlookers was that a small commuter plane had, at the last moment, veered off course and smashed itself into the first tower. That was picked up at NBC, uptown, and announced with varying degrees of confidence for several minutes until the second 727 came barreling in and crashed straight head-on into the second tower. It was only after the tape was rewound and played back at a reduced speed that some facts become more accurate than those eyewitnesses on the street who, by definition, ought to have provided the most true descriptions of what had just happened a few hundred yards from their vantage point.

These quick responses and distorted assessments of what had just happened before these witnesses very eyes are what led to the growth of most of the deeply misleading conspiracy theories that, to this day, cannot be debunked in the minds of those who, either have an agenda or are just gullible. As a result, these vivid conspiracy stories plague certain parts of civil and political discourse.

Eyewitness testimony has been long known to be almost as unreliable as statements from people who were not even present at an event. In law schools every year short drama’s are acted out during a class or seminar, themed on the lack of reliability of witnesses, in front of the students by members of the faculties that demonstrate this fact to the eager and willing lawyer candidates. They construct a traumatic event and during the discussion and questioning afterward, it becomes obvious that these well educated and attentive women and men not only miss key points but sometimes provide testimony of things that didn’t happen.

At a seminar with my wife several years ago the speaker asked his audience, fifty or sixty reasonably well educated and motivated behavioral care providers, to watch a short video clip and count the number of times the individuals in the video passed a basketball from one to another.

At the end of the clip the audience was polled and while I had counted seventeen exchanges most seemed to have found eighteen, which was supposed to be the precise count although there was one person who only saw nine may have been kidding., or asleep.

Once the correct number of exchanges was explained the lecturer, asked how many people had seen the gorilla in the clip. Virtually no one. What gorilla?

He re-ran the clip and it showed the six or seven people, dressed in white uniforms passing the basketball as a group of players might do while preparing to take to the courts for a game, when during the middle of the sequence an elevator doors behind them opened and a guy in a dark black gorilla suit exited the elevator, paused to look at the ball passers and then stepped out of view.

Neither I, nor my wife, nor the people in the audience had seen the big dark black gorilla suited interloper pass right through the middle of this group of men (?) who were by contrast dressed in what may have been white basketball warm-up sweats.

The point is that the sudden news coverage of excited possibly traumatized survivors, witnesses, and near witnesses is not a good accurate accounting of what took place directly in front of them.

Whether we apply this knowledge to this shooting in Connecticut or the attacks in Benghazi, the initial reports must be considered so likely to be inaccurate as to be statistically worthless. The best that can be said about initial reports by reports, both official, as well as those connected with the news media, is that they are incomplete and are subject to revision as real evidence is gathered, assembled and evaluated.

And if the witnesses so breathlessly interviewed outside the school in Sandy Hook are providing inaccurate or at the least suspect information what is the purpose of conducting the exercise as if something could be changed if only the people in South Florida and Kodiak, Alaska were provided with instant erroneous details.

One important point, such witnesses are neither lying nor consciously attempting to slant what they saw. In their mind, they may be telling the absolute truth as they see it, saw it and recall it. It is just that our brains have some interesting wiring that allows us to fill in what is visually missed and ignore what is not the subject of our concentration. That is where prejudices and previous experiences come into play, adding color and sounds and providing the details that while not actually seen, appear to be necessary to allow the images to conform to what we might call common sense.

Our judicial system provides, through the discovery of DNA and the advances in its testing, dozens of instances where supposedly rock solid evidence, by absolutely certain witnesses of a crime that, often after years of incarceration, is shown to be scientifically impossible to have been true.

An example of the problem with memory is that I often remind myself that I should do something important and I sometimes sketch out the details of the chore in my mind.

If I do that once or twice and, the memory bank retains the last memory best and it can become a distinct recollection of having done what was only contemplated.

That is why by the time a witness is called to testify about an incident seen first hand, the actual recollection has faded away long ago and the witness tells a very altered version.

That happens to soldiers in wartime who tell a story so often, or relive an incident in their dreams, that they may come to believe that they were at the forefront of some action when in fact they may only have had a peripheral involvement.

I recognize this phenomenon and try to use notes to preserve accuracy, but it becomes a struggle between remembered fantasy and reality, between recovered recollections and contemporaneous written notes.

Lawyers know that far too often eyewitnesses are the worst witnesses

© 2014, Charlie Jensen, All Rights Reserved

The Tea Party’s Liberty Tree

The Tea Party’s

American LibertyTree.

Gays are an abomination.

Corporations Are People.

Global warming’s a big hoax.

College students are all snobs.

Poor people deserve to be poor.

The Bible trumps the Constitution.

The unemployed are lazy parasites.

Union workers are all socialist thugs.

Women who use birth control are sluts.

Latinos are illegal until proven otherwise.

The U.S. auto industry should go bankrupt.

The President is a Muslim agent from Kenya.

The Girl Scouts;

A lesbian organization with an abortion agenda.

Any response about the truth or falsity of these positions is irrelevant.

They have all been stated, directly or indirectly by prominent Right Wing

political figures, all of whom seem to be of the Formerly Grand Old Party.

I cut

my Republican Party cards in half fifteen years ago and mailed them

to party headquarters in Tallahassee. How about you ?

© 2014, Charlie Jensen, All Rights Reserved

Proclaim Liberty throughout the land

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


Some seventy-five years ago a mid-sized cruise ship sailed from Hamburg, bound for Havana, Cuba. Aboard were almost 1,000 passengers who had proper visas to allow them to land in Cuba where they would have sought asylum from the growing Nazi mayhem that had developed in Germany.

The vessel arrived in Havana harbor, to find that some laws had been changed and their visas were no longer valid. When pleadings and appeals were ignored Captain Schroder took the ship to a point near Miami. The passengers were refused entry to the land of the free. They sailed slowly up the east coast while people ashore all the way to Ottawa tried to arrange a refuge for these Jews from the then impending holocaust.

But no, and finally the MV St Louis returned to Europe. The passengers were distributed among several countries, about 300 to Britain, some to Holland and Belgium, a few to Switzerland and the rest safely to France. Safe, that is, until May of 1940 when the Nazi war machine burst forth onto Western Europe.

Most of the refugees trapped there were eventually rounded up and sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. Thank you very much America.

Can you imagine the raw brainpower of these refugees and their descendants that we lost when they were sent back to Nazi Europe?  How many doctors, scientists, educators and successful entrepreneurs, that could have enriched our nation were denied the simple asylum that international law and common Christian decency demands.

And now we are presented with a very large number of men, women and young children, fleeing violence, murder and mayhem have arrived seeking some of that loudly proclaimed Christian charity. And who are these people? They are the survivors of an even larger group who actually set forth to reach the modern promised land. The survivors who are most likely to become a productive member of our society.  The same hypocrites who have been complaining that the President has been ignoring the laws that many of them voted for and were signed with some fanfare during the last administration are now demanding that President Obama ignore those laws and immediately send these people who risked so much and endured so many dangers be sent back to a modern holocaust while they bloviate in the Senate and House chambers, contributing nothing to any solution.

If only there were some way to ship some Congressmen to these destitute Central American nations for a week or two so they had the time to rest and read their bibles and learn what suffering and physical danger there is to the people living there.

As our good Christian Congressmen are aware, their Bible demands;

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.

Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

Psalms 82:3-4

© 2014, Charlie Jensen, All Rights Reserved