Welcome to stren #91, The Common Sense Test of Common Sense. Today’s stren offers a practical means to distinguish universal values and truths from those that are often represented as universal but upon scrutiny are found to be self-serving, usually for the benefit of one individual or group at the expense of others.
The test of common sense is quite straightforward. It is met when multiple tribes with different ideologies discover or arrive at a similar conclusion, especially when they do so independently of the influence of other tribes. For example, the following values have been advocated by multiple groups:
- Treat others as you would have them treat you. The “Golden Rule” is found in some form in almost every ethical tradition.
- Love yourself so you have an abundance to offer others – why self-endorsement is critical. This is a variation of “Love your neighbor as yourself;” one of the bible’s most repeated commands.
- Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The serenity prayer has universal wisdom.
While the wording may vary, the meaning of the expression of common sense wisdom is widely understood. Rational individuals of differing cultures will process the data provided and arrive at similar conclusions. While one or a few may attempt to interpret the data to serve their own interest, a common consensus will emerge. Contrast this with those common assertions that suggest “My way is the only way”: Hitler’s “truth” that white German Aryans were a master race seduced millions; but Jews, blacks, gypsies, gays, most other countries and ethnic groups, and so on would hardly agree. Such self-serving beliefs become apparent when consensus from diverse groups is lacking.
Perhaps the easiest and most reliable areas to apply the common sense test are those supported by scientific knowledge. Science reveals cause and effect relationships that are universal. 2 + 2 = 4 among all tribes. Two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of hydrogen will always be identified as water. The once widely-believed assertion, based on authority, that the earth is the center of the universe has yielded to the scientific method that provides verifiable evidence to the contrary. Previously-accepted beliefs that influenced behavior are labeled false or superstition as the universal relationships of cause and effect disprove them. As we acquire more knowledge, we add to our universally repeatable assumptions.
Common sense means a phenomenon is perceived by one or more of our sense organs in a similar way among most if not all individuals. The similarity of our sense organs is sufficiently universal that the data provided and the conclusions we reach will be relatively constant despite one’s political or religious affiliation, location, ethnic background, gender, etc. Hot is hot in any tribe, and a lightning flash is similarly recorded in any retina. Although we recognize that perception can be distorted by one’s prior experience and belief system, the universality of the data provided by our senses is our best means to establish and verify universal ethical values. Stren #73, “What is Normal? What is Sane?” addresses the ease by which groups of individuals may be persuaded on the basis of authority to accept universal truths that are quite irrational. Scientific method and common sense fail to verify such truths prescribed by self-serving dictators, and the benefit to one tribe or individual at the expense of others is revealed.
The common sense test is most reliable where scientific method can validate universal cause and effect relationships; however, it is most important where knowledge of cause and effect has not yet reached and may never reach – those areas where action requires a leap of faith. Imagine that all the knowledge that can be proven by scientific method is contained within a fence. Historically, we have gradually expanded that fence. Given that more scientists are alive today than throughout all history, and that our technology allows us to communicate more effectively, we are dramatically accelerating the speed we expand the knowledge within the fence. Yet, we recognize there is an even larger area beyond the fence that has not yet yielded to scientific method and perhaps never will, including religion, aesthetics, ethics, morality, and political ideologies. How we think, feel, and act first relies on mindless acceptance of authority and then personal interpretation. Until we gain sufficient knowledge of cause and effect, we must make a leap of faith to guide us. One person’s “certainty” based on unproved assumptions frequently disagrees with the unproved assumptions of others. It is in these action pathways that the common sense test of common sense enables us to rise above the animals.
The Common Sense Test of Common Sense is most important in those areas beyond scientific knowledge where action must be guided by a leap of faith.
How shall we manage conflicts among tribes that are based on the leaps of faith that are beyond verification by scientific knowledge? Common sense wisdom suggests that we strengthen our areas of common interest and teach ourselves to maintain extreme tolerance to those areas of difference. The exception is assumptions that lead to murder or irresolvable harm to one or more tribes, or the greater whole. In this instance, the collective members of the sane group need to collaborate to limit the destructive actions using any reasonable, non-violent means. Physical confrontation may be justified when there is sufficient evidence of imminent life-threatening action by the self-serving offender.
Unfortunately, there are situations that don’t easily lend themselves to non-violent resolution, where two or more sides claim stubbornly and with equal force that their advocacy is “the right and only way.” This occurs because the representatives of one or more sides have yet to overcome their animal brain way of thinking. This is why we need to prevent such a situation by urgently teaching the newer way of thinking. ANWOT frees our will from our animal brain to become our own person and create out of the box solutions to difficult problems.
Most people agree with the universal ethic that murder and causing harm to others is not humane. Assumptions that lead to destructive aggression towards others are responsive to the common sense test – their self-serving nature can usually be readily identified.
We are all born stupid. Common sense allows us to direct our growing godlike power by replacing stupidity with wisdom. Stupidity is continuing to blindly obey authority when we are capable of applying universal knowledge of cause and effect to create newer, better solutions to current problems. Otherwise we will continue to serve our animal brain’s self-serving assumptions based on authority – survival of the fittest, fight or flight, and “my way, the only way.” Every major religion and ideology glorifies its warriors who kill in the name of their God or their leader. Yet most religious and secular groups arrive at universal values such as those identified above. They preach the humane qualities of peace, love, forgiveness, kindness, and compassion, and they forbid murder. With few exceptions, our global population wishes or prays for peace and abhors war. The common sense test of common sense makes it clear to all that we have reached a point in our evolution where to survive and thrive we must add wisdom (ANWOT) to instinct and tradition. We will be unstoppable if we merely unleash our pent-up passion for world peace.
Teaching ourselves to consistently apply the common sense test of common sense will inspire us to become proactive in prevention! United, we can avoid what we don’t want and create what we must to insure the well-being of our loved ones. “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.” (Abraham Lincoln) We can prevent what we can predict will cause harm.
Any person capable of rational thinking, irrespective of their allegiances, will conclude that war has become obsolete; confrontation using today’s weapons of destruction will make everyone a loser and all may be lost. We can no longer tolerate today’s weapons of destruction. We must teach ourselves non-violent ways to resolve differences. Common sense will also conclude the best way to resolve our differences is to focus on our similarities for our mutual benefit. Common sense is the means we recognize that our well-being is of our own doing by contributing to the greater system of which we are a part.
These common sense assumptions inspire me to be proactive; I invite you to partner with me:
- Knowledge of cause and effect has empowered us to proliferate weapons with such destructive power that we can no longer tolerate war! The traditional way of resolving disputes through harmful confrontation is no longer adaptive when multiple parties own weapons that offer no second chance. We must teach ourselves non-violent means to resolve our differences.
- Instinct and tradition, supported by mindless authority, focus on local priorities both historically and currently. Common sense enlightens us that to preserve our well-being we must add global priorities to our assignment of energy. All the world is suddenly our neighbor.
- The most likely way to proceed to succeed is by focusing on our similarities more than our differences. A house divided against itself cannot stand (Lincoln ). A united effort to unleash the imprisoned passion for world peace will be unstoppable.
- We require a considerable number of concerned peace teachers (I estimate one million) who will first teach themselves Einstein’s solution, a newer way of thinking, and then become the “each one, teach many” leaders to reach the rest of our seven billion population through the domino effect.
- Knowledgeable experts tell us to expect a release of WMD by the end of 2013 and almost certainly within the lifetime of our children unless we take urgent action. The rapid spread of godlike power to multiple tribes requires urgent education in self-awareness and prevention.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead). It worked for AA, Amway, Mary Kay, and every great religion. We must make it work for world peace.
2 Lincoln, speech of June 16, 1858 before the Republican State Convention, Springfield, Illinois. Quoted by many others, this is also a concept attributed to Jesus that is recorded in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/house.htm