Truth

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What is truth? No, I’m not talking about “the truth”. Like what things may or may not be true. But truth itself. What does it mean for something to be true or not?

Truth is relatively simple for objects. Truth for an object refers to it’s existence. I can know the truth about the existence of an object by observing it’s physical reality. I can experience it and through observation by one or more of my senses, know if that “thing” is really there. I know my pen is real because I can pick it up, experience it’s weight and physical appearance and know the truth of it’s existence. (Yes, we can debate the philosophy of body-mind reality of consciousness but that’s outside the point of this post.)

You might doubt the “truth” of my pen (for example) and I might have to prove that to you. I could show you a picture or video. That would be evidence for it’s existence. You might want to come see it, or touch it to know that it is real. Depending on the claim I have for the existence of any physical object you are probably going to want better and better evidence. If I tell you I won a Ferrari, you might need to see it to actually believe it, or want some other proof of ownership, etc. Extraordinary truth claims are going to warrant extraordinary evidence. If I tell you I was abducted by aliens, the amount of physical evidence you might need would be extensive.

So what about truth that is not an object? How do we know if something that we cannot experience physically is true? Let’s start with a familiar example: How do we know that the circumference of a circle is related to the diameter by an exact ratio we call Pi? Well, we could measure it and test it physically… but that will only get us so far. At some point we won’t be able to measure it accurately enough to ensure that the infinitely repeating irrational number Pi is correct. We need to “prove” it using logic. Even something as simple as basic addition and subtraction can be “proven” to work using mathematical or logical proofs. Using such proofs and building upon them we can determine a lot of how the physical world works even when we can’t directly experience it.

What about concepts that are not as straight forward? How would someone know the truth about a complex social system? What if we wanted to know the truth of a political ideology or religious claim? Unfortunately, some of these systems are not the matter of truth or not true. But closer to the truth or further from the truth. Their complexity means that elements of them can be truthful. That is, that they can be actually representative of the world as it exists. Or they can be untruthful, and not accurately describe that reality. Being able to judge is the challenge of any person, and society. The closer any person or group of people comes to finding that truth, the more knowledge they will have about the reality of the world we live in. That knowledge gives power to the actions they are able to make. Actions made based on truth are more likely to produce the intended outcomes than actions based on untruth.

So the truth of a concept is it’s ability to accurate describe whatever system it is a part of. In science it’s often tested by it’s predictive ability. We start with a hypothesis that we think might be true and we test to see if it’s ability to predict future outcomes holds true. That truth becomes something we know describes the way the world, or universe, or reality works.

So how do we determine what is true and not? How do we find truth? We can use the tools above! We try to observe as best we can, use logic and rational thought, and examine good evidence. Truth seekers always need to remain skeptical. Finding truth means challenging preconceived ideas and testing what we already might think is true. Finding truth means listening more often, looking for logic and reason, and not being afraid of challenging what we might hope for, and accepting what really is.

Truth is the way to making good choices and living a good life. If we are not basing our choices on truth, then we can’t possibly predict the outcome. And predicting the outcome by making choices based on truth is the only way to achieve the goals we have, regardless of what morality we choose to live by. And we don’t get to choose truth. Truth just is. Much like my example pen, I don’t get to choose what color the ink is after I buy it, or get to choose if it works or not, or choose how long it will last. The pen is what it is. And the more truthful my understanding of that pen the more use I can get from it. Such is life. The more truthful our lives can be the more happiness, love, and peace we can find, if those are the goals we have. Such are my goals and so truth is what I will seek.

Socialism

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For as long as I can remember I’ve been a socialist. I vote “left” and support government programs, social assistance, and regulation of our economic system.

I think it all started with a social studies teacher in the 8th grade. I don’t remember his name but he was a passionate teacher. He would read us passages from Animal Farm standing on his desk. He opened my eyes to the inequality and dangers that come from power. He made me think about the culture that I grew up in and invited me to question why I thought the way I did.

I have always had a talent at seeing how things fit together. It’s a big reason I went into computers and technology. I am able to look at the big picture and see how one part affects other parts to affect the whole. This has helped me see the economic machine we live in, and to understand generally how each piece of our economy affects others. And from what I have seen, I think that a balanced socialist capitalism works best for meeting the needs of people, as well as enabling them to find the most happiness.

Like most things in life, it’s all about finding a balance. Our economy has to work for our society as a whole. Not equally, because that wouldn’t be fair or sustainable. But also with some measure of control. Like it or not we are selfish beings. We will generally take as much as we can justify. Even when we know this will hurt or be unfair to others. So there has to be a balance to how much any one person (or company) can take from an economy. If not, they will take so much that it will hurt the economy as a whole.

I think Canada has been both lucky and smart. Partly because our economy hasn’t been so big it can face some of the problems our larger neighbor to the south has faced. But also because we as a people have more socially conscious and willing to share and be more equal. This has benefited our economy as a whole, both rich and poor, and we live in an extremely comfortable and happy country.

But we need to stay vigilant in that comfort and learn from the mistakes of other nations and economies. We need to maintain enough control that we don’t allow the power that can come from inequality to take too much and break the system. We need to maintain those systems, like justice and a free press, that can be the check and balance against corruption and greed. We need to vote based on facts and common good, not fear and propaganda.

I’m hopeful as always that things are getting better and not worse and our economy will decide much of that. I would encourage Canadians to stay vigilant in our tradition of social consciousness.

Why I don’t believe in God

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I don’t believe in God. I used to. I used to “know” he existed. But my thoughts on the matter changed.

The God that grew up with was a “heavenly father”. The God of the Mormon Church. He was loving and knew me inside and out and wanted the best for me. He was a forgiving God and I don’t know that I ever really feared not making it to heaven after I died. I understood that what little I felt guilty for was not enough to keep me away from his love and plan for me.

But as I grew older and mature in a complicated world I didn’t understand how his love was so selective for certain people. I feel so close to this just and caring God that would never abandon those who loved him, yet I couldn’t ignore the historical racism of those who taught me about him. I remember being confused about what black people might be like in heaven (would they turn white?).

I was also confused about God’s plan for people born gay, transgender, or intersex. As much as I wanted to imagine a world where people all fit into a neat little box I couldn’t deny that it just wasn’t so simple.

I remember a conversation with a minister in another church explaining their doctrine of infant baptism and how a baby could be “damned” if not baptized before they died. I remember replying that if that was really how God worked that it didn’t matter to me if it was true or not, that I would rebel against such injustice regardless of it’s source, divine or not.

I slowly started to realize this about my own God. That it was less a question about whether or not was true. But whether or not I wanted to believe and follow a God who acted or thought the way I was being told he did.

When our God is less good or moral than what we can ourselves imagine, it becomes clear that this God could not be from any higher place than ourselves. That he is no better than humanity because he is a creation of humanity. And therefore unnecessary.

I held onto the hope for some other “version” of God for a few years that would make sense to me. I had a hope for an eternal life and a judgment where wrongs would be made right. I wanted a perpetuation of my consciousness and relationship with my friends and family. But through experiences and knowledge and opening myself up to inconvenient truths I realized that these too were all constructs designed to shield me from what I don’t want to accept.

It is not easy to accept that I am simply biological. That some day I will die and simply not exist anymore. It is likewise sad that the same is true for my family members, dead or not-dead-yet. But it doesn’t give me the excuse to imagine something nicer. There are so many injustices, and pain, and difficulty in life we can’t just pretend away. Likewise, feeling love, or peace, or happiness doesn’t have to come from God. It doesn’t need any more source in us than our own biological brains. And that doesn’t need to be a depressing thought; it can be a freeing one.

When I freed myself from my childish desire to live in a perfect world where everything had a preset meaning and purpose, I allowed myself to see the meaning and purpose I could create for myself and others. When I realized that all religion was a product of a human mind, I fully understood how good and moral and wonderful we all are. When I stopped ignoring the truth, I found more than I ever hoped to comprehend.

1 Corinthians 13:11

I don’t believe in God because I don’t find any reason to. And that that realization fills me with peace, love and happiness.

Peace

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I am a pacifist. I think the world is on a path leading to peace. That the need for any form of physical violence is waning. I truly believe that at some point, people will be brought up in a world where murder is rare and abhorrent, and where people seek out ways to celebrate the differences between themselves instead of using them to subjugate each other.

Humans have evolved to thrive on inequality. In times where resources were scarce and life was much more tenuous it was very important to know who was part of your family or group and who was not. Conflict built an amazing ability in us to recognize friend from foe, family from outsider. But we now live in a time where resources are not so scarce and where the threat of death by violence is less and less every year. Yet we have this leftover need to sort people, to categorize, and most harmfully judge these groups as better or worse.

This in-group / out-group thinking has given rise to religion, politics, and socio-economic rankings. We feel a strong need to belong, not just to humanity, but to ever specific groups. And the second we group ourselves we put ourselves at odds with others. We naturally encourage conflict and competition. Some of this is can be good, but a lot more of this is bad.

The Internet has helped break down a lot of those religious and political groupings. Being able to communicate across the world freely and without censure has led to people feeling connected, not just as families, or coworkers, or country-members, but as people. Global trade has made it increasingly hard for war to break out. We will probably never see another world war. What wars we do continue to see will be smaller and shorter. And more can be done than ever before by using education, international aid, and technology to prevent wars from ever happening in the first place.

I’m excited that my kids will live in a more peaceful world than I was born into. I’m hopeful that the rate at which we are getting more peaceful and less violent is increasing. And that it will be in the lives of myself or my children that we all can live in a world were war is rare and met with aid, not more war. I am willing to never take up arms in this pursuit and hope there are many more that will join me in working towards a more peaceful future.

Happiness

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There is some pretty good research that shows that even after extremely “happy” or fortunate events like getting a new job, buying a car or even winning the lottery, we don’t stay happy very long. We revert back to baseline within a few weeks. I like this dutch study that showed that the best way to be happy on vacation is to never go. It’s not always intuitive what makes us happy and often we are not very good at making our selves happy in the long term.

I’ve struggled feeling happy all my life. I was fearful and shy as an adolescent and measured my happiness against that of others. I often felt left out of the enjoyment others felt from life. I rarely felt confident enough to pursue my own happiness.

I know that feeling this way is a pretty normal part of growing up and I don’t really think my experience was completely out of the norm. Perhaps a little further down from the middle of the bell curve for others in my social group, but on a large scale my childhood was what many of us experience.

I served a two year mission in France for the Mormon church that really helped me grow confident in myself and my independence. My mission was very hard for me, but because it was I grew tremendously from it. I learned social rules and gained experiences interacting with people. I started to learn how much of my happiness came from my experiences and interactions with those around me. I learned to find others who I felt happy around.

Coming home from my mission I was looking for someone to make me happy forever; my “eternal companion”. I had such a strong desire for a wife and family that I felt would be the final big step in finding a lasting happiness. And like anything, it was for a while. My life with my wife and kids was everything I hoped it would be and expected, yet… I wasn’t happy. Certainly I had the same ups and downs everyone has in marriage and life yet I could feel myself sinking. Sinking into a depression that was harder and harder to pull myself out of. I blamed my wife, I blamed my career, I blamed my church, I blamed my genetics, and more than anything I blamed myself.

This is an overly public forum to discuss my separation and divorce. But I can say that my life changed drastically after. I was on my own in a way I had never before experienced. Separated from my kids and my family, as well as my church community, I felt more alone than I had ever had. And not just alone physically, but independent of influence or control. It was up to me to figure out my own happiness. I had no rules and no constraints for the way I was able to live and find out what things make me happy.

And it was then that I started to realize what I was doing wrong. I started to see that I was looking for others to make me happy. I was looking for happiness to come from something external. And that’s just not how people work. Happiness comes from inside us. It is a reaction to things we are experiencing, and I finally started to gain control over what I was experiencing. I started to find those experiences and people that brought me happiness. Not because I was expecting them to make me happy. But because I started to figure out how to make myself happy.

I used to think about happiness as something that happens to us. We get happy, or something makes us happy. Or even that it is some future reward that we will get if we do something for it. But happiness is now. We can never experience future happiness. We only get to feel happy now. And it’s something we need to choose. Choosing happiness is as easy as know what makes us happy and doing our best to act that way. Knowing what makes us happy is the hard part.

Things that make me happy:

  • My kids
  • Feeling loved
  • Spending time with my friends
  • Showing love
  • Enjoying a good movie or book
  • Being truthful to myself
  • Accomplishing something difficult
  • Babies!
  • Snuggles
  • Good conversation
  • Learning something new
  • Comedy
  • Standing up for what I believe in
  • Kindness
  • Seeing the world progress
  • Technology and Science
  • Feeling free to chart my own course
  • Love

Love

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I love love. I know that sounds a little ridiculous but hear me out. Love is how we describe the feeling we get when we get really excited about something. The emotion of happily wanting something. The feeling that comes when the simple thought of something makes us happy. And I love feeling that way!

I love my kids. It’s the simplest and most powerful example of love I can give. When I think about them, and spending time with them, and who they are as individuals, I feel love. I miss them when they aren’t around, I’m excited to interact with them and I worry anything bad happening to them. It doesn’t mean I think they are perfect. But those imperfections fade when I think about how much I enjoy having them in my life and my excitement to see them grow and experience life.

I love my family. Both my biological family and my family of friends. I feel the same way about them as I do my children, just not to the same extent. I love and am excited to spend time with them and have concerns for their well-being. It makes me happy when they show and reflect the love I have for them back at me.

I love people. I find it easy to love the people around me and throughout the world. I used to see people as somewhat neutral, not really being good or bad. But my experiences interacting with people socially has taught me that everyone has good in them. And that we as a species do a whole lot more good than we do bad. And that we are getting better as a whole everyday.

I want to love more. Both internally and showing that externally. It’s something I really strive for in my personal and professional relationships, and an idea I try to promote through example and through helping people to see that love, unselfish caring love, is never wrong or inappropriate or too much. We could all use a whole lot more love.

Who is Strater?

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Hi! My name is Strater. Like, that guy is straight and I’m Strater.

Welcome to my personal website and blog. Chances are that we know each other in some kind of personal, professional, or social manner but maybe not. So let me tell you a little about me so you know from what context the subsequent posts are coming from.

Who Strater is (in no particular order):

  • I am the father of three amazing children
  • I am a white cisgender male
  • I have a BSc degree in Mathematical Sciences (Math + CompSci + Stats) from the University of Alberta
  • I’ve lived in Alberta, Canada most of my life
  • I’m a pacifist
  • I like knowing how things work
  • I believe in equality
  • I love people and relationships
  • I strive for honesty in all aspects of life
  • I work for the Alberta Government
  • I’m a secular humanist
  • I’m a web programmer
  • I’m a Patrick

Obviously this doesn’t capture everything about me which I suppose is the point of this blog. To share who I am with those who are interested. So come back often as I add my thoughts to this page. And let me know what you think.

Thank you!