Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Faith In Inhumanity

Just a link with some commentary this time out. The link is to an article on Cracked, which apparently is based on (and possibly still run by some of the same people for all I know) the magazine of the same name from a couple of decades back.

I never cared much for Cracked; it always struck me as an inferior knockoff of Mad magazine. Even when the legendary Don Martin jumped ship to them, Cracked just never seemed as funny as Mad.

Nowadays, of course, Mad magazine is a shadow of its former self. I'm pretty sure my sense of humour hasn't matured much since I was eleven, and I still find their older issues funny, so I'm reasonably confident that the magazine has changed. Going to glossy colour with corporate sponsorship (both of which are understandable as economic necessities) don't seem to have suited them.

Anyway, the Cracked website is one of the funniest places on the Net. Conservative Grapevine often links to their articles, but I frequently stop by the Cracked homepage to see what's going on even when CG hasn't pointed anything out lately.

One word of warning: the guys and gals at Cracked get a bit potty-mouthed at times, and the article I'm linking to is no exception. If some strong language (not a lot; we're not talking Tarantino levels) is a dealbreaker for you, then this article is not for you.

The article is titled 5 Psychological Experiments That Prove Humanity is Doomed (guess where you can click to go read it?). I loved it, although I prefer to think of it as "5 Psychological Experiments That Completely Justify My Cynicism."

I differentiate between cynicism and pessimism by using definitions of my own crafting: cynicism is a belief that people will, in the aggregate and over the long term, do wrong things given the opportunity. This worldview has been classically known as Original Sin, but has sadly fallen out of favour in the marketplace of ideas. Pity, because it's absolutely true. It's even verifiable on a scientific basis - it has great predictive value. Predict that people will eventually mess up anything that's going well, and vindication will be yours.

I do not consider myself a pessimist at all. My personal working definition of pessimism is a belief that God will do things that we see as bad. "That guy in the other lane is probably going to cut me off" = cynicism. "I'll probably get pancreatic cancer, despite having no identified risk factors" = pessimism.

The funniest thing to me about the linked article is that I was already very familiar with all five of the experiments, and have based much of my worldview since my teens on their findings. I knew number three as "audience inhibition effect", but other than that I've cited all five, by name, hundreds of times over the years. When I later became a Christian, I suddenly found that these experiments - and indeed, pretty much everything in the newspapers - made perfect sense. We are truly horrible creatures when we believe ourselves unfettered by a higher moral authority.

The article is split over two pages, with the first three experiments on page one with the top two on the second. My wife, after reading the first page, expressed surprise that a specific well-known experiment (Peter Gabriel has written at least two songs about it) wasn't on the list. I replied, "It'll be number one. And [name of number two] will be number two." Moving on to the second page, we found I was correct about both.

The article is well worth a read, especially if you're still clinging to a belief in the inherent goodness of humankind. (Note: I do not normally recommend reading Cracked for theological insights... although they have a couple of other articles that I may link to sometime that are strangely up that same alley.)

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my telephone, which is essentially decorative, and the bulletin board that hangs steadfast and sentrylike over it.

1 comment:

RebelAngel said...

The article (is it an "article"?) said that when they called the prison experiment off the "guards" were disappointed. I wonder if they would have been so enthusiastic to keep going if they had been told "Now the two groups switch places"