Saturday, January 18, 2014

Glass-lookers: One and All ?

Mirror, Mirror
on the wall
In 1826, Joseph Smith was purportedly brought to trial1 for glass-looking. The flurry of derision seems unending, so it is rather fortunate that glass-looking is no longer a misdemeanor. Fortunate because most of us spend large portions of our day, glass-looking as in: iphone, smartphone, ipad, Nexus, desktop, laptop, Kindle, Kobo, TV, DVD-player, or a thousand other branded devices that crowd our real estate—not to mention those ubiquitous mirrors. Glass-looking indeed!

Twenty year-old Joseph Smith was accused of looking for treasure with his “magical” stone. What are we modern glass-lookers, seeking with our electronic “magic”?2 Some personal treasure?—like knowledge, information, connection, communication, riches, fame, fantasy, popularity, market flux, gambling, gaming, titillation, best price, a relationship, another like, a viral backdoor, a sucker, a stolen identity, a Second Life, a third wife, ... ? (The list of “treasures” is endless.)

As many researchers have noted, magic and folklore permeated Joseph’s environment, as did skeptics who feared misuse—to deceive and defraud. Hhmm! Glass-looking to deceive and defraud? What a novel idea! Or just déjà vu?

But who can judge the intent of a glass-looker with certainty? And who cannot use selective information to support presuppositions?3

In 100 years, (nay, even today with our ever-watching / -listening NSA), what “accusations” might be dug up about any one of us from the archaeology of data-mining?
Why did X google “child sacrifice”? To research her (never-published) book about the ancient god Moloch or for some Friday-the-13th forest ritual?

Why did Y Ask “explosive”? To build an IED or to find synonyms to use when pitching his new and sensational play about Mitch McConnell?

Why did Z bing “Bill O'Reilly deceased”? To find a missing great-uncle in the family tree or with criminal intent?
Yes, data-mining has more data to expose truth than old newspapers and affidavits, but consider the selective, deceptive, distorted, fabricated, misinterpreted, “honest-to-gosh-true” accounts that litter our beloved WWW. Could there have been any similar “honest-to-gosh-true” accounts that littered 19th-century America? For many, their first thoughts are that everything condemning Joseph Smith is really true. Historical witness is: probably not. Too much of what we decide seems to depend on “hard priors,”3 independent of truth.

So, let us remember: No one is immune to the “false witness” of circumstantial, mistaken, or malicious evidence. All one has to do is listen to the varying accounts of an upsetting local event to know that much of what comes pouring forth as “true facts” is flat-out wrong.

So, as we continue our glass-looking ventures, remember the long and the short:
▪ bias and misinformation in history are ubiquitous;
▪ much of what we think we know, we don’t;
▪ much of what we think we see, we don’t;
▪ much of what there is to see, we miss;
▪ reconstruction of history is often misconstruction;
▪ no one but God knows the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
So, Help Us God!


1. The compromised “evidence” seems more likely to document a pretrial procedure, but whether trial or pretrial, most who speak out with such assurance of “facts” speak from hearsay and would be much distressed to find their own lives judged by antagonists on such sparse and ambivalent evidence.
2. Only a small minority understands how these devises work—through the mystery of 0s & 1s, not to mention (yes, again) the physics of the electricity that powers / sustains it all. Considering God has created the Cosmos, is it not conceivable that He might have a technology superior, more natural, and more self-sustaining than the “magic” created by man? And that such technology would have the potential for use and misuse by mankind, even as man’s technology? And that God alone will be the judge of misuse!
3. “If you have a strongly held belief with an emotional component, the brain defends information that reinforces those ‘priors’ and is skeptical of information that challenges them. … People who hold these hard priors filter information to support their perceptions.” (Bold emphasis added.) From the work of political scientist Hank Jenkins-Smith of the University of Oklahoma as quoted, in Newsweek, October 13, 2010, pp. 29-30 by science writer Sharon Begley about voter tendencies—observations that seem applicable to almost everything that requires choice or discernment.

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