On this blog, I have been discriminating between types of data by assigning them into different categories. To name these categories, I have been using a metaphor of light, in the sense of shedding light on something. My most treasured data is called bright data: well documented and controlled observations of reality. I tolerate dim data that in some ways fall short on documentation or control so that it is more ambiguous about what is happening in reality. At the other extreme, there are various types of data that I actively discriminate against. I chose the word discriminate deliberately in context of this post. I discriminate in the sense I don’t want to hire these types of data in my data store. In the discriminated classes include:
- dark data (data generated from models),
- forbidden data (observation-negating data generated by models),
- accessory data (usually packaging surrounding delivered data),
- unlit data (data with no documentation or control), and
- spark data (bright data deliberately injected for purposes of political diversion)
In this little virtual world of data, these are all data but I discriminate against using the ones listed. I may use them out of near term necessity, but I’ll be actively seeking out a way to replace them with my preferred types of bright or dim data.
I do so because I take making history seriously with an almost religious fanaticism toward wanting to know what is really going on in the present. Unlike conventional concepts of religion, my only interest in past consequences is the extent that they produce bright (or dim) data.
Past-tense smiles and tears are for other disciplines to study. My interests are understanding the present tense so that I can make the best decisions for the future. I respect my ancestor’s having similar challenge, but I have not obligation to respect their choices. What worked out for them is no guarantee that they will work out for me.
As an aside, I am a religious person. I take the christian bible seriously, but in the following way.
To me the bible does not offer any prescriptions for life. It offers no cookbook-like instructions for living life. Not even the 10 commandments are instructions.
Instead the bible offers a lesson that history itself is something that deserves serious respect: present events build on past ones, and actions have consequences. My interpretation of godly being in the bible is that he represents the humanity-scale assessment of the consequences of our actions. The bible presents numerous stories that I believe have some factual basis at least in the sense that the named individuals did live at about the relative time as the others (the time-scales may be off, but the order is correct). The lessons of these stories is that people we can identify with faced their current challenges. They had multiple options for making choices. The choices they made sometimes had happy consequences and other times had sad consequences. That happiness and sadness is a judgement that the bible describes as a god of man who smiles when the consequences are happy and gets angry when consequences are sad. God’s love is an after-the-fact acknowledgement that a good outcome resulted from the human decision.
In my above mentioned post, I equate God to history and the devil to missed-opportunity. This definition presents a natural competition between the two. There are two opposing sides to every decision. However in unlike conventional religion, I imagine both opposing sides are fundamentally beneficent toward humans. Both sides want humans to have happy outcomes.
Our assignment of their respective traits of good and evil is a coincidence of our observations of their reactions to consequences of human decisions. If things work out well, history smiles because the right decision became history. Conversely missed opportunity frowns with the realization that its options probably would not have been as good. When the consequences turn out bad, the smiles and frowns swap. Missed opportunity smiles with the contentment that one of its options might have worked better.
In this concept of religion, both beings are impotent over the natural world. The future is out of their control and only marginally in the hands of humans. The godly beings exist only in evaluating the consequences of our actions. Despite this, we can still attribute great powers to them. History is omnipotent and omnipresent because everything that happens is in its possession. The lesson of the bible is the power of history. Missed Opportunity also has awesome powers derived from its possession of the vastly larger number of possibilities with eternally mysterious consequences.
These are both awesome powers, but they both are exercised after decisions are made. In my vision of creation, the moment of creation is in the immediate future. In human terms, creation is about a millisecond in the future. This vision comes from a worldview of a data science where the valuable observations come out of the future, not the past.
Our experience of the world lags behind this creation. The God and Devil lag further back where our experience diminishes into irrelevance like where the water-skier’s wake diminishes into calmness. In my concept of religion, man is between time’s origin and God. While we constrained by the reality emerging from that origin, we have control over our actions without interference from God. Also, my placement of the origin of time in the near future instead of the distant past also assumes freedom from scientific determinism. This is a result of the differences in point of view of data-science and natural science. Together, these concepts provide man with a lot of free will to influence the outcomes.
I mention the above to give context of my reaction of the recent controversies over the state of Indiana recent passing of a religious freedom restoration act (RFRA) that places more burden on government when it infringes on people’s religious beliefs.
I do have a stake in the issue. The concept of RFRA impacts me because I have religious beliefs described above. But I doubt anyone will take me seriously if I raise my religious objections to government intrusion on my religious beliefs.
My religious objections to government occur when I am forced to accept the above enumerated forms of data that I religiously prefer to discriminate against. I can attempt to appeal to some form of RFRA to defend my position, but I seriously doubt it will get any traction in the court. In this chart of the RFRA process, I wouldn’t pass the first test of substantial burden. I can not trace my objections to some instruction in a holy book because I reject the notion that such a book contains any useful instructions at all. I can not prove that I am substantially burdened by having to accept data I don’t want to accept. On the contrary my past performance proves that I’ve accepted this discriminated-against data before. The government can force me to accept the data I naturally want to discriminate against. That may mean rejecting the bright data I value immensely.
RFRA will not apply to my circumstances. Yet, i am paying attention to the controversy. As a dedomenologist, I’m eager to seek out new forms of bright data. The controversy itself can provide me new data for use in the future.
After I began writing this post, I came across Nick Gillespie’s article that beat me to the points I wanted to make. He makes the point (I think) that the controversy is a proxy for a broader battle between conservatives and progressives in general. At the end, he makes another point that this is a diversion as the two sides prepare for the upcoming election year. I will approach the same basic conclusions from a more productive perspective. I think this is an opportunity to learn something: to add something to our minds instead of losing our minds.
The RFRA has very broad implications and can relate to a wide range of disagreements that come out of conventional religions (religions unlike my own). However, I’m focusing on one specific disagreement concerning the acceptance of same sex marriages.
I want to tackle first Nick’s second point about this sudden furor of the specific issue being an irrelevant distraction. His point more specifically was about preparing for next year’s election.
I take a different view in that it is a distraction from other current events that deserve more attention and happen to be going very well for progressives. In an earlier post, I described a form of data that I called spark data. Spark data is bright data but it is deliberately introduced as a distraction from the debates that we should be having. Spark data specifically biases our assessment of urgency of an issue. In particular, spark data makes less urgent matters more urgent than they otherwise deserve. Sparks cause us to waste valuable time on an inconsequential topic. There is a lot about the recent circumstances of this debate that makes the controversy itself look like spark data. The exaggerated reaction of both sides are meant to make this a big issue when neither sides offers any hard evidence of there being any urgent problem. For the both sides, there has been just a few cases where discriminatory actions have occurred or have resulted in prosecution by the courts. Certainly these cases deserve careful consideration by court system to assure appropriate justice. It is simply not a big urgency.
The suspicion of spark data is the recent history of political use of these controversies to distract from more urgent issues. More deserving issues for our attention exist in terms of our financial situation, international peace (particularly in middle east), and corruption investigations within our own government. In my mind, these are much more deserving of a comparable level of attention currently devoted to the RFRA controversy.
Putting aside this suspicion of spark data, I think there is an opportunity to observe some real bright data in the fact that this controversy is occurring. Although the arguments often concern same-sex weddings and the caterers who sell wedding services, I think there is a deeper explanation of the division between the two sides.
The popular media has characterized this division in political terms of conservatives on the side of religion and the liberals on the side of demanding same-sex marriage rights. This division further maps conservatives to Republicans and liberals to Democrats.
I don’t think this is accurate. The disagreement crosses the party and ideological lines. I observe that the division is more between two age groups. Younger people of both parties tend to be stronger supporters of same sex marriages. The opponents to same sex marriage tend to be in the older age group. Furthermore, the latter is willing to tolerate same sex marriage but they simply want the freedom to decline offering their services to the actual wedding ceremonies.
In some earlier posts, I presented some of my ideas about marriage. In those posts, I admitted my lack of first hand experience with the institution. As a result, the discussions were of idealized notions. After admitting this ignorance on the topic, I think there is a substantial difference in the perception of marriage between young and old people. In particular, older people tend to have more experience with lengthy marriages where the relationship has evolved substantially from the earlier expectation.
The younger people tend to focus on the immediate benefits of marriage in terms of sexual activities or practical consequences of joint responsibilities or obligations. This view also is more tolerant of divorces as an expected consequence when those immediate benefits are no longer desired or needed. The immediate benefits are useful to get marriage started. Also, the immediate benefits can be enjoyed with any combination of partners. If people enjoy same sex companionship, then they should have access to marriage to enjoy a these benefits.
I think the perception of marriage changes a lot as the marriage lasts over decades. Inevitably, the people having those experiences are going to be members of the older population. In the latter years of marriage, the initial immediate benefits lose their importance. From the little knowledge I have about more mature marriages, the relationships become more engaged in sharing their lives rather than in exchanging benefits.
As people get older, the two sexes experience aging differently. From their experience, they recognize that having a trusted companion of the opposite sex is very helpful in terms of adapting to the changing circumstances that come with aging. When older people defend opposite-sex marriages, I doubt they are defending it primarily on the basis of sexual activities. Instead, there is a grown appreciation of having access to someone who has complementary experiences of growing older.
I’m just conjecturing this difference in perspective of the meaning of sex in marriage changing as the marriage lasts longer. For those who recognize there is a value to marriage beyond the sexual activities, they may want to give advice to the younger generation to make a similar choice for the opportunity to reach a similar point in the future. The problem is the difficulty to communicate these later-in-life benefits of opposite sex marriage. These benefits are more spiritual than physical, so it is natural to appeal to religion to provide the language for communication.
This attempt at communicating a real personal observation of non-physical spiritual benefits of mixed-sex marriage uses religious language. Naturally, it appears to be a religious argument that the younger generation can reject. Religion can be dismissed as relative or even a fable. This argument misses the real intended message of the experience of a benefit of mixed-sex partnerships that occur at the latter years of long marriages.
My point for this post is that there be a valuable lesson to learn from the recent controversy by recognizing this as a division between age groups instead of ideologies. The younger and older people experience marriage differently. The older understand the younger experience because they’ve lived through it. The younger can’t understand the older’s experience because they haven’t had the chance to experience it. For the younger, the arguments are presented as simple rhetorical arguments where religious arguments are easily defeated by modern philosophies. Communication to the young of the older generations experience of mixed-sex marriage is lost because it is easy to defeat of the religious foundation of their explanations.
It seems natural to me that there are some experiences and wisdom available to older people that will never be available to younger people. Some things in life have to be experienced in order to be learned. There may be an inherent conflict between the two age groups where they may never be fully comfortable operating under the same rules.
As I see the current debate, the ones who are demanding non-discrimination of commercial services are generally the young people. The ones requesting the option to decline offering their services, especially for ceremonies for same-sex marriages, tend to be older people (or young people influenced by strong familiar ties to older people). I admit there are plenty of exceptions, but I think there is a least a component of age that is dividing the opinion on the merits of same sex marriage.
In recent posts, I have been entertaining some ideas about dividing government into two parallel governments where one is for and by young people, and the other is for and by older people. For various reasons, I set the dividing line between the two groups at 55 years.
In the context of this current post, I think a divided government can be very helpful to avoid this controversy. If such a government were in place today, the government of younger adults can easily pass laws that emphasizes non-discrimination for sexual orientations (the LGBT differences) and to minimize religion in public debate. Correspondingly, the government of older adults may adopt some more tolerance for respecting objections that appear to be religious in nature.
Such a parallel government scheme may solve this debate by a separate set of rules for the two age groups. Alternatively, the controversy would probably not become as big of an issue if the two age groups debated the issues separately. The young would argue with the young; the old would argue with the old. I don’t think those arguments would get as out of hand. Even if it did get heated for one group, the other group would not be affected.
This observation about splitting government by age groups would resolve these kinds of debates started with the assumption that such a division were already in place.
My earlier posts provided the justification for dividing government by giving the young more engagement in the operational government and giving the older more responsibility for servicing the debt obligations.
Also, I described how there would already be major differences in how the two age groups would govern themselves. The younger age group would live under laws very similar to our modern laws, particularly concerning regulations of labor and commerce. There is an inherent expectation of some type of retirement in the older group so the regulations of their labor and commerce would be more relaxed. Coincidentally, this is similar to what I proposed above where the more strict demands against serving same-sex marriage ceremonies would only apply to businesses operated by younger people. The older people, having more of a semi-retired or second career status, would be allowed more freedom to discriminate.
In my two government scheme, the bulk of the economy belongs to the younger generation. This younger generation will not be allowed to discriminate for religious reasons. Perhaps naively, I think would resolve a lot of the current controversy.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is a problem when a problem arises from commerce occurs between the two age groups. A young couple may still expect services from a business run by an older person. I don’t know how this may work out but I think it would be more amicable than we are seeing today. The two governments govern their populations distinctly in a similar fashion as how foreign nations separately govern their own populations. Commerce is still possible between the populations, but there is a recognition that this international-like commerce and this is different from domestic commerce. People will accept that different rules apply with dealing with a population who live under a different government.
The point of this post is to observe there may be a valuable lesson to learn from the current controversy over the conflict of religious freedom and right to same-sex marriage. The controversy may be providing bright data about the population’s natural division by age groups. We may learn from this that the problem may be easier to solve if we can resolve the arguments in two separate groups segregated by age. Coincidentally, this provides a possible additional benefit from my earlier proposals of dividing government by age groups.