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Sender: millershed@EARTHLINK.NET
Subject: Re: Is Ours a Culture of Hasty Findings? Can Transpartisans Do Better?
Date: Mon, Jun 2, 2014
Msg: 101048

I will try to be brief!

Michael's right that our inability to know certain things with certainty does not preclude the existence of an absolute truth. Thomas Aquinas understood this. He said that we can say many true things about God but we can never know him in his fullness (or anywhere near, actually). Yet he said that God is the absolute absolute (or the subsistent existent or whatever . . .).

That said, my claim was related specifically to complex systems. In a linear system, it is absolutely true, for example, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Understandably, then, people think that we can know (in theory, if not in practice) pretty much anything absolutely. But Newtonian science turns out to have its limitations. One of these is that its type of absolute predictability (determinism) doesn't apply to non-linear systems (complex systems). This is not my opinion--this is the current scientific understanding!

Complex systems are messy and historical. We can model them and come up with models which allow us to make reasonably good predictions in the short term (e.g., a five-day weather forecast) but very lousy predictions in the long term (a 30-day forecast). This is not something that can be overcome with more data, etc. (again, not my opinion). It is inherent to complexity.

Why do we care? Because virtually every system (biological, ecological, psychological, sociological, economic, political, religious, educational, etc.) is complex. This may be the reason that--as Lawry relates from de Soto--capitalism has never been tried (and the same might be said about democracy, etc.). It CANNOT be tried in its pure form because--and here I want to do what Rick is asking with his parable about the child and the philosopher, which is to be extremely practical--EVERY single manifestation of capitalistic theory in the real world will involve real people and real cultures and real environmental resources and conditions, all with their own histories and personalities and particularities, which GUARANTEE that no two iterations will ever be the same (just as we know that Pi will never repeat itself). This is not philosophical mumbo-jumbo. It is how THE WORLD ACTUALLY WORKS (leaving some purely physical, linear systems aside).

I work with very conservative evangelical Christians every day, and I know that they can understand and appreciate this--IF they understand that one is not denying the existence of absolute truth and IF one is not espousing a form of moral relativism that they find decadent, reprehensible, and destructive to the human soul--i.e., evil. Which is where I agree with them. (One of their own (David Hicks, in Norms and Nobility) speaks of a range of truths that we can agree on, without thinking that we can zero in on one particular point in this range as THE absolute truth. For example, can we all agree on the sanctity of human life without thinking that everyone else has to agree with our exact views on abortion or capital punishment (which conservatives and liberals invoke respectively as examples of our need to respect the sanctity of human life)? I absolutely think we can. We just need to focus on the fruitfulness that will result from such agreement--it is vast--rather than insisting that we all need to think exactly the same in every respect. But, to do this, we have to sacrifice some of our certainty and at least be open to the views of others who inhabit the same general range of values that we do. Then we will understand, respect, and actually LIKE one another and we can find productive ways of working together.

I think this is extremely relevant and critical to the transpartisan initiative. All the best!

John Miller
(952) 797-2302
GreenTea Party Movement 

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Maxsenti
Sent: May 29, 2014 11:44 AM
Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] Is Ours a Culture of Hasty Findings? Can Transpartisans Do Better?

Wow...what a great exchange! Thank you all.

Let me interject a some point, and I believe that time is upon us, we must set aside theory and apply out collective best thinking to how WE can help slow down this run away engine of our government and turn it in a new direction. This years NCDD conference theme invites this. 

On Wednesday, May 28, 2014, Rick Raddatz <> wrote:
Thank you for this Sandy.   I will read it tomorrow first thing.

In the mean time, I would like to make clear that the 6 fundamental truths I proposed earlier are very different than the "truths" conservatives might rest on.

These truths are self-contained, simple statements -- very similar to "I think, therefore I am".  Only here, I am saying, "one person exists, therefore individual ambition exist... individual resources exist... And individual conflict (conflict WITHIN the individual) exists".

And since these truths "appear" instantly simply because we humans exist in sufficient numbers and sufficient proximity, this means these truths are very fundamental... 

In other words, these truths constrain (focus) our dialog (or should) regardless of political persuasion, religion, culture or race. 

This is why I believe they have an important role to play in the transpartisan movement.

As for Michael B's objections -- I suspect that responding to them via email would cause an explosion of emails too detailed for most on this list.  Michael, I invite you to call me at 303-949-8075.  I would enjoy that conversation.

    - Rick

On May 28, 2014, at 9:15 PM, Sandy Heierbacher <sandy@NCDD.ORG> wrote:

This reminds me of something we talked about at the 2008 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation.   Some of you may not know that one of the 5 areas we focused on at that conference (in Austin) was what we called "The Framing Challenge."  The framing challenge was focused on the question "How can we talk about this work (dialogue and deliberation) in a way that's accessible to a broader audience," and we looked particularly at conservatives.

Here's a segment from an article I wrote on the framing challenge and another focus area we called the systems challenge:

            In their workshop, Attracting Conservative Citizens to Dialogue Events: Liberal-Conservative Campus Dialogue & Mormon-Evangelical Interfaith Initiatives, Jacob Hess and Reverend Greg Johnson explained some of the sources of wariness of dialogue on the part of many social conservatives.  One is the fear of being asked to give up truth or absolutes, as dialogue can seem to assume that all truth is relative.

            One participant wrote this reflection about Hess and Johnson's powerful session:

"I had a big, big revelation [during your session]. At 64, I have thought my whole life that to be open-minded, all accepting, non-judgmental toward different people, beliefs, and values was an absolute good thing. How could it be bad to be tolerant, embracing, accepting all beliefs as valid? Wouldn't everyone appreciate that attitude, since it includes everyone? What I heard from you is that having an absolute truth is fundamentally, critically important to you. It is the most important thing. It may be easier for you to deal with each other, or with others who have conflicting versions of the truth, than to do deal with someone like me who doesn't seem to advocate any particular truth, but sees it all as relative."

            I attended this workshop myself, and heard others share similar realizations.  Often, dialogue is said to bring people together whose viewpoints and experiences contribute important "pieces of the puzzle" for making progress on issues like racial inequity, education reform, and youth violence.  But framing dialogue in relativist terms may backfire for some audiences.  According to Hess and Johnson, it may be important to reassure conservatives that "truth Capital T is still welcome" -- as long as they also agree to be open to learning more.

My full article can be downloaded at if anyone is interested.  If you want to dig even further into this, I highly recommend reading Jacob Hess' report on the framing challenge, which you can download at

Sandy Heierbacher

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