Science and Religion: Grappling For Truth Throughout History - Politicrossing
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Science and Religion: Grappling For Truth Throughout History

Let us approach science and religion more diligently and with greater tolerance.

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I attended a lecture where an astronomer explained why Pluto had been demoted and was no longer considered a planet. Pluto is only 70% the diameter of our moon, and only 18% of Earth’s diameter. Discovered in 1930, it was number nine on the list of planets, was the most distant and coldest, and had the strangest orbit.

As telescopes became more powerful, and researchers grew more aware of the panoply of objects in our galaxy, Pluto was regarded as merely a planetoid in the Kuiper belt, among tens of thousands of celestial bodies in that section of our solar system. If Pluto was to still be considered a planet, at least six or seven other spherical masses, of more or less equal size, would have to be considered planets as well. Since none of them conform to the traditional standards for planets, Pluto was demoted.

Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology have been seeking a true ninth planet in the Kuiper Belt, after encountering evidence of its existence in early 2016. This potential planet is approximately ten times earth’s mass and perhaps 5,000 times Pluto’s mass.

So Much We Don’t Know

The above observations epitomize the ever-changing nature of our scientific knowledge base. We believe we know something to be true. Later, we discover more, overturning what we previously “‘knew.” The most learned people on Earth once “knew” that the sun and the stars revolved around the earth. To astronomers who came later, the sun and the stars clearly did not revolve around the earth, but initially to say otherwise was to risk death.

Today, many people believe that evolution explains everything about life in the universe. It does not. No one can explain what put the Big Bang in motion and, tellingly, where matter originated. Without carbon and some level of heat and moisture, life cannot begin, and even when those factors are present, more often life does not begin.

It was once thought that life couldn’t exist at the bottom of the dark ocean. Today, we observe that the ocean floor is teeming with life and that life finds a way to thrive often in the absence of what is thought to be “ideal circumstances.”

Currently, some otherwise supposedly intelligent people don’t accept that the brain functioning in men and women is somewhat different. Men tend to excel in math and science, however, this is not to say women cannot excel in math and science. Our brains are wired differently. Women have other advantages in brain functioning.

As we proceed into the future, based on available scientific evidence much of what we “know” to be true will prove to be untrue, especially as we learn more about the universe, the stars, the galaxies, our own solar system, and even Earth itself.

My God Supersedes Your “god”

It’s been said that more people have died in the name of religion than for any other reason. Actually, most wars likely have been fought over territory. Tribal warfare, since the dawn of civilization, can be traced back not only to differences in culture and lifestyle, but also to differences in appearance, inclination, and one’s respective deity.

Every religion has tenuous precepts and tenets that even the wisest scholars cannot explain. Religion is interpreted by mortals on earth and, understandably, is subject to human predispositions and biases. Some religions have given man a vaulted position on earth and woman a lesser position. Many religions suffer from a parallax view: Ours is “the way” and your way is inferior.

Religions carefully lay out what God has intended for us, and how God wants us to worship him. Yet, no one can prove that they’ve actually consulted directly with God. Thus, every religious text ever written, every set of laws or commandments, and all religious customs represent the accumulation of man’s interpretation of events on earth and how they might relate to the heavens.

Science and Religion are Here to Stay

It is prudent, even praiseworthy, to improve our knowledge of science and add to the storehouse of what we believe to be scientific facts. And, there is little reason to abandon religion when it brings peace and comfort to devotees, and spreads goodwill, enabling humankind to live in harmony.

Let us approach science more diligently recognizing that what we “know” today could well be overturned by what we discover tomorrow. Let us approach religion with greater tolerance, recognizing that every group feels that they are right and has a direct relation to God. Let us not be slaves to scientific certitude or religious dogma because, quite simply, no one has all the answers and no one is ever likely to have them.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Micro-tasking, not Multitasking, for Effective Performance

Professionals who can micro-task are in demand; multitaskers are doing themselves and their organizations a disservice.

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Much as been discussed about multitasking and fortunately, much of what has been written exposes the myth that multitasking represents. Instead of making us more productive and having a greater output, we tend to slow down on the very things that were trying to speed up on, and we end up making more errors.

Micro-tasking, by contrast, is the ability to compartmentalize and to focus in quick, short intervals on a variety of items that compete for attention — a vital skill for career professionals. Micro-tasking is effective for quick decisions, and for handling routine and short term tasks term nature. Multitasking is the attempt to handle two important tasks at the same time. It is not to be confused with micro-tasking.

A Skill to Cultivate

Some workers have little choice in the short run but to work in a distracting, noisy environment. Some employees, in particular, were retained to be able to quickly shift their attention from one issue to another, focusing on each issue as needed.

In an interruption-based environment, such as a hospital, police station, retail store, or airline ticket counter, the ability to micro-task is a valuable skill. Throughout the course of a day, a manager in such settings might encounter a variety of people asking questions and voicing concerns. For sale managers micro-tasking can make all the difference in making quota or not.

Tasks that require our sharp attention necessitate that we slow down, focus, keep interruptions at bay, and work as effectively as we can, toward completion. Handling two tasks simultaneously, each of which require sharp attention, is a prescription for poor results.

Be in Demand

Professionals who can micro-task are in demand. Others, who engage in multitasking, are doing themselves and their organizations, a disservice.

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When the Market Crashes, There is Only One Place to Hide

Here’s the short, simple reality to understand: in powerful down markets, every asset class gets clobbered.

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Pile of Cash

“This is Wall Street, Dr. Burry. If you offer us free money, we are going to take it.”

-Smug, Know-Nothing Goldman Sachs Chicky in The Big Short

My firm didn’t operate too differently from the above statement, frankly. but there was that one time we said no…

In 2007 or 2008 – I don’t recall exactly – a mutual fund client asked us to create a defensive portfolio they could launch as a new product.

Sounds simple enough, right? Except, they weren’t looking for a portfolio loaded with utilities, healthcare and consumer staples.

What they wanted was a portfolio of stocks that would rise when the market was falling (it already was falling, but Wall Street is just as good at closing the barn door after the animals have left as are elected officials).

I suspected this would be tough to create. Once we ran our studies, indeed we realized this was an impossible request and for the first time ever, we declined the portfolio request.

Here’s the short, simple reality to understand: in powerful down markets, every asset class gets clobbered. *

Put in a more fancy-pants sounding, Wall Streety way: during crashes, correlation skyrockets. In this case, it was effectively impossible to create a portfolio of stocks that would rise in a crashing market; all stocks crater in that environment.

Correlation is measured on a scale of -1 to 1. A reading of 1 defines perfect correlation, -1 is perfect inverse correlation and 0 means no correlation at all.

A reading of 1 is easy to understand but think of the others this way. The correlation of wearing surgical masks and the spread of covid almost certainly resides near zero. Jen Psaki’s relationship with the truth? Probably a -.9 or so.

As an aside, both high and low correlations have value. For instance, we had a good friend in college who we came to realize had a sense of direction that had to be very close to a full negative 1. If he were in the car and thought we should turn left, the rest of us knew with total certainty to go right.

With correlation, readings at or near 1 and -.1 are rare in anything that actually requires study, so measurements above .4 already start to imply strong correlation.

When we looked at the historical track record we found that in severe downturns, all asset classes fell with the market at correlations above .5. It was eerie.

What about foreign stocks? Um, no… that’s actually a double whammy of bad news. Not only do their markets get hammered at least as hard as ours, currency declines magnify those losses. We can all appropriately hate what our leaders are doing to destroy the U.S. Dollar, but in a world of fiat currencies it is ours the world runs to as the safe haven. Most foreign currencies decline in value as a result.

Cryptos? Who the hell knows, but why would they be spared if gold isn’t?

Wait, what about gold? Yeah, it will probably act like a safe haven in a down market but in this case that probably means it will just decline less than stocks overall. For instance, while the Dow literally got cut in half from October, 2007 to February, 2009, gold’s peak-to-trough decline in 2008 was fully 25%.

By being down “only” 25%, did gold perform better than the market? Yes, but correlation of the direction of the movement skyrocketed even in this safe-haven asset class.

Quick disclaimer: I currently own gold and silver and will be holding these positions. But I hold them in the proper size and I am also expecting them to initially decline when the market really tanks.

Important note: if you’re holding gold and silver mining companies – which, after all, are just stocks – you can expect them to get hammered just as hard as all the stocks around them. The relative outperformance of bullion itself won’t save them; again, just go look at 2008.

Okay, so what the heck should someone do right now?

Well, I don’t like giving “right now” investment advice so I’ll say what I have been saying all year to close friends and family: if you’re fully invested, raise at least some cash in your portfolio. I’ve been advising a minimum of 20% but that figure will vary depending on your personality.

As I’ve been telling them, think of it this way: if I’m wrong and the market keeps ramping higher on the back of all this stimulus – and that indeed is the only reason the market has continued its 2021 surge, btw – and you’re still 80% invested, you’ll still be making a lot of money and you’ll feel okay about it. Sure, you’ll mutter that I was early with this advice – I have been all year and still could be depending on central bank responses to this decline – but you won’t resent me for the input.

If you stay fully invested, however, and the market tanks by 40%, you’ll feel ill. Having some cash on the sidelines provides for a rainy day, keeps something available with which to buy stocks near future lows and, most importantly, will do wonders for both your decision making and your psyche.

When people get stuck for cash – margin calls, mortgage payments, whatever the need may be – they make all sorts of bad decisions. They’ll sell whatever they have to and often, it’s psychologically easier to sell their “winners” along the way than it is the stocks that have been crushed the most. What many people end up with at bottoms is a portfolio full of the crappiest individual names.

‘Oh great,’ you may be thinking, ‘you’re telling us this on a day when the market is already down 500 points. Thanks a lot.’

True. Actually, I’ve had this post 80% drafted for the last 10 days or so, it just felt like that this might be the jarring market day in which readers would take it seriously. Let me explain by doing a little mind reset with you:

You may have a 401k that had risen, say, from $200k to $500k over the last three years (until 2 weeks ago). Awesome! But unsustainable.

After the market weakness of the last couple weeks, maybe its value has declined to $450k. If you’re the type that thinks my advice makes sense, but you don’t want to sell any stocks or mutual funds because they just fell from $500k, your mindset is all wrong. Sorry to be so blunt but it’s true.

Here’s what you actually have on your hands: a 401k that has risen from $200k to $450k over the last three years. Still awesome, also unsustainable.

If you think you’re the one genius who can nail market tops perfectly and you’re now certain that the market will soon regain its recent highs, re-read my last sentence and get your head on straight.

That said, at this moment I do have to admit that I don’t know if this is the start of the big correction. On the one hand, a few too many people for my taste are looking for that crash. On the other, how insanely optimistic did the market have to be that only now it is noticing the slow-moving Evergrande disaster in China that has been known for a year and plainly visible for nearly a month?

Regardless, the point is this: if this is the start of the big correction – or even a true bear market – then this is only the beginning.

We’re at such stratospheric valuation heights – the highest in history, generally – that the next big correction will take stocks down 30, 40 or even 50%.

So yes, it’s still okay to be raising at least some cash today. Even today.

Tighten up stop losses. Raise cash right now from zero to 5% if your end goal is 20%. Redirect future 401k deposits to the money market fund rather than the high-growth stock funds you’ve been riding.

In short: take action. Don’t be paralyzed and again keep in mind this simple reality: in powerful down markets, nothing gets spared. The only place to hide is in cash.

This post has me re-awakened. More soon…
FDG

*Historically, there has been one other place to hide in down markets: high grade, U.S. bonds. That will likely still turn out to be the case – indeed, bonds are rallying today – but what’s the point? The rates offered by today’s bonds are so meaningless as to be roughly equivalent with cash so my preference at this moment in time is for cash.

 

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