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First of all, I'm trying to understand what is double baking and double endorsing in terms of how such actions may positively or negatively impact the chain. I do realize both double baking and endorsing are heavily penalized but why are the penalties important? Couldn't we just ignore them?

Maybe someone can help me understand what it is first, then perhaps explain why it's assumably discouraged?

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Double baking is the act of creating two blocks at the same level - this in effect creates a fork, where the next bakers can choose from multiple blocks.

Endorsements help to improve the fitness of the chain, and is usually used to resolve any potential fork attempts. If an endorser endorses multiple blocks at the same level, they are effectively improving the fitness of multiple chains which is bad.

Both double baking and endorsing are used to punish bad actors who try to facilitate or support multiple chains and forks.

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