Tuesday, April 04, 2017

In defense of enlightenment: "science adviser" David Gelernter and the rise of anti-science intellectualism

Consternation rippled across the American scientific community, upon learning that Yale Professor David Gelernter interviewed with (then) president-elect Trump, for the job of White House Science Adviser. Gelernter became a doyen of the remnant conservative intelligencia, for denouncing liberal influence on college campuses. His 2013 book, America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats) blames “belligerent leftists” for purported disintegration of patriotism and traditional family values.  

Beyond standard Republican catechisms -- such as Climate Change denial, or opposition to vaccination – Gelernter’s views extend even farther to the right, for example attributing the decline in American culture to “an increasing Jewish presence at top colleges.” (Gelernter himself is Jewish.)

In bizarre irony, Dr. Gelernter’s jeremiads against science have migrated steadily, ever-closer to views espoused by Theodore Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” whose mailed explosives maimed Gelernter, decades ago. Kaczynski’s new book, The Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How, asserts many of the same manifesto points, distilling down to a message that Gelernter shares: that our scientific-egalitarian enlightenment must be renounced in favor of much older ways.

Alas, offended communities may characterize this news in manichean terms – as just part of a sweeping War on Science. Take the fate of OSTP. Through resignations, attrition and almost zero replacements, the Trump Administration seems on course to all but wipe out the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, sending it down the path of extinction that — in 1995 — swallowed the congressional Office of Technology Assessment, when Newt Gingrich ruled OTA to be irreparably “partisan.” (As - apparently - are 'facts.')


Now members of Mr. Trump’s circle have called for eliminating OSTP, altogether. In part this is reflex reaction to the way Barack Obama boosted science across the board, more than doubling OSTP and bringing most of its staff into the Executive Office Building, on the White House Grounds. (I gave two presentations there, in 2016, about 'Wider Perspectives on Threat; exactly the use that a nation might make of hard science fiction.)  



(ADDENDUM: This article offers much more detail on the White House Science Adviser office, first officially established by President Eisenhower, offering a partial list of responsibilities. "Manage NASA strategy and budget. Work with the Office of Management and Budget on federal research and development investments. Deal with climate change, both in terms of mitigating it and diffusing the controversy. Testify before Congress. Oversee the National Science Foundation. Execute whatever the classified work on national security and homeland security might be. Forge science and technology cooperation agreements with nations like Brazil, China, India, Russia, and Korea. Support the State Department on other science-related initiatives. Put the president in contact with top outside experts when necessary. All in all, (Obama Science Adviser John) Holdren worked in approximately 70 different science fields at any given time." Even when the office was demoted, under George W. Bush, the WHSA - Jack Marburger - was a prestigious scientist who remained in a science-unfriendly administration because of crucial roles in the National Security Council -- roles that are now, under Trump, deliberately left unfilled.)

At another level, all of this was to be expected. Indeed, when you tally professions on the alt-right’s enemies list – from journalism, medicine, economics, teaching and law to civil servants -- and now  the 'deep state' intelligence/military officer corps – an ironic effect is to make us shrug in resignation.

But in this particular case, shrugging may be premature. There are still corners of that movement that will react to light. So, let's shine some on a fellow who may soon become emblematic of our peril.

First some context: our revolution called progress

Across time, the very notion of human advancement has evoked powerful cross-currents. Pericles, the sage of Athenian democracy, extolled how steady improvements in both wisdom and daily life can occur when free citizens build on each others’ goodness and innovations, while openly critiquing or canceling each others’ crimes or mistakes – an early expression of faith in a positive-sum society.  In sharp contrast, Plato condemned openness and democracy, calling for a self-proclaimed elite to paternalistically protect gullible masses from dangerous ideas.

This battle between visionaries and curmudgeons accelerated when technology become a chief agent of disruptive change, starting with glass lenses and printing presses that prosthetically expanded what human beings could both see and know. With each expansion of sight and knowledge, grouches gloomily forecast a worsening of hatred, chaos and war, prophecies that nearly always came bitterly true – in the short term. Over the long run though, optimists proved more accurate, as books and literacy allowed ever-greater populations to sympathize with faraway cultures and peoples.

We’ve seen the same pattern with successive expansions of perception and memory – from newspapers and radio to television and the Internet. Each knowledge revolution at-first fostered abuse by demagogues, followed later by enlargement of citizenship and empathy, as average folk adapted to drinking information from an exponentiating fire-hose.

This historical perspective is badly needed as we see the very same dynamic emerging yet again, first in wildly un-accountable social media trolling, then an unfolding 21st Century knowledge mesh and the looming prospect of artificial intelligence, or AI. This prospect rouses the same array of gloom merchants and dizzy romantics, issuing either dire lamentations or proclamations of utopian transcendence. The latter personality, typified by singularity-promoter and immortality evangelist Ray Kurzweil, certainly weaves a fascinating spell, predicting confidently that we’ll soon – within decades – attain godlike powers and satisfactions. But I’ll not spend any time on them, today…

… because, as always, cynics seem more compelling in the short term. For one thing, they often do point at needful warnings! Dyspeptic Jonahs are at their best when calling out failure modes to examine and then prevent. 

Alas, pessimists become a failure mode, perhaps one of the worst, when they undermine the confidence of a can-do, problem-solving civilization. That, indeed, is the only failure mode I truly fear. And so much for context.

Burgeoning attacks upon science

Anti-scientific sentiment appears to be rife at both ends of the hoary-clichéd and lobotomizing "left-right axis," with campus post-modernism representing one, sinister wing. 

Still, you would have to be hibernating to miss the far more copious torrents of hostility pouring at science from the other end. Take, for example, Tides of Mind, David Gelernter’s book that posed an interesting, if simplistic model of human consciousness, while riffing hostility toward a purportedly close-minded scientific establishment. This caused me to revisit his core manifesto, "The Closing of the Scientific Mind," an essay that appeared in the first 2014 issue of Commentary Magazine.  

The title is an homage to The Closing of the American Mind, a 1987 book by Allan Bloom, that once served as a central declaration of the New American Right. Bloom's earlier tome foretold that the United States -- and Western Civilization -- would soon tumble into heck and darnation if the scientific mind-set were allowed to (among other modernist crimes) ruin the subjective-conservative-humanism of impressionable youth. Carrying on with that Spenglerian theme, David Gelernter proceeded to denounce scientific modernity and nearly all its mental works.

To be clear, this was not always his message. Mr. Gelernter's 1993 book Mirror Worlds forecast a coming era when Big Data models will replicate objective reality so closely that cyber and physical may merge in useful ways, empowering us all – a rosy view of technological change that not only put him in the transcendental-optimist camp, but earned him devastating attention from the Unabomber. 

Whether or not that painful, crippling brush with a luddite lunatic was precipitating, Gelernter soon shifted his emphasis increasingly to nostalgia and exceptionalism in tomes like Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion, striving to justify the brief reign of Straussian neo-conservatism -- a fervently messianic belief that America could transform other peoples and nations into enlightenment-republicans almost overnight, by sheer, overwhelming force of our unstoppable will.

When that manic phase proved calamitous in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and Straussian neocons went politically extinct -- Gelernter then helped swing the American Right into its later, bipolar cycle of apocalyptic depression. From frenetic imperial activity to a grumbling determination that government should do nothing at all. Doomcasting in the mode of Allan Bloom, Gelernter zeroed in upon a national intelligencia that had been skeptical of both those frantic, Bushite wars and the ensuing melancholia. His book America Lite is a growling dismissal of U.S. universities – which are, ironically, the nation's one realm of completely unambiguous superiority in a fast-changing world.

Irony, alas, appears to escape many of those who engage in intellectual finger-wagging. For example: Gelernter sings paeans to the Greatest Generation (GG) of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, who endured a Depression, defeated Hitler, contained Stalinism, spurred entrepreneurial enterprise, erected vast infrastructure, began the work of fighting prejudice, went to the Moon and built the unprecedented American middle class. He touts especially their intellectual honesty and prowess -- while expressing contempt for the world and nation that generation built, along with every political and social edifice they created. 

He also neglects to mention that the favorite living human of that admirable American generation was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Further, by deriding every value of the succeeding -- boomer -- generation, does not he (and confederates like Steve Bannon) hammer GGs with the worst insult of all? That the GGs were bad parents?

But all of that is prelude. As illustrated in his 2014 Commentary piece, Mr. Gelernter's main denunciations focus on science – or rather the elite and deceitful priesthood that (he claims) science has become.

This isn’t new, of course. Lamentations against modernity and scientific thinking erupt with rhythmic regularity, not just from centers of scholastic nostalgia on the right but also with eerie similarity from the very-far-left, whose scoldings differ only in detailed specifics, not tone.  They call to mind C. P. Snow's famous "Two Cultures" essay that rocked academia 50 years ago. Snow portrayed simmering resentment in some university departments toward scientists, who the humanities dons viewed as usurping their authority over matters of "Truth."  (And note that this divide is completely orthogonal to the usual, left-right measuring rod.)

Although Dr. Gelernter is a computer engineer, his apologia in Commentary reiterates Snow's divide:  "Scientists have acquired the power to impress and intimidate every time they open their mouths, and it is their responsibility to keep this power in mind no matter what they say or do. Too many have forgotten their obligation to approach with due respect the scholarly, artistic, religious, humanistic work that has always been mankind’s main spiritual support." 

Wow. We could discuss those assertions and assumptions all day -- for example by probing whether classical Romans, or post-Alexandrian Hellenistics, or medieval scholastics were ever mass-effective at preaching an admirable life. Or whether any scientist has ever sought to "impress and intimidate" as heavy-handedly as nearly all kings and priests and scholarly pedants did, in times past. But never mind. Mr. Gelernter then veers away from the provocatively interesting, to the absurd.

"Scientists are (on average) no more likely to understand this work than the man in the street is to understand quantum physics."

To which, I am behooved to put it plain. That constitutes one of the most profoundly and demonstrably counter-factual assertions I have seen in years. Pick almost any scientist, almost at random, and this calumny will collapse, as she or he displays far greater than average knowledge of art, literature or history. Indeed, nearly all first rate scientists have artistic or humanistic pastimes that they pursue at almost professional levels. C. P. Snow’s two-cultures divide was never symmetrical.

But let's not linger there; David Gelernter goes on to construct one accusatory strawman after another while accepting no burden of proof. No wonder he sings the praises of subjectivity. In fairness, do go and give his missive a slow and attentive read. I'll wait right here. 

The ancient, dismal, underlying premise

What ultimately underlies Mr. Gelernter's rant in Commentary, and indeed, similar railings against modernity by Francis Fukayama and other Bush Era court intellectuals, is something called Zero-Sum thinking -- the dispiriting belief that if a person has superior powers in one realm, that plus must be paid for with a minus of inferiority in some other aspect of human life. This underlies strange and unsupported assumptions, e.g. that success automatically makes one shallow, or that suffering inherently ennobles.

In promoting this ancient reflex, Mr. Gelernter channels the jealous snarkiness of Walt Whitman's poem: "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" -- implying that boffins who peer through telescopes or understand Maxwell's Equations -- the language God spoke when he said "let there be light" -- cannot, thereupon, ever grasp the beauty of a rainbow, or experience compassion, or have soul.  This compulsion isn't rare. Indeed, zero-sum thinking tugs naturally at us all; it was the common human reflex that dominated almost every past human culture... though not our own.  

Our enlightenment civilization is the only one ever to have been based firmly on the notion of positive sums - that we can be many. That each success does not require a compensating failure. That each winner does not always have to stand upon a smoldering loser. That we might become greater than our parents, as the best of them would have wanted us to be, and then see our children excel far beyond us. That a person who has been lucky and comfortable can still feel the pain of others (it's called empathy). And that limitations on the breadth and depth of human reach are mere impediments, not immutable law.

No greater proof is needed than us. We live in a world filled with spectacular positive-sum results, where most children no longer grow up steeped in tragedy, but with some likelihood that they might leverage their talents, uplifting themselves and others too. That easily-supported and statistically proved assertion is not a call for Pollyanna-complacence. Rather, all of our tentative progress constitutes an urgent clarion summons to complete the partly-fulfilled Enlightenment Promise. Indeed, we judge ourselves and our society harshly in proportion to how far short of that ideal we still lag, proving how embedded the ideal has become, in our hearts.

Moreover, scientists lead the way.  For every bad thing science engenders (and most-often scientists issue the alerts), there are a hundred genuine advances. 

When cliché becomes outright slander

May I be forgiven for reiterating a central point? Anyone who has spent time around top-level scientists knows that they tend (with some exceptions) to be profoundly broad in their interests. Most are well-read and thoughtful far beyond the so-called "objective" realms. At three years old, I was privileged to watch Albert Einstein perform with his violin. As an undergraduate, I got to discuss patterns of history and humanism with physics Nobelist Murray Gell-mann, before we shifted to Joyce's “Finnegan's Wake.” Richard Feynman was among the world's greatest bongo players; he also painted brilliantly and wrote passionately about humanity's need to combine bold exploration with humility before a stunning cosmos. (And he stole my date once, at a Caltech dance.) Lynn Margulis showed us how to view our planet as a living entity. The anthropological insights of Sarah Blaffer Hrdy challenged smug dogmas of both left and right, showing how we are simultaneously rooted in our ancestral past and profoundly launched far beyond it all.

Perhaps Professor Gelernter has never spoken with such people, or else he is deliberately spreading a known calumny. Either possibility is both troubling and deeply discrediting for a person who would presume to give guidance to the mighty. 

Specifically, almost no modern scientist declares the non-existence of subjectivity or its irrelevance to human life, despite Dr. Gelernter’s claim that most do. That scarecrow accusation is a dodo based on 1960s fads of Logical Positivism and Skinnerism – which were minority views even then -- an obsolete libel that is only raised by postmodernists of the far-left and right, clutching justifications for resentment.

Likewise, David Gelernter condemns a purported scientific fixation that our human minds are mere software - a position taken literally by only a few researchers in artificial intelligence. Many scientists who ponder deeply about Artificial Intelligence – for example Christof Koch, director of Seattle’s Allen Brain Institute, or the cosmologist Andre Linde -- reject the mind-as-purely-software model. Most apply the comparison only as a metaphor, expedient for generating experiments and models, contingently useful, with exactly the tentativeness and humility that Gelernter claims technical people lack. Which makes me doubt that this "computer scientist" gets out very much.

 Indeed, I need only use two words to cast hilarity upon David Gelernter's absurd strawman. Those two words are --

… Roger Penrose…

… whose fabulous speculations about the specialness of human consciousness run diametrically opposite to Gelernter's stereotype, yet are backed by one of the most brilliant -- and cantankerously contrarian -- physicists of our age.  A personality trait that is, in fact, prevalent among the best scientific minds.

Bridging the "cultures"

Where do I come into all this talk of human beings -- individuals, groups and a rising civilization -- bridging the gap between C. P. Snow's Two Cultures? I speak as a scientist and engineer who makes most of his living writing novels that weave vivid subjective realms for readers to roam, exploring everything from interstellar flight to what it might feel like to be a speaking-sapient dolphin, or an autistic person who has been empowered by new tools to take on the world. Like Sagan, Asimov, LeGuin and Clarke, I aim to blend science with artistically-conveyed empathy. 

As we do at UCSD -- in America's lower left corner -- where every academic department signed on to help establish the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, a cross-disciplinary collaboration combining everything from neuroscience to modern dance, in Arthur's polymath tradition. Pure proof that Snow's dream of a healed divide can come true. 

But coming back to "The Closing of the Scientific Mind," I confess that my attention started to flag as David Gelernter continued flailing at statues made of hay, slinging one counter-factual assertion after another, bereft of citation, evidence or even illustrating anecdotes, tempting this scientist-artist-humanist to paraphrase the classic womanly-chiding: "Hey! My eyes are way over here. And so is the rest of me." 

Still, in an essay rife with fabulations, this one near the end truly took the cake:

"Science needs reasoned argument and constant skepticism and open-mindedness. But our leading universities have dedicated themselves to stamping them out…" 

Shades of Allan Bloom! But in fact, across the vast and tragic history of our species, no human field ever taught those skills as sincerely and relentlessly as science. Each day scientists – the most competitive human beings our species ever produced – go at each other in a spirited tussle, ever-searching for each others’ errors, with ferocity and transparency and sportsmanship that would make any athletic league proud. And when – anecdotally – those standards lapse, it is always other scientists who bring it to light.

In other words, David Gelernter's diametrically opposite-to-fact assertions are worthy of Orwell's Ministry of Truth.  Indeed, it is his warped view of science and its practitioners that makes the prospect frightening, how close he might stand to the elbows of the mighty.

If civilization has recently advanced against a myriad ancient crimes like racism, sexism and environmental neglect, it is because science taught us how to refute and cast down comfortable prejudices that all of our ancestors – including each era's scholastics, priests and "humanist" scholars -- took for granted. Preaching didn’t end those horrid, subjective excuses to waste human talent. It was relentless, scientific disproof of stereotypes about women, minorities and so on, that finally overcame the dismal, filthy habit of blanketing entire groups with slander…

…the way David Gelernter attempts (laughably) to blanket libelous slurs across the one field of human life that keeps insatiably asking questions. The one habit that he clearly fears.

One final example

Let me conclude by offering an even better refutation. I invite you to acquire and watch Jacob Bronowski's "The Ascent of Man," the groundbreaking 1970s television show that led to Carl Sagan's Cosmos and so many other joyous celebrations of a great irony -- that science is simultaneously cheerfully youthful and soberly mature, eager to challenge all limitations, to construct ever-better world-models, and yet always aware that every theory is imperfect. 

See especially Bronowski's episode "Knowledge or Certainty," in which he shows how much interplay there is between science and the arts/humanities.  How science, unlike any other "priestly" system, never claims and never can claim perfect knowledge. Amid its greatest triumphs, science reminds us that our models of the world are always contingent, improvable, and perpetually fringed with a chastening aura of uncertainty.

It is in this combination of adolescent-voracious curiosity and perpetual humility that humanity's ascent continues, by climbing out of the pit of monstrous certainty that infested and infected most dogmatic systems of the past.  Indeed, this cheerful sense of contingency is the trait of science -- far more than all of its accomplishments and power -- that most unsettles and terrifies those wanting some zero-sum absolute to cling-to.

It is in the dismal trap of platonic essences -- with their declarations of derived or heavenly or scholastic certainty -- that hell truly resides.

David Brin - March 2017

====

David Brin is a scientist, tech speaker/consultant, and author.  His new novel about our survival in the near future is Existence.   A film by Kevin Costner was based on The Postman.  His 16 novels, including NY Times Bestsellers and Hugo Award winners, have been translated into more than twenty languages.   Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and the world wide web. David appears frequently on shows such as Nova and The Universe and Life After People, speaking about science and future trends. His non-fiction book -- TheTransparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association.   

175 comments:

Timothy Boothe said...

That was wonderful.

further reading: Asimov's essay The Eureka Phenomenon - https://aharchaou.com/the-eureka-phenomena/ - is the best essay I've ever read about how intellect couldn't exist without emotion and instinct.

Stefan Jones said...

Jeeeez, Gelernter really went around the bend.

NeoCons seem practically wholesome these days. I still think they're evil nitwits, but by comparison with the current crowd, dang!

Frances Fukuyama was on NPR this morning. Not happy at all with Trump, or the state or things in general:

http://www.npr.org/2017/04/04/522554630/francis-fukuyama-on-why-liberal-democracy-is-in-trouble

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: re the Straussians - they never held power, but were ever the cheerleaders of those who did. They were selected and appointed as cheerleaders, never entirely believing their own insanity, but the usefulness of the mantras was readily understood by operators far behind the scenes. When Straussians preach a sham gospel (on democracy, morality, or any other core Straussian tenet), it is at least dogmatically consistent - enough so that billionaires who profit from their phantasie du jour would consistently toss them a few scraps from their table.

As for Gelernter: ah, let's spend a day discussing his 'insight.' I'm wondering what the computer system was that he used to not only verify what the 'obligations' are that scientists have forgotten, but precisely how many of them have in fact forgotten them. As well as how he intends to force them to recall those obligations. I suppose he will have to apply more Pavlovian devices, should he attain power to control purse strings among a number of scientific institutions.

That said, where you see him veering from the provocatively interesting to the absurd, it strikes me as more likely that he is merely veering from absurdity to absurdity. No wonder that scored points with Trump.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: following from earlier posts - and interjecting into your discussion with David Craig -

Craig: "Jesus indicated murder is an amplification of hatred while refuting the concept of hating one's enemies (including warfare?)." Hart: "I think this concept really depends on what is meant by "one's enemies".

I think I'll have to agree with Craig when he points out you're not being textually complete. Jesus was crystal clear in how to deal with (human) enemies - pray for them, turn the other cheek, when they do come at you to kill you, heal them (and rebuke your own people for fighting back). The only (human) enemy to arouse his fury (and use of violent force) was the hypocrites.

And back to sin taxes -

"I think part of the way a sin tax "works" is that by paying the tax, people feel absolved of the sinfulness of the particular sin they are paying for."

As an ex-smoker, who paid a pretty penny or two for cigarettes, I can only speak for myself, but there was never a sense of absolution for me.

I get your model of self-imposed savings, and similar treatments. Your video game savings was a mechanism that worked - for you. But 'sin taxes' work differently for various people. Some will be influenced by cost-benefit. Some by 'sin.' Some by habit. Some by general well-being of others and sense of inclusion in society (the last point is the basis for prohibitions on smoking on college campuses and other locales). It is appropriate to restrain harmful conduct using all of the possible tools in our arsenal - indeed, sometimes we must use forms of persuasion with which we are unfamiliar/uncomfortable.

Still, in general - I'd agree: punishment is hardly a preferred mechanism for controlling behavior of adults. Even for children, punishment is of very limited utility (says a non-parent, who read that in a few books ;-)), if a tax really has no purpose save punishment, it will not long endure.

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig in the previous post:

Has anybody in these parts made their laborious way through any or (gulp!) all these philosophical proofs (much overlap) conveniently gathered at the following link? http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/GODIS.htm


The ontological argument was always a favorite of mine to shoot down in college. To wit:

But as soon as the signification of the word "God" is understood, it is at once seen that God exists. For by this word is signified that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. But that which exists actually and mentally is greater than that which exists only mentally. Therefore, since as soon as the word "God" is understood it exists mentally, it also follows that it exists actually. Therefore the proposition "God exists" is self-evident.


This argument relies on a conflation of many different definitions of "God."

The argument relies on the propositions that every thing in the universe can be scored on a measurement of "greatness", and whichever thing happens to have the highest score meets the definition of "God". That "God" simply refers to whichever thing has most greatness.

Ok, that thing (whatever it is) must exist, so case closed. But there is no a priori requirement that that thing (whatever it is) meets other pieces of what is assumed to describe God. The thing which a priori exists does not necessarily possess omnipotence and omnicience, nor is it clear that that thing must be the creator of the entire universe. So the ontological argument at best argues that something exists which is greater than anything else that exists. It does not prove that an omnipotent, omniscient Creator of the Universe exists, let alone that He so loved the world that He sent His only Son to die for its sins.

I want to say that's a different thing; in fact the opposite thing. The second clause probably isn't quite accurate, but the first is.

donzelion said...

Paul451:
Donzel wrote - "That said, I'm not convinced of your first premise - "A) Wealth has a natural tendency to accumulate."" Paul451 responded: "Unstated: "...in the time in which I live." I don't speak to its deeper historical truth."

LOL, or in any other time! It's not that wealth accumulates, its that those with wealth have power to accumulate more of it more easily than anyone else. I don't think that's splitting hairs...

"I don't consider competition to be "good" from a moral perspective. I only consider competition good to the extent that it achieves the goal I want. Short of, or beyond that, it has no fundamental moral value."
Then your moral framework is primarily consequentialism, a broad field of moral theory encompassing utilitarianism (Bentham/Mill), almost all of (mainstream) economics, and many many other traditions. All social sciences are riddled with commitments to morality, which they spend extreme efforts to disguise, limit (and then revisit, and where possible, professionalize).

Some 'fairness' traditions are ultimately a variation on consequentialism (Dworkin, among others), but some operate with an entirely different frame (e.g., 'certain types of unfairness cannot be tolerated under any circumstances, even if doing so would better achieve highly desired goals). For example: "...I would tax the most perfect example of a self-made, bootstrap-lifting genius if it reduced the accumulation of wealth." - but you would never have him arrested, his wealth confiscated and redistributed, merely because it had been amassed in the first place.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Gelernter’s views extend even farther to the right, for example attributing the decline in American culture to “an increasing Jewish presence at top colleges.” (Gelernter himself is Jewish.)


What is it with all the self-hating Jews in the alt-right and the White House (pardon the redundancy)?

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart stated:

"This argument relies on a conflation of many different definitions of 'God.'"

What about:

"Reply Obj. 2. Perhaps not everyone who hears this word 'God' understands it to signify something than which nothing greater can be thought, seeing that some have believed God to be a body. Yet, granted that everyone understands that by this word 'God' is signified something than which nothing greater can be thought, nevertheless, it does not therefore follow that he understands that what the word signifies exists actually, but only that it exists mentally. Nor can it be argued that it actually exists, unless it be admitted that there actually exists something than which nothing greater can be thought; and this precisely is not admitted by those who hold that God does not exist."

And what about the other proofs?

Jumper said...

Checking in with modern philosophers from time to time I detect a sort of pathological quest for absolute reality. They give lip service to centuries of thought before and after Descartes but they are stuck.

Scientists tend to at least view this quest with caution, when they think about it. Usually they do like everyone else, and use truth as an ad hoc thing of value, at least to the point of verifiability or falsification.

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart, I reread your comment and believe you actually accepted the premise that "something nothing greater" exists. That is all I believe the letter to the Romans is talking about. Paul's point of view is once the existence of such is accepted, due diligence will lead to what he accepted as the reality of God's nature. The point is proving God exists. Or am I still misunderstanding you?

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Still, in general - I'd agree: punishment is hardly a preferred mechanism for controlling behavior of adults. Even for children, punishment is of very limited utility (says a non-parent, who read that in a few books ;-)), if a tax really has no purpose save punishment, it will not long endure.


I wasn't even arguing that governments should not punish certain behaviors. Just that that's not what taxing is for.


I think I'll have to agree with Craig when he points out you're not being textually complete. Jesus was crystal clear in how to deal with (human) enemies - pray for them, turn the other cheek, when they do come at you to kill you, heal them (and rebuke your own people for fighting back).


I'm not a Christian, so I'll cop to ignorance on the text of the New Testament.

I find much of what Jesus taught admirable, and even consider "What Would Jesus Do?" to be a decent guideline, despite not being a Christian myself. However, I can't go quite that far in my own life. I'll go so far as to defend non-terrorist Muslims against Donald Trump and Bill Maher, but I balk at renouncing (let alone rebuking) self defense. I cheered at the movie "Witness" when Harrison Ford (posing as an Amish man) punched the guy in the face, or in the Dark Knight Returns comic book when a gang member threatens to kill a kid he's holding hostage and Batman blows him away with a machine gun, saying "I believe you."

The only (human) enemy to arouse his [Jesus's] fury (and use of violent force) was the hypocrites.


I find that sentence ironically hilarious.


LarryHart said...

donzelion:

LOL, or in any other time! It's not that wealth accumulates, its that those with wealth have power to accumulate more of it more easily than anyone else. I don't think that's splitting hairs...


Well, how is it different from saying "It's not that mass accumulates; it's that those bodies with the most mass accumulate it more easily than anyone else."?

Alfred Differ said...

Mass accumulates without help.

Wealth accumulation requires people to use it to generate income above and beyond the decay rate for wealth. (Ya gotta work it to make it.)

Jumper said...

I see one of David's links is to Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind. I read my copy once when it was published, and it sits gathering dust now. Some of my criticisms remain from then. I agree with the part about designed algorithmic "intelligence" but think he was going after some soft targets, and missed a lot especially of his own unconscious preconceptions. Not that that's 100% avoidable! His idea that quantum tubules contribute to the emergence of the unquantifiable mind seem just oddly silly to me.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: difference between wealth and mass is that the latter operates through forces subject to close study (um, gravity), the former operates through subjective, human institutions. I have very little doubt that if all humans disappeared tomorrow, stars, black holes, and planets would continue in their movement. However, if all humans disappeared tomorrow, wealth would end along with us (unless some other species recreated the institution for some reason or another).

More importantly, wealth dissipates nearly as often as it accumulates. Some other force(s) work to cause the accumulation into a few hands that we've seen in recent decades, rather than into the hands of many. To suggest the accumulation of wealth is 'natural' is to position those who assert inequality is improper at a disadvantage, seeking 'unnatural' efforts to alter the order of things.

Lastly though, wealth is intensely problematic - whereas up through the 19th century, one might think of it in tons of gold and acres of land, today, it exists as derivatives moving at nano-speeds (soon quantum), the outflows of which occasionally manifest in a few billion dollars here or there for a few slices of time. That's not to say that it doesn't exist - or have effects - only that it is far more tricky than meets the eye, and describing its attributes as 'accumulative' may be misleading (to me, true wealth is less an accumulation of resources, and more an accumulation of power to shift costs onto others - the man with a trillion dollars, who has a fairly high probability of that trillion being taken from him tomorrow by a man with a big stick and some sharp words, is not as 'wealthy' as the man with a million dollars he 'knows' to be secure).

Jumper said...

80 grandchildren will decay the attractor very quickly. But that's kind of rare these days in most places.

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

LarryHart, I reread your comment and believe you actually accepted the premise that "something nothing greater" exists. That is all I believe the letter to the Romans is talking about. Paul's point of view is once the existence of such is accepted, due diligence will lead to what he accepted as the reality of God's nature. The point is proving God exists. Or am I still misunderstanding you?


I'm not sure. I'm also not sure whether I'm arguing against you in any way when I take issue with the Ontological Argument For The Existence Of God.

Here's my argument in short form (well, shorter). When most religious people (in the Abrahamic tradition) say they believe God exists, they mean something very specific. They mean (among other things) that the universe and all in it was created by a sentient being; that this sentient being is omnipotent, omniscient, and just; and that this same sentient being is responsible for writing (or dictating) scripture. In addition, a certain powerful subset of the Abrahamic religious believe that this particular sentient being has a son whose death provides redemption from sin for humanity.

The Ontological Argument proposes to prove that a "greatest thing in the universe" exists, and that that thing is what is meant by "God".

I'm saying that the Ontological Argument does nothing to prove that the first definition of "God" must describe something which in fact exists. It gives a way of identifying something that can loosely be called "God", but not the specific Abrahamic or Christian God. Religious apologists like to prove that the proof of one proves the other. It does not.

I think the best you can say to reconcile the two is that if an omnipotent, omniscient Creator exists, then He is probably greater than anything else, and therefore deserves the title "God" in St Anselm's sense of the word. That is not at all the same as proving that such a specific being does indeed exist in the first place.

Jumper said...

Power=money=freedom.

Alfred Differ said...

LarryHart,

Heh. People who use the 'greatness' measure might want to take a peek at what the mathematicians ran into with 'infinity' and the fact that there are different types of them.

Even an 'in the limit' definition for God runs into the problem. 'Greatness' is a relationship 'map'. Two inputs and a boolean output.

Math is fun. 8)

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart wrote:

"I find much of what Jesus taught admirable, and even consider "What Would Jesus Do?" to be a decent guideline, despite not being a Christian myself. However, I can't go quite that far in my own life. I'll go so far as to defend non-terrorist Muslims against Donald Trump and Bill Maher, but I balk at renouncing (let alone rebuking) self defense. I cheered at the movie "Witness" when Harrison Ford (posing as an Amish man) punched the guy in the face, or in the Dark Knight Returns comic book when a gang member threatens to kill a kid he's holding hostage and Batman blows him away with a machine gun, saying "I believe you."

'The only (human) enemy to arouse his [Jesus's] fury (and use of violent force) was the hypocrites.'


I find that sentence ironically hilarious.
"

Well, Ford's character blew his cover by that behavior (but he was in a really bad mood because he had just learned his good buddy had been killed "in the line of duty"). But your apparent equating of Batman's and Jesus' behaviors is a stretch--there's a matter of proportion between two very different confrontations. But they were both dealing with wrongdoing. Jesus was holding leaders accountable for their leadership and teachers accountable for their teaching, thinking of the children (and their parents). We could use some of that in the USA these days, I daresay.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "I wasn't even arguing that governments should not punish certain behaviors. Just that that's not what taxing is for."

A point on which I think we are basically agreed. Perhaps it's just a nuance - I would leave the option open for punitive taxes under a handful of contexts, but prefer to use whatever tool is proper for the job that is done. Conceded on your point that there is a risk of backlash (but also nuanced: there will always be backlash to any tax that raises revenue...)

"I find much of what Jesus taught admirable, and even consider "What Would Jesus Do?" to be a decent guideline, despite not being a Christian myself. However, I can't go quite that far in my own life."
Neither can many Christians. Particularly not the 'Evangelicals' who embraced Trump. For them, most of what Jesus said is abhorrent, so instead, preachers concoct new messages to distort their text. That sort of dislocation makes them extremely dangerous: when a large group of people 'believes emphatically' in a literal truth - yet simultaneously renounce large sections of that truth in favor of those portions they prefer - then that group can and will be steered to do absolutely anything.

"I balk at renouncing (let alone rebuking) self defense."
When Christianity moved from a primarily slave-based religion to a political power of its own (and later, THE political power of Europe), they concocted a large variety of doctrinal mechanisms to alter the context of what Jesus wrote in order to sustain a 'just war' theory despite texts that clearly do not support that. This is the Christianity adrift that became utterly co-opted and in service to networks of feudal regimes for far more than a thousand years. That is normally what happens when a faith becomes unmoored from its own principles - feudalism fills in the gaps. However, other horrible outcomes are quite possible (e.g., nationalism, socialism, anarchy...).

"The only (human) enemy to arouse his [Jesus's] fury (and use of violent force) was the hypocrites." ... Hart: "I find that sentence ironically hilarious."

If one believes the Biblical account, the hypocrites missed the irony, and had him killed a few weeks later. But that sentence, and variations on it, constantly come to my mind - why did conservatives REALLY hate Hillary? Why didn't they hate Trump even more? Mainly: it's not all that hard for hypocrites to convince a crowd of a thing for a short time...especially when they're trained at hiding their own hypocrisy...

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart clarified:

"I'm saying that the Ontological Argument does nothing to prove that the first definition of "God" must describe something which in fact exists. It gives a way of identifying something that can loosely be called "God", but not the specific Abrahamic or Christian God. Religious apologists like to prove that the proof of one proves the other. It does not."

Exactly. We are on the same page. Once the Ontological Argument is accepted, inquiring minds exercise due diligence to discover the nature of this "nothing greater than" phenomenon. Paul was confident where that search will lead them.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

LarryHart: difference between wealth and mass is that the latter operates through forces subject to close study (um, gravity),


I'm mostly just funnin' with you now, but according to James Blish ("Cities in Flight"), gravity won't be discovered until next year, although it has been postulated for millennia.


the former operates through subjective, human institutions.


Granted, but some human institutions act with an amazing level of psychohistorical predictability. One can assert that, given the present conditions of human life on earth, wealth does tend to accumulate according to forumulae which have an X% probability of being true, where X is admittedly less than 100 but higher than (say) 80. The fact that humans could defy such laws if they chose to do so does not change the fact that (all exceptions duly noted) they reliably tend not to defy such laws.


I have very little doubt that if all humans disappeared tomorrow, stars, black holes, and planets would continue in their movement. However, if all humans disappeared tomorrow, wealth would end along with us (unless some other species recreated the institution for some reason or another).


Sure, but it would also cease to matter. As long as modern civilization does indeed exist, wealth will continue to work in certain ways.

I may not be stating this well, but I see it as you saying "If there were no more oxygen on earth, then lightning would not set trees on fire." Which is true, but has nothing to do with what lightning does to trees under present circumstances.

More importantly, wealth dissipates nearly as often as it accumulates. Some other force(s) work to cause the accumulation into a few hands that we've seen in recent decades, rather than into the hands of many. To suggest the accumulation of wealth is 'natural' is to position those who assert inequality is improper at a disadvantage, seeking 'unnatural' efforts to alter the order of things.


Here, I'll agree with you. I don't think the original poster meant "natural" to mean "justified", though. I think he meant "predictable by easily discernible formulae."


Lastly though, wealth is intensely problematic - whereas up through the 19th century, one might think of it in tons of gold and acres of land, today, it exists as derivatives moving at nano-speeds (soon quantum), the outflows of which occasionally manifest in a few billion dollars here or there for a few slices of time. That's not to say that it doesn't exist - or have effects - only that it is far more tricky than meets the eye, and describing its attributes as 'accumulative' may be misleading (to me, true wealth is less an accumulation of resources, and more an accumulation of power to shift costs onto others - the man with a trillion dollars, who has a fairly high probability of that trillion being taken from him tomorrow by a man with a big stick and some sharp words, is not as 'wealthy' as the man with a million dollars he 'knows' to be secure).


Again, I'll agree. "Wealth" today seems to mean "that with which you can bribe other human beings to do your bidding." The specifics of the "that" are not as important. And if "bribe" is too strong a word there, I'll forego it for the larger point. One question I've wondered about is what wealth the Koch brothers have that could possibly survive the collapse of civilization, and one possible answer is "access to underground bunkers stocked with food, water, air, and porn."

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Well, Ford's character blew his cover by that behavior ...


Nothing more to say here except that a Ford commercial was just running on tv just as I was reading this. As Kurt Vonnegut's "Hocus Pocus" protagonist would say, "How much longer can I go on being an atheist?"


But your apparent equating of Batman's and Jesus' behaviors is a stretch--there's a matter of proportion between two very different confrontations.


I wasn't equating them. I was saying that, much as I admire Jesus's way, I naturally revert to Batman's under certain conditions.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "One question I've wondered about is what wealth the Koch brothers have that could possibly survive the collapse of civilization, and one possible answer is "access to underground bunkers stocked with food, water, air, and porn."

The Kochs will also be heavily armed, while the Gates Foundation folks will have cures and vaccines lined up for a whole host of unexpected, long-addressed diseases. The Koch people will expect that they can come and take any of those items, but will be stymied when they discover there's more to the game than merely running off with some pills. Then they'll hire the Murdoch people to scream about how the Gates people are hording the pills, the Murdoch people will cut a side deal with the Gates people, and at last we will have the Great Murdoch-Koch War.

Meanwhile, I'll be hanging with the Musk/Brin/California Republic people, arguing semantics as civilization rekindles itself. Hope you head out this way for that, we've make a spot for you somewhere over here.

David L. Craig said...

P.S. "I'm saying that the Ontological Argument does nothing to prove that the first definition of 'God' must describe something which in fact exists."

Well, in rereading that I see that we still differ. Tell me, what flaws do you see in Walter Farrell's first proof regarding a "first mover"? Can the first mover not exist in your analysis?

LarryHart said...

@David L Craig,

Not that a "first mover" can't exist, just that the Ontological Argument doesn't prove its existence.

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart replied:

"Not that a "first mover" can't exist, just that the Ontological Argument doesn't prove its existence."

Then you accept the existence of a first mover for whatever reason?

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Then you accept the existence of a first mover for whatever reason?


I neither accept nor reject. I'm not really invested in the question. If such a thing is proven, it won't rock my world or anything.

David L. Craig said...

Sigh.

LarryHart said...

@David,

I'm going to bed now (it's late in Central Time), but feel free to post what you're trying to get out of me. I'm not clear what you're after or what you're sighing about.

TCB said...

Re: Davids query on the existence of a First Mover: I think that logically a First Mover/Uncaused Cause of existence of some sort MUST exist; however, that entity is almost certainly some sort of implicit mathematical relationship (not unlike the theory of everything which Michio Kaku tells us could be an equation "about that long" [holding his fingers two inches apart]).

David, go read up on Max Tegmark's ideas about possible multiverses. It'll give you a better idea of what I'm talking about...

In other words, you seem to be thinking that the First Mover must be a fully formed personal God of some sort, who has opinions about gay whales and abortion taxes. I think this is a hangover from prescientific mythology. In fact, if we exist in a simulation created by a person or persons, they are probably no better morally than we are, and themselves would exist in some sort of universe which created itself out of nothing simply because it was not forbidden that it should, with no mental input, no Act of Will, whatsoever. It would happen because it was simply implicit in the structure of the void, so to speak.

We live in a complex universe of manifold Things, of patterns of energy which can form minds, but it is perfectly possible (indeed, I'd bet the farm on it) that this complex universe of manifold Things, and the minds it contains, were created by a mindless process.

Ed Seedhouse said...


We know from good evidence what the "first mover" was. It was the rather misleadingly named "big bang". That's what we have evidence for.

If you want something before that you are in the realm of metaphysics not science. Can something for which there can in principal be no evidence be said to "exist"?

Duncan Cairncross said...

From the previous
Hi donzelion
"I don't know of any evidence that shows a strong correlation between wealth and jerky behavior
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/06/psychology-of-wealth_n_4531905.html
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-wealth-reduces-compassion/
https://www.wired.com/2012/02/income-and-ethics/
There you go!
Apparently it is well known

Re - Wealth - we can theorise but the most comprehensive analysis of the actual data was - Capital in the 21st Century
The - counter accumulation force - that you reference was found to be a figment of a small incomplete data set

Basically once you have enough wealth it continues to accumulate -
to Alfred's point you do NOT need to -
(Ya gotta work it to make it.)
above a certain level you just have to stand clear and NOT STOP it from working!

Jumper said...

Implicit in the structure of the void.

David L. Craig said...

TCB stated:

"[...](indeed, I'd bet the farm on it)[...]"

Indeed, you are betting the farm on it, and if your heart stops beating today, this is the day of your showdown.

Ed Seedhouse stated:

"If you want something before that you are in the realm of metaphysics not science."

It was clearly stated this is about "something before that"--that this is under the purview of philosophy. If "science" is all you have to consider the Multiverses (as Sagan's preacher said in Contact the novel, "It makes my God so much bigger."), you are inadequately equipped.

LarryHart suggested:

"[...]feel free to post what you're trying to get out of me[...]"

See the above.

David Brin said...

geez you guys are having great fun! Though I did think there's also be some discussion of Gelernter. Do spread word about this posting!

A disturbing coincidence. The neocons in conservatism's Bushite Manic Phase were rooted in the philosophical rants of the mad-ingrate Leo Strauss. They were tossed aside as the right plunged into a long depressive phase. Now they are manic again! Bannon et al are hell bent on triggering the 4th Turning crisis as envisioned by ... Strauss & Howe. A different Strauss. But still.

LarryHart said...

@David L Craig,

Ok, I gather you are disappointed that I didn't get into it with you over "first cause", "first mover", "first anything" as being proof of the existence of God. If I'm mistaken about that, set me straight, but that's what I conclude from your petulant sulking.

I meant it when I said I don't care, or less snarkily, that I'm not invested in the question. I don't claim to know that there is no God any more than I know that there is a God. What I disbelieve is the supernatural. If God exists, He is part of reality, not separate or above it. What I also disbelieve is that scripture represents the word of God Himself. I reject the notion that the existence of God would imply any sort of binding to the dictates of a particular human religion. I certainly disbelieve the idea that God has a begotten human Son born of woman. The concept doesn't make sense to me, any more than would the assertion that Newton's laws of motion begat a human son.

So it's largely irrelevant to me whether an argument can prove that there must be something out there properly named "God". Unless the same arguments can prove that any of those other things I just mentioned follow from the existence of that thing named "God", then we're discussing intellectual exercises rather than matters of grave consequence.

Or as I once said on this blog (probably many years back now), no one has yet demonstrated a situation where a moral choice hinged on the existence or non-existence of God. By that I mean I have not encountered or even envisioned a possible scenario in which if God exists, the morally correct choice is A, but if God does not exist, then the morally correct choice is not-A. Absent such a scenario, I fail to see how the question of God's existence matters other than as an intellectual exercise.

LarryHart said...

delving deeper into "first causes" and "first mover"...

Arguments of that type all seem to me to take the form:

Anything that exists had a cause prior to it.
The universe exists.
Therefore, the universe had a cause prior to it


The arguer than names the cause listed in the conclusion "God". Then he refuses to acknowledge that he has just performed an indirect proof that his first premise is false. Because this "God" is presumed to exist and not to have been caused.

It makes no sense to define the thing in your conclusion as something which itself violates a premise.

I see this as the same argument as "It's pretty much turtles all the way down." The earth must rest on the back of a giant turtle to keep it from falling. But what is that turtle standing on? Another turtle. And so on. Somewhere at the bottom of the stack is presumably a turtle which doesn't need to stand on anything else, and that Turtle can be called "God". So why not just go with Occam's Razor and declare that the earth doesn't need to stand on anything else? Why interpose hypothetical turtles at all?

Marino said...

David Brin:
"Though I did think there's also be some discussion of Gelernter. Do spread word about this posting!"

I've sent it to a friend of mine who's a scholar in internet & cultural studies; she studied C.P. Snow, too.
Overall: Gelernter (name that sounds oddly something like "well educated" from my remembrance of German...LOL)? nasty reactionary rantings soon to be used as weapon of choice against science and federal funding for universities. Just my two cents.
Aside musing:

I'd suggest also this interesting link:
https://medium.com/data-for-democracy/sockpuppets-secessionists-and-breitbart-7171b1134cd5
word frequency nalysis showing probable organized intervention on social media
a.k.a. : "who lives by data mining (e.g. Bannon), he will die of data mining"

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart stated:

"I gather you are disappointed that I didn't get into it with you[...]"

Hardly, sir, it's about the sadness of the truth, "There are none so blind as those who will not see."

"What I disbelieve is the supernatural. If God exists, He is part of reality[...]"

You believe phenomena outside the known (and unknown) laws of science cannot be possible. God is indeed part of reality. How have you conclusively proven there is no "supernatural"? Have you vetted every documented report of such phenomena or have you merely dismissed them all out of hand for reasoning you believe to be sound? It only takes one exception to disprove your "truth" but thousands should be expected. Interestingly, there are thousands, though many are insufficiently documented to meet rigorous journalistic standards. However, just about all that do are not widely published.

I hear you request, "Name one." Tell you what, you rigorously vet the ministry of David Hogan. I mean shadow him for a few months in Mexico. Like Jesus, he is either exactly what he says he is ("I'm what's called a believer.") or he's a raving deluded bald-faced liar--there can be no middle ground. He is a character and doesn't shy away from stepping on the toes of peoples' dogmas. But do the signs and wonders truly follow him?

Or will you continue to cherry-pick the data upon which you are basing a possible eternal existence?

LarryHart said...

David L Craig:


Or will you continue to cherry-pick the data upon which you are basing a possible eternal existence?

And somehow, I had the impression that you were Jewish. Shows what I know. :)

"Cherry pick" in what sense? I'm not trying to convince you of anything other than why a particular argument doesn't prove what it thinks it proves. I'm not even asserting for sure that the conclusion is false--just that it hasn't been proven, or that the conclusion doesn't lead to other things that it is meant to.

It's been 30+ years since I lived on a college campus and encountered quad preachers. They also seemed to think what they were saying was brand new--that anyone who didn't believe must not have heard the message before. It's not that I don't understand what you are preaching. I just don't believe it. And I'm not going to believe it because it is repeated more often.

If God exists, and if He really does judge us when we die, then He already knows what is in my heart. There's no point trying to affect a piety that I don't actually subscribe to in the vain hope of placating His wrath. Trying to fool God probably isn't a winning strategy.

مصطفى محمد said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim H. said...

I wouldn't be all that surprised to see a wealth-friendly translation of scripture, as selective reading may prove insufficient to the prosperity gospel, possibly re-writing to the extant of Jesus chasing smelly peasants out of the Temple courtyard and having lunch with the moneychangers. And entirely deleting the story of Annanias & Sephira.

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart said:

"And somehow, I had the impression that you were Jewish. Shows what I know. :)"

Might be the logo. But don't forget Jesus is Jewish, and that gentile believers are grafted into a Jewish tree (same letter by Paul, chapter 11).

LarryHart said...

Hey, just because someone posted an Asimov essay here, it reminded me to look up a line that I've been slightly misquoting (but getting the gist correct) about misnomers.

This is from his essay on vitamins entitled "Poison in the Negative" (I have it in the collection called Far as the Human Eye Could See. The part I like to cite is my own emphasis:


It didn't take many years for evidence to accumulate that some trace elements necessary to life did not have an amine group as part of their chemical structure and that "vitamine" was consequently a misnomer. There are many cases of this sort in science and, often, the misnomer must remain, if it has become too embedded in scientific writing and too ground in customary use to be given up. ("Oxygen" is a misnomer, for instance, and has been known to be one for nearly two centuries, but what can we do?)




David L. Craig said...

LarryHart said:

"What I disbelieve is the supernatural. If God exists, He is part of reality, not separate or above it. What I also disbelieve is that scripture represents the word of God Himself. I reject the notion that the existence of God would imply any sort of binding to the dictates of a particular human religion. I certainly disbelieve the idea that God has a begotten human Son born of woman. The concept doesn't make sense to me, any more than would the assertion that Newton's laws of motion begat a human son."

before LarryHart said:

"I'm not trying to convince you of anything other than why a particular argument doesn't prove what it thinks it proves."

Then how does the earlier quotation support the second?

David L. Craig said...

Checks and balances behind the scenes, folks? https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/04/05/steven-bannon-no-longer-a-member-of-national-security-council/?utm_term=.35b1fdacb8ed

LarryHart said...

David L Craig,


"I'm not trying to convince you of anything other than why a particular argument doesn't prove what it thinks it proves."

Then how does the earlier quotation support the second?


Ok, I can be said to be "trying to convince you" that I think I'm on solid enough ground for my own belief system. Those are "kinds of convincing you, your Honor," so I'll cop to that.

I'm not expecting or trying to change your mind about your own beliefs.

And when I said the bit about the concept of the Son of God not making sense, I thought you were Jewish. :)


David L. Craig said...

LarryHart said:

"And when I said the bit about the concept of the Son of God not making sense, I thought you were Jewish. :)

What difference does that make? Judaism is no more monolithic than Christianity. Jewish people who accepted Jesus as the Messiah in the first century didn't stop being Jewish, they continued in the Temple worship as long as there was a Temple, their sons were circumcised and their children underwent Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Just because the Pharisees later decided the "Followers of The Way" were no longer Jewish did not mean the Pharisees were correct. Today such Jewish believers tend to call themselves Messianic Jews (completed Jews is also used). Micah prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and Isaiah said He would be called "God with us." The orthodox still like to (pardon the verb) trump Tenach with their oral tradition, and Jesus had strong things to say about that. The vast majority of Jewish people have been conditioned by their leadership for more than a millennium to believe that Jewish people can believe in anything except Jesus is the Messiah, even atheism (well, the orthodox do draw a line there, too).

donzelion said...

Duncan: from the previous thread - "I don't know of any evidence that shows a strong correlation between wealth and jerky behavior."

Thanks for positing - interesting tidbits here, but "strong correlation" or "provocative possibility" remains worthy of some further inquiry, I should think.

Take Piff's study in the National Academy of Sciences seems to show "some correlation" - and their methodology looks provocative. I'll defer to others who have access to the actual paper (paywall...). They used 7 different experiments, and may have found evidence of a 'tendency' toward dishonesty and jerkiness in some fairly easily replicated experiments:

- The traffic scenario: drivers of 'expensive' vehicles are jerkier than drivers of regular vehicles at one intersection in SF (roughly twice as inconsiderate as low-socioeconomic status drivers) (thus verifying anecdotal evidence). But this was in San Francisco, at one four-way intersection. Do other factors apply? (e.g., LOTS of jerks at 7:50 or 8:50, far fewer jerks at 9:50 and 11:50 - are most high status vehicles are driving as 'jerks' at approx the same time...). Further study required before concluding a 'strong correlation.'

Or the "dice roll" experiment (195 adults, responding to a Craigslist ad, were asked to report on a rigged dice roll - high socioeconomic status players lied about the results, reporting a higher outcome in order to win a prize). "High-SES people cheated the most, routinely claiming scores of 15 or higher." Provocative, BUT precisely which 'high status people' will respond to a Craigslist ad at all? I would expect a somewhat special slice of 'high status' population monitors Craigslist, even in SF...

Several provocative steps, but further study, repetition, replication, comparison is warranted before I'll accept a 'strong correlation.'

To me, the distinction between the Trumpentariat anti-science populism and a pro-science respectful skepticism: if we start with the assumption "researchers are untrustworthy charlatans in league with the enemy" we never reach the point of doing the rest of the work to enable theories to 'prove out.'

Assuming, as Locum did, that "scientists merely want to do this research in order to control us!" - poisons the possibility of doing that real work. Yet I would imagine even Locum would be interested in knowing "if rich people lie more than poor people, will they also cheat on their medical bills?" - insurance companies would certainly want to know...(ahem, lawyers tend to work more for rich people for a reason...and there are reasons the rich are adept at avoiding costs that others cannot escape...)

Jumper said...

I just pray to the first turtle and ask him to "pass it along."

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: The 'neocons' of the Straussian ilk were merely disposable cheerleaders to whom the powers-that-be tossed a few scraps from their table in order to foment a rhetoric helpful to their agenda in 2003.

Today's 'neo-neocons' are more of the Carl Schmitt variety. Their rhetoric is a much more dangerous response to 'positive sum thinking' - rather than ignoring the possibility, shifting to a 'friend-or-foe' analysis (even a 'positive sum' outcome is undesirable if (a) 'enemies' may benefit as much as 'friends' and/or (b) friends are not empowered to disperse the gains).

Straussian fantasies are intellectually moribund, BUT Schmittian rhetoric is considerably more pernicious. Few today are really digging at the driving logic animating Breitbart & Friends - but in a couple years, everyone will remember Carl Schmitt (and shudder).

As for Gelernter...you've dissected him so thoroughly, what have we to add? ;-)

LarryHart said...

@David L Craig,

I'm really not trying to bait you. I'm not going to pretend to believe something just to make you comfortable, but my reasons for joining in this conversation have been intellectual, not personal as you seem to be taking it.

My point was that I didn't realize at the time that the statement that I don't understand the concept of God having a child was confrontational toward you. It didn't represent a belief that I was trying to talk you out of.


Micah prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and Isaiah said He would be called "God with us." The orthodox still like to (pardon the verb) trump Tenach with their oral tradition, and Jesus had strong things to say about that. The vast majority of Jewish people have been conditioned by their leadership for more than a millennium to believe that Jewish people can believe in anything except Jesus is the Messiah...


You're being borderline offensive by presuming that what Jewish (or any other) people believe comes from brainwashing by their "leadership", whereas your beliefs about the unknowable are self-evident to any intelligent free-thinker. I know that's not what you think you're saying, but that's what it sounds like. Caveat emptor.

My understanding is that Jews don't recognize a 2000-year-old person as the Messiah because all the things that are supposed to happen when the Messiah comes didn't happen. Christians wait confidently for His second coming, but that's just making stuff up. All those things you expect to happen when the Messiah returns, Jews are expecting to happen when he comes the first time.


You believe phenomena outside the known (and unknown) laws of science cannot be possible. God is indeed part of reality. How have you conclusively proven there is no "supernatural"? Have you vetted every documented report of such phenomena or have you merely dismissed them all out of hand for reasoning you believe to be sound?


It's not really a question of science per se. I can't say whether the supernatural is "possible" in any sense, such as "in cyberspace" or "in the mind" or "in an alternate universe from which we can receive no information", and I'm not interested in that philosophical argument. I mean that I don't believe anything outside of reality materially affects reality. That if something happens, there is therefore a reasonable explanation of its cause. That mere coincidence does not require the supernatural as an explanation (such as "My daughter's Bat Mitzvah date fell on Pi Day! How could that happen without intervention by an omnipotent God?")

A comic series called "Invisibles" had an interesting take on this subject. The author posited that God created reality as a lure for all sorts of evil spirits, who flooded into the universe in order to subvert it, only to discover that they had fallen into a trap. Now that they were part of reality, they were stuck in it. There's no way to leave.

David Brin said...

David Craig I value you as a fine addition to our intellectual community, but your series of recited nostrums about Judaism afre profoundly awful.

1) The Bethlehem story of the "census" had one purpose, to claim that a Galilean Nazarene was of the House of Jesse and David to fit prophecy. But no such census ever took place. Not even remotely. Not census like the one described EVER took place under Roman or Hasmonean or Herodian rule. At all. Even once ever.

2) Yes, first century Christians thought of themselves as Jews... till James and the Jewish Christians nearly all died defending their assigned section of the wall of Jerusalem, leaving Paul of Tarsus free to concoct anything he wished, including adopting dozens of Greek cult beliefs, like the young god who dies on a tree to save the world (Mithras.)

Especially the notion of God demanding a human sacrifice, something all Jews found and find deeply insulting of God, along withthe justification myth called Original Sin, which portrays God as a horrid, vengeful monster.

3) The oldest scripture, Mark, treats christians as a type of Jew, yes. The jailhouse scene talks of the "mob" or the"crowd." Matthew, the last written (as definitely proved linguistically, blames "The Jews" as an enemy cult and shows a crowd of them deliberately and voluntarily calling a curse upon their heads and their children. who on earth would do such a thing? Ever? Under those conditions, no Jew who 'accepted' such slander remains a Jew. Come on! The proof is that those families do NOT remain Jews. You are talking extinction.

4) The Book of Revelation. Nothing need be said more than that. Beginning to end, the diametric opposite to every single thing that Jesus preached.

Icoudl go on. And on and on. But no. I've answered a finger-wag with a counter. enough. Blessings on us all

Paul451 said...

The larger bodies beyond Neptune have a slight bias in the inclination/eccentricity of their orbits, which could be explained by a 9th planet. So researchers have been pointing their 'scopes at the highest probability location of said 9th. But the volume of data is huge, so they're using online volunteers to augment computerised sifting.

http://www.space.com/36322-planet-nine-candidates-citizen-science.html

Part I found interesting, the volunteers spotted 4 candidates from potentially 4 years worth of data, in less that three days.

(Same volunteers found "Tabby's Star" in Kepler's data.)

---

Playground in Alice Springs, built by children for children, along the theme of a mission to construct a space station, called "An Unsafe Adventure for Kids".

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-02/space-station-in-alice-springs-a-hit-encourages-kids-use-tools/8409008

Part that amused me, there was adult supervision, but the adults played the part of "droids". Passively following the children's instructions (unless their safety protocols were triggered.)

Paul451 said...

DLC,
"Indeed, you are betting the farm on it, and if your heart stops beating today, this is the day of your showdown."

You went from the Ontological Argument to Pascal's Wager in one step.

Likewise:

Larry: "What I disbelieve is the supernatural. If God exists, He is part of reality[...]"
You: "You believe phenomena outside the known (and unknown) laws of science cannot be possible."

And,

"he is either exactly what he says he is ("I'm what's called a believer.") or he's a raving deluded bald-faced liar--there can be no middle ground."

You are all about the fallacy of the excluded middle, aren't you.

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart said:

"You're being borderline offensive by presuming that what Jewish (or any other) people believe comes from brainwashing by their "leadership", whereas your beliefs about the unknowable are self-evident to any intelligent free-thinker. I know that's not what you think you're saying, but that's what it sounds like. Caveat emptor."

Your belief that anything is unknowable does not prove it is unknowable. And I am not speaking in isolation from the Jewish people; e.g., my mother-in-law for over 35 years escaped from Berlin in 1934 with her father, and she is (turns 100 on Monday, still unassisted living, handling her affairs, no walker) an atheist, but we get along quite well. She became a career NIH chemist, and her passed atheist husband was one of Edward Teller's grad students at GWU--Teller wanted him on the Manhattan Project but the NBS (now NIST) wouldn't release him, so he dropped bowling balls down elevator shafts onto plexiglass samples during the war working toward reducing pilot losses to bird strikes (higher than from enemy action, he said). Any Jewish people who take issue with me have to deal with my wife, too, but they tend to respect me so she doesn't have to get in their faces.

"My understanding is that Jews don't recognize a 2000-year-old person as the Messiah because all the things that are supposed to happen when the Messiah comes didn't happen. Christians wait confidently for His second coming, but that's just making stuff up. All those things you expect to happen when the Messiah returns, Jews are expecting to happen when he comes the first time."

There is a large segment that sees it as you say, but even they speak of Mashiach-ben-David and Mashiach-ben-Yoseph, the king and the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, that they believe to be two different people. Most will not begin to consider Jesus as a candidate for the latter, though.

Paul SB said...

Oh boy, it's impossible to keep up on an hour-a-day Brin diet. My chihuahua! I've already forgotten half the things I wanted to say - maybe more, I can't remember. but here goes:

Larry, what Asimov was talking about in that bit you quoted has a name, and that name has been around since at least Asimov's time (likely more, given when the common usage of the term began to shift). It's called "The Genetic Fallacy," and one which locum used to use a fair bit, though I haven't noticed it recently. If you google the term you'll find plenty of good sites that explain it.

Donzelion, name a time and place that works for you and I'll see if I can fit it in. It might be good for us both to specify some article of clothing we will wear to make ourselves more easily identifiable. I keep a hat in my car for when I go hiking under the blazing California sun that is covered with enamel pins, so that might be my choice.

Duncan beat me to the punch on scientific inquiry into the effects of wealth and power on the human mind. Here's another Science Daily summary I had that he did not, though you will find a whole lot more by reading Stefan Klein's "Survival of the Nicest" - which recently read twice because I was stuck in a place for a long time with nothing else to do, and I still can't remember details.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150515083230.htm

Jumper, I love your turtle-begging strategy, though it is very much the same as praying to the Virgin Mary and the saints.

"Power=money=freedom."

This needs a little more clarification. Power leads to freedom for those who have enough of it, but for the other 99% of hominids Power = Money = Serfdom. Obviously this is other people's power leads to everyone else's serfdom. I know it sounds very zero-sum, but unless we can beat zero-sum thinking out of a majority of the species, civilizations will continue to act as if everything is zero-sum.

Paul SB said...

David Craig, your indoctrination is showing. You stated that God is a part of nature - one that "science" has yet to prove - but by saying that God is natural you pave the way to the recognition that the word /supernatural/ is oxymoronic. Think antonyms for a moment. The words people usually see as opposite to /natural/ are /unnatural/ and /artificial/. /Unnatural/ is simply a linguistic construction that indicates opposite with the lexeme /un-/. It makes no claims to any specifics about what is opposite. /Artificial/, on the other hand, has a more specific meaning, deriving from the same root as /artifice/. It means something which has been created by a force that has agency - the choice of a sapient being (usually presumed to be hominid). This pretty clearly shows that the word /supernatural/ is an internal contradiction. Something cannot be of nature on the one hand but outside or "above" nature on the other. This word is a deliberate obfuscation for the purpose of making religious claims untestable and hands off to scientific scrutiny, while maintaining the power of authority to assert their "Truth."

Please don't take my intentions for an attempt to challenge your faith. You, like all hominids, are entitled to your own beliefs. If you worshipped the Almighty (but very sleepy) Azatoth it would be no different to me than any other religion. They all have their roles to play in human society. The problem comes when people insist that their beliefs are somehow objectively true and apply universally to all other hominids - in other words, dogmatism.

I’m pretty much on board with Larry’s thinking here. It is an old indoctrination strategy to make these kinds of false equivalencies (Greatest Thing in the Universe = God = the exact portrayal depicted in the highly selective interpretation of the Bible (or Qu’ran, the Vedas, the Kojiki – whatever) in whatever community, sect and time period you were raised in). As far as I can tell, all religions rely on these same kinds of faulty syllogisms and other fallacies (like the Fallacy of Special Pleading that happens whenever someone is asked to provide proof of some religious tenet) to win converts and score holier than thou brownie points. They can all be dispelled by paying close attention to the logical errors in such deliberate obfuscations.

You are also slipping into Pascal's Wager territory with “Indeed, you are betting the farm on it, and if your heart stops beating today, this is the day of your showdown.” This was shown to be self-contradictory a long, long time ago, but they don’t teach this stuff in Sunday school (not any of the ones I went to, anyway, and it calls to mind Douglas Adams’ Babel fish entry in the Hitchhiker’s Guide).

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Your belief that anything is unknowable does not prove it is unknowable.


Again, not trying to be deliberately confrontational. I thought I was speaking in your own terminology concerning things for which faith is required because knowledge is impossible.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin, someone else commented that you have done such a fine job of dissecting Gelernter that few of us are likely to have anything to contribute. The only thing I could think of is that the fool sounds like he might have something along the lines of Stockholm Syndrome, though he has not been literally kidnapped, only financially.

I'm sure Ari must be glad to see you. I was trying to keep up with her podcast for awhile, but got too buried in work and other issues. I'll see if I can work a little Ari time in my schedule. She has all that wonderful active optimism of her age, and a solid sense of reasoning to boot. Any parent of an adult child could salute you.

Jumper said...

The three, power, money and freedom, are fungible. They are in a sense the same thing to whomever possesses them. That lab rat in the maze is no true Scotsman, however, because although he's free to take the left or right side of the maze, he can't escape the lab and take a cab to Miami Beach. He's not free. If he had money or power, he wouldn't be in the lab maze in the first place.

donzelion said...

Tim H: "I wouldn't be all that surprised to see a wealth-friendly translation of scripture"

No need. They wield power through manipulating appointments and monitoring messages, not through revising the texts.

"And entirely deleting the story of Annanias & Sephira."
Not to mention every other section in the Acts of the Apostles where they "shared everything in common and provided for each according to their need" - because obviously the Christians could not be socialists...

Good-hearted Christians (or Jews or Muslims or any other faith) who strive to be logically consistent with all the tenets of their faith are no threat: disagreement is unlikely to fall into senseless and brutal bickering - they have something they believe that they can try to defend, whereas someone who has embraced a contradictory 'pick and choose' faith cannot defend their beliefs or practices, and must instead lash out at others rather than build a coherent identity. Since they are at odds with their own faith, they project that hypocrisy onto others based on emotional manipulation. Fertile soil for those with entrenched power...as they always have been.

LarryHart said...

Paul 451:

Playground in Alice Springs, built by children for children, along the theme of a mission to construct a space station, called "An Unsafe Adventure for Kids".

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-02/space-station-in-alice-springs-a-hit-encourages-kids-use-tools/8409008

Part that amused me, there was adult supervision, but the adults played the part of "droids". Passively following the children's instructions (unless their safety protocols were triggered.)


So they actually played the part of Asimov's 3-laws robots?

:)

A.F. Rey said...

But as soon as the signification of the word "God" is understood, it is at once seen that God exists. For by this word is signified that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. But that which exists actually and mentally is greater than that which exists only mentally. Therefore, since as soon as the word "God" is understood it exists mentally, it also follows that it exists actually. Therefore the proposition "God exists" is self-evident.

To throw a little more gas on this fire, there is also the ambiguity of the word "greater." How is "greater" determined? Is it more powerful? More loving? More forgiving? Which characteristics make a being "greater" than another?

Because "greater" is somewhat subjective. One person would say a God who forgives everyone is "greater" than one who condemns some to ever-lasting Hell. Someone else would say such a God is a wuss and a libertine for forgiving evil people. Some would say a God who strictly enforces all laws is "greater" than one who let some laws (like eating pork) slide. I find a God who condemns all homosexuals as being a "lesser" God than one who will find a way to forgive them for their weakness of the flesh. Others disagree.

So while a God which exists actually and mentally is one greater than one that only exists mentally, is it entirely conceivable that a mental construction of God would be considered "greater" than one that actually exists. Which means that there can be mental conceptions of God that do not exist. Which means that any given mental construction of God may only be a mental construction, and any actual construction may be so minor that it wouldn't be considered "great."

And that there even could be several such "Gods," since the definition of "greatest" would differ between individuals.

LarryHart said...

@A F Rey,

I even take issue with the premise that something that exists is "greater" than something that does not. A perfect sphere is a greater sphere than an imperfect one, but no perfect sphere exists in the real world. The mentally-conceived, ideal sphere is greater than any that exist.

But if I remember my college days correctly, the ontological argument attempts something more tricky. Or maybe I misinterpreted it at the time, but this is what I wrote a paper refuting: That when you (mentally) conceive of a God who is "greater than anything else", then one of the characteristics you would have to ascribe to that being is that of existing. So "exists" becomes one of the defining characteristics of the God you are thinking of. So by definition, the God you thought up mentally must exist, for the same reason that a unicorn you think up mentally must have a single horn. A single horn is what makes it a unicorn. Existence is one of the things that makes it God.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion

There is data about the "rich jerks" theory (it's well beyond a hypothesis)

And a simple mechanism
If I look at two individuals - engineers for example - one spends 20% of his energy doing the task and 80% promoting himself
The other spends 80% on the task
Who gets promoted?
Most of the time it's the one working on getting promoted

During my time in industry I found this to be a universal rule - the percentage of jerks increases as you go up the ladder - until at the very senior levels it eaches 100%

A.F. Rey said...

So "exists" becomes one of the defining characteristics of the God you are thinking of. So by definition, the God you thought up mentally must exist, for the same reason that a unicorn you think up mentally must have a single horn. A single horn is what makes it a unicorn. Existence is one of the things that makes it God.

That looks to me like it is boarding on a tautology.

I certainly don't see why any given God someone thinks up must exist (such as the Flying Spaghetti Monster :)), so I don't see why any God someone thinks up must exist.

LarryHart said...

@A F Rey,

IIRC, the essence of the counterargument in my class paper on the Ontological Argument was along the lines of:

To say a single horn is a defining characteristics of a unicorn is to say that anything that doesn't have a single horn is not a unicorn.

Likewise, all the Ontological Argument has proven is that anything that does not exist can't be God.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan,

Basically once you have enough wealth it continues to accumulate -
to Alfred's point you do NOT need to -
(Ya gotta work it to make it.)
above a certain level you just have to stand clear and NOT STOP it from working!


I’m not suggesting one needs to work all that hard (especially hard labor), but work IS required. Capital has an annoying habit of decaying if left on the table. This includes human capital. I have only to think of that Cobol language class I took in college to realize that effort has decayed to practically no value at all.

It certainly does help to stand clear, but for that to work, someone must be maintaining and investing the wealth. One stands clear of the people doing the work to grow it.

I’m into Chapter 2 of Piketty’s book so far. I have a couple of gripes, but nothing to make me not read more of it. Some of the aggregate measures look a tad hokey to me, but I’ll go along with him on it for now. However, I AM inclined to agree with him that human capital is different enough from non-human capital that we should avoid aggregates that lump them together. One can’t trade human capital, but one can trade human labor backed by human capital.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
I agree - capital - especially human capital does evaporate!

But it also grows - one effect is roughly linear - the other is not - so all of our capital evaporates
BUT if you have a LOT - then it grows faster than it evaporates

Piketty does some analysis of different rates of return depending on the amount of capital
- I was surprised just how much that effect was and how high the amount you needed to have to take advantage of it

Mere millionaires don't get much better rates than the rest of us!

But if you are investing hundreds of millions....

Alfred Differ said...

Gelernter’s material produces a general yawn from me most of the time. The Intelligencia fights among itself often enough that it is rarely news. We strawman, exaggerate, and commit all the other argument sins while accusing others of our clade of doing the same. Well… some of us do… some of the time. We do it often enough to create the examples needed by those outside our clade to label us all as a bad influence. It reminds me of how Fox News picks up on the behaviors of a few on the far left to brand a much larger set of opponents and mark them as unfit to lead, govern, or even be good neighbors.

This isn’t an argument suggesting ‘everyone does it’, though. I DO think it is a human thing to commit these argument sins, but some are better at avoiding them than others and some are courageous enough to admit when they’ve done it and be corrected by those offering decent criticism.

While his complaints draw yawns from me, there is one aspect of them where I think careful attention is required. If the complaints draw the very behavior from us that justifies them, then it is WE who must be cautious about feeding a troll. Carefully directed criticism might deserve well-reasoned responses, but generalities about our clade, like a zero-sum belief regarding expertise, should be treated like toxins. Perhaps students should be taught more of the arts than they are today. Speaking from experience I can say my formal education outside science was somewhat lacking. However, we might also say that more should be taught some of the sciences too. Time available to a college student for study IS a limited resource, so a zero-sum approach might have to be considered, but it would be dumb to assume that was the only way forward. My arts education might have been weak, but it was strong enough for me to avoid the most embarrassing end of the Dunning-Kruger relationship. How could that be if Gelernter’s zero-sum generality is true?

My inclination to avoid Gelernter’s material, though, is mostly about my desire to avoid an indignation response. He is wrong. News at 11. Moving on now.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan,

Mere millionaires aren’t all that much richer than the average American. I’ve got a family member who has accumulated enough wealth to be a millionaire now, but they spent a lot of their life so far doing it. It isn’t that hard to do if you work at it for 30 years. It also isn’t hard to lose it to a bad investment or to decay.

I look forward to the later chapters of Piketty’s book. He hints early on that the rates of return DO depend on the amount of capital available. I can see how they would, but I can also see that the decay rates might be different too. Either way, I’m going to be very suspicious of every aggregate he defines and the ways in which we might be able to measure the rates of return. He points out these difficulties early on, so I recognize his honesty in the matter.

None of this is linear, though. A very slow exponential curve will appear linear. Every attempted fit of data to a polynomial expansion starts with a constant we tend to ignore as ‘the floor’ and then comes the linear term. It’s just the nature of the mathematics. Even oscillators appear linear if you sample them too fast and for too short a time period. 8)

Jumper said...

Alfred, I came across the expression "nut picking" for "picks up on the behaviors of a few on the far left to brand a much larger set of opponents and mark them as unfit."
It's a variety of cherry picking.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man#Contemporary_work

David L. Craig said...

Dr. Brin wrote:

"Especially the notion of God demanding a human sacrifice, something all Jews found and find deeply insulting of Godi[...]"

Alas, I do not have much time for this repartee as my mother-in-law's 100th birthday comes the day before Pesach this year and preparations are already afoot. So I'll respond to this point now and hopefully get to the rest later.

What is your source for this statement? I want to avoid it. Are you aware of the annual cycle of Torah readings just about every synagogue has adhered to for millennia? Did you know what is read every Yom Teruah, called Rosh H'Shannah (Head of the Year) by the rabbis but the seventh month by the Torah, one of the two days every cycle most Jews actually go to a synagogue service (their Christmas and Easter)? Did you know they have to roll the scroll more than halfway back to get to this reading, then afterwards roll it forward again to where it was for the next parshah? It is called the Akedah (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binding_of_Isaac). It's about what set Abraham apart and made him the first Hebrew: his obedience to be willing to sacrifice his miracle child of promise. True, many Jewish (and non-Jewish) people are horrified by it but most certainly not all--there it is, front and center every year. Also, you overlook the many Jewish people who engaged in child sacrifice contrary to Torah and could not have had a rational basis for heartburn from the Akeda.

David Brin said...

David Craig you are free to swarm the discussion with details, but the basics are clear. The binding of Isaac was about God REFUSING the human sacrifice that all the other deities of that era demanded. There and in many other places, such practices are deemed anathema, immoral and disgusting. Further, Original Sin is a notion that Paul found to be common among the Greeks, where he had gone to live, but it was considered grotesque (as it should be) byJews and was among the many reasons why most refused to convert, despite every threat and inducement.

That plus the decidedly nastl and vicious jailhouse scene as related by "Matthew", the author of which lived at least a cent=ury later and who used dialect that did not exist in the time of Jesus. And who portrays a mob shouting things that n o human being would ever say.

LarryHart said...

@David L Craig,

Abraham was willing to obey God, who (in the final analysis) did not require the sacrifice.

Also, Abraham was the first monotheistic follower of God, but he is not the first Jew. I'm not clear why this is, but his grandson Jacob gets that honor.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

That plus the decidedly nastl and vicious jailhouse scene as related by "Matthew", the author of which lived at least a cent=ury later and who used dialect that did not exist in the time of Jesus. And who portrays a mob shouting things that n o human being would ever say.


All exceptions (Mel Gibson) duly noted.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Mr. Gelernter's 1993 book Mirror Worlds forecast a coming era when Big Data models will replicate objective reality so closely that cyber and physical may merge in useful ways, empowering us all – a rosy view of technological change that not only put him in the transcendental-optimist camp, but earned him devastating attention from the Unabomber.


Whether or not that painful, crippling brush with a luddite lunatic was precipitating, Gelernter soon shifted his emphasis increasingly to nostalgia and exceptionalism


I think someone above mentioned "Stockholm Syndrome". He really let a personal attack from an anti-tech luddite turn him into an anti-tech luddite? That doesn't sound like typical right-wing behavior.

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

Your "rich jerks" hypothesis seems quite sound, though I think there are other variables involved. If you substitute the word /narcissist/ for /jerk/ (which is more acceptable for it's lesser emotional connotations), you can see some things about the people who climb the corporate ladder (to say nothing of the political ladder). Narcissists, sociopaths and excessively aggressive (testosterone driven) people are who our society accepts as leaders. Most older societies practice a sort of cultural leveling in which aggressive, self-centered, ruthless people are kept in check by social norms, which are usually encultured through children's stories, songs, the arts generally, then enforced by peer pressure mechanisms such as ridicule, ostracism and non-cooperation (even beatings in some places). The fact that even a capitalistic society like the U.S. maintains some of these old superstructures shows how important they have been for the development of the human species. I equate American Capitalism to a social version of cancer, in which the normal white blood cells have not been able to keep the cancer down, mainly because of a shift from an emphasis on community needs to an exaggerated focus on individual needs, making the community expendable and individuals paramount (no wonder Americans are so commonly narcissists). This goes back much further than the Cold War, which I like to emphasize. It's just part of the normal, ever-shifting balance between individual and community needs, and it was turning toward the extreme in Europe long before the US, but European cultures mostly seem to have found a somewhat less extreme balance in Socialism. There are plenty of narcissistic, parasitic rich bastards in Europe, but social expectations help to keep them from going quite as far in raping their nations as here.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

That was me who mentioned the Stockholm Syndrome, though I said it would be some variation from the usual use of that term, as Gelertner was never kidnapped and indoctrinated under those conditions. Having been blown up, he is likely to have PTSD, which can unhinge a mind in many different ways (flashbacks are a defining feature, but different individuals experience their own suites of psychological symptoms in addition to the flashback anxiety attacks). The guy probably should not be publishing books, he should be getting treatment - though writing is often one of a number of treatment regimens given to PTSD, Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression patients concurrently with several others. It is common with anxiety disorders for people to associate themselves with their trauma ("become their pain" as it were). Interestingly enough, this problem is actually much more common in English-speaking countries than others, which is fairly well explained by Sapir/Whorf. In English we are always saying "I am..." as in "I am hungry." This linguistic construction forces our self identities into a huge schema that makes ideas like /hungry/ seem to be permanent traits of ourselves. Contrast that with a language where they say "Ich habe Hunger" meaning "I have hunger" making it into a statement of a temporary condition rather than a permanent part of their identity. The consequences of these different types of linguistic structures and how they shape human thought and identity can be fun to speculate on, but can only be demonstrated in probabilistic terms, if at all. Intriguing nonetheless.

I'm in full-egghead mode this morning, aren't I?

Paul SB said...

Oh, that comment to Duncan was as much for Alfred, too.

I just remembered, that whole "Ontological Argument" is nothing but magical thinking. I believe something exists, therefore it does exist. Nothing but primitive, superstitious drivel dressed up to look like logic. When scientists pull crap like that the rest of the scientific community calls it /scientism/. When religious indoctrinates pull crap like that, the scientific community calls it /pseudoscience/. Please, just accept that religious propositions are irrational and don't try to dress them up in pseudo-logic. That's not a dismissal of religion, because humans are quite irrational and have emotional needs that don't fit into a strict logician's cap. Let science do what it's supposed to do and religion do what it's supposed to do. That 20th Century "have your cake and eat it too" mode just makes the zealots even more dogmatic - on both sides.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I just remembered, that whole "Ontological Argument" is nothing but magical thinking. I believe something exists, therefore it does exist.


It's a little more subtle than that. I addressed the specifics above, along with my refutation, but it's more than just "I imagine the thing exists, so it does."

It gets down to what is a defining characteristic of a thing. A unicorn could have many sizes, colors, wings or no wings, etc, but the single horn is what makes it a "unicorn". You can't call something a unicorn if it doesn't have the single horn.

What the O.A. tries to do is to say that, as a consequence of its greatness, one of the defining characteristics of God is that he must exist. On the grounds that God is greater than anything else, including many things which do exist. God must have existence (among other things) as a defining characteristic. Thus, as with the unicorn, existence is one of the things that makes God "God", and you can't call something "God" if the thing doesn't possess the quality of existing.

As I concluded above, all this really proves is that "If something does not exist, it is not God."

Robert said...

The next underpinning of the filibuster was knocked out today. The Republicans got their Trumpter Supreme Court nominee through the Senate.

And in all likelihood the rest of the filibuster will be destroyed the next time Democrats refuse to pass something the Republicans want - you know, pro-corporate tax 'reform' or repealing the ACA (as they're trying once more).

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

@Robert,

For those who don't know, the Norman Goldman show just recently explained to me how the Nuclear Option works. I didn't even understand it at the time Harry Reid used it in 2013.

Basically, when the vote comes to end the filibuster, the Senate Parliamentarian says that the cloture vote failed for lack of 60 votes. Then, Mitch McConnell says he disagrees, that he thinks the vote did pass. Then the Senate votes on which of them is right, and the vote is a strictly majority decision.

This procedure was first described by Republicans (notably Bill Frist) in the mid 2000s. As far as I'm concerned, once the idea was out in the open, then the concept of the filibuster was as good as gone anyway, because any time the majority didn't like a filibuster, they could invoke the Nuclear Option at any time. The only thing holding anyone back was not wanting to take the blame for "breaking" the Senate. The whole idea of "If you eliminate the filibuster now, it won't be there when you need it" was a red herring, because the majority could always break the "agreement" whenever it suited them.

Since Democrats would be vilified for getting rid of the filibuster themselves, it's best the Republicans do it for us. As for what benefit we might be losing for our side, I think it is obvious that that benefit was illusory anyway. It was like "I won't pull my gun on you as long as you do whatever I say without me pulling a gun."

locumranch said...



My, my. The circular reasoning is strong in this thread.

David argues that "it is because science taught us how to refute and cast down comfortable prejudices (ancient crimes like racism, sexism and environmental neglect)", even though these so-called advances of refutation have been driven by moral emotionality rather than "science".

Racism, also known variously as 'defensive clustering', 'herding behaviour' and 'kinship preference', has a scientific providence since it has been extensively documented by empiric observation in species as diverse as earthworms, chickens, horses & humans. The same holds true for the scientific basis of Sexism, also known as 'sex-linked behaviours', 'gender specificity' and 'sexual dimorphism'. It has also been scientifically proven in the case of the Environmental Neglect as widely observed & documented among those invasive species freed from nature's checks & balances (as in the case of Australian rabbits & human beings in general).

So much of David's much vaunted Social Progress against "ancient crimes like racism, sexism and environmental neglect", then, amounts to Science Denialism as he & his progressive ilk prefer their WEIRD & relatively arbitrary moral idealism over the eons of biologically driven behaviours and scientifically documented genetic determinism.

These Science Denying Progressives, they seek to pervert science & human nature by FORCING reality to conform to their delusional ideals, even though a much more rational (and 'scientific') approach would be to use science to create a better reality that conforms to human nature as evolved, rather than the attempt to deform both reality & human genetics in order to conform to their absurd Pinkerian morality.

This is also the nature of the Ontological Argument, btw, a circular argument that presupposes the existence of either a formative intelligence, first cause or non-contingent being (all euphemisms for God) in order to 'prove' the subsequent existence of a deity as presupposed by their circular argument.


Best
___
Horrifying, isn't it, to have a representative US government that actually tries to represent the electorate that elected it, even though it would be so much better (as far as most progressives are concerned) to institute tyrannical rule by an appropriately expert, liberal & ivy league educated elite that could pervert science to their own Pinkerian ends.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Horrifying, isn't it, to have a representative US government that actually tries to represent the electorate that elected it,


You mean like in 2008 when the electorate voted for President Obama and a huge Democratic majority in both houses of congress? But Mitch McConnell wouldn't let the electorate's government get anything passed?

Or are you lamenting the fact that your Republicans are still trying to overturn the ACA, even though they're hearing from their constituents that they don't want that to happen?

Anonymous said...

In 2021 President Warren should nominate 5 liberals to become supreme court justices. Pack the court with liberals, it is constitutional but do the democrats have the will to do it?

David Brin said...

anonymous -- Thanks, but that is a huge nuclear option. And whatever weapon you use can later be used against you. Thomas More - in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS - SAID "I give the devil the benefit of the law for my own safety's sake."

LH said: "You mean like in 2008 when the electorate voted for President Obama and a huge Democratic majority in both houses of congress? But Mitch McConnell wouldn't let the electorate's government get anything passed?"

It is far worse. Because of a combination of gerrymanderiing and (yes) urban disadvantage but above all cheating, Republicans have won the presidency twice and congress seven times with MAJORITIES of the American voters going against them.

Let's reiterate. Since 1992 there have been7 presidential and 14 congressional elections in which the american majority favored the republicans for President and Congress ONE time, ONCE! The thrice damned and deeply evil hijackers of US conservatism have used cheating to steal President and Congress and 2/3 of statehouses and anyone who says the following is a deeply immoral pal of cheaters:

"Horrifying, isn't it, to have a representative US government that actually tries to represent the electorate that elected it, "

As for "So much of David's much vaunted Social Progress against "ancient crimes like racism, sexism and environmental neglect", then, amounts to Science Denialism..."

I won't answer this on moral grounds but on grounds of staggering stupidity. Wastage of talent is just asinine and dumb. Blind tests of ability show very little dimorphism in ability to accomplish tasks, between races and genders, but even if they did, that should not affect our ability to recruit talent from among the copious numbers of (say) women or (name a race) who are at the right side of their own statistical variations.

There will probably never be as many women suited for combat or wanting to go into combat as men, sure. But there are ten percent of women who as warriors would sure clean locumranch's clock and knock down any but maybe one or two males he personally knows. And it is pure idiocy (as well as assholery) to deny that 10% the right, the honor of service.

I know plenty of them and if you force them - and their grownup, non-sexist male comrades - to be on the Union side, BOY will we win when Steve Bannon turns this civil war phase hot.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Oh, locum, locum, locum. Didn't your momma teach you not to make categorical assignment errors?

Racism, also known variously as 'defensive clustering', 'herding behaviour' and 'kinship preference'

Ah, but on what criteria do you cluster? You have blandly asserted with no evidence whatsoever that modern racism -- which operates on such categories as 'white' and 'black' -- is equivalent to innate biological impulses. Such impulses do exist -- but in humans, they are affected by what your brain interprets as a kinship marker. There is nothing magical about skin color as a kinship mark. People remarked on how (frex) Obama's skull and facial features so strongly resembled his (white) Kansan grandfather. In some human cultures the skull features would be the kinship marker. In ancient Greece, it was language -- no matter what the visual cues were, the Greek tongue marked you as a kinsman, and the lack of it as a "barbarian" -- one who could only make "bar bar" sounds, implying no speaking ability at all (and thus subhuman status). Epicanthic folds, pronounciation differences ("shibboleth"), shared rituals, trained automatic responses to stimuli ("The Lord be with you / and also with you"), on and on. Yes, humans will run to their perceived allies when under stress and react negatively to those considered outside the tribe. The difference is what you choose as the marker... and what you choose to disregard.

There really is a faint bias towards those that look, or sound, or act like you. It's real. But it's a faint effect; it does not control us, and can be easily countered by willpower, rituals, and external institutions... if we so choose. The whole argument in favor of tolerance of Otherness rests on the principle -- a founding bedrock of the American experiment -- that the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks, so long as this tolerance is combined with the social structure that rewards cooperation and friendly competition, punishes cheating and fraud, and inculcates such virtues as citizenship, respect, and love of liberty.

(Now if you want to argue that we are lacking in rituals identifying ourselves as such, or have let such decay... I'm going to surprise you and agree. I'd love for us to renew or evolve new ways to say, as Dr. Brin says, "I am a member of a civilization", and show renewed dedication to maintaining it. Even Bannon, for all his twisted and exclusionary mindset, senses that need. But it has to be calibrated properly: rituals of inclusion that also exclude are worse than no ritual at all, for it acts to divide and oppress with the words and ironic tone of celebrating the exact opposite.)

Catfish N. Cod said...

The same holds true for the scientific basis of Sexism, also known as 'sex-linked behaviours', 'gender specificity' and 'sexual dimorphism'.

Again! Just because some traits associated with a marker trait are causally linked does not mean all of them are. Correlation is not causation. There are real sex-linked behaviors. There are also many cultural memes who have adopted a evolutionary strategy of camouflage, masquerading as innate sex-linked behaviors but actually learned. "Girls can't do math" is a prime example: all studies show that girls are equally good at math as boys until about middle school... when the "hidden curriculum" of society starts finding a hundred different ways to tell girls to knock it off with that whole math-nerd thing; don't worry your pretty little head with such...

It would take even more leaps in technology, not to mention likely biological engineering, to make a world with no significant sex-linked differences at all. As long as wombs can only be found in humans born with them, there can never be perfect equality of the sexes. But that does not mean that some of our cultural conceits are not dead wood, trash left over from an age in which women had to stay pregnant to roll the dice and ensure that not all their descendants were overcome by plague, disease, famine, or war.

locumranch said...


The Scientist observes, weights & measures the square peg, notes its incompatibility with the round box and uses his findings to construct a square one that guarantees a perfect fit, whereas the Progressive notes the incompatibility between the square peg & the round box and solves this problem with a snicker-snack, mutilating the square peg in order to fit it into the round box.

Snicker-snack! The Progressive erases religious, cultural & ethnic inequality.

Snicker-snack! The Progressive takes an ax to sex-linked gender difference & discrepancy

Snicker-snack! Diversity & Merit are eliminated and 'boxed' in accordance with progressive conformity.

Snicker-snack! There goes all of that icky political opposition.

Snicker-snack! Goes the Progressive to guarantee equality, parity & identicality.


Best
______

In cadaver class while studying human muscle anatomy, my classmates & I once came across an anomalous muscle group. "What's this?", we asked with some confusion. "Up to 10% of human anatomy is anomalous," replied the professor who then grabbed a scalpel & banished the anomaly (snicker-snack), only to add that we "are to assume an absence of diversity for the duration of class". Science denial by snicker-snack! Equality achieved!

It is pure idiocy & assholery to deny that 10% the honor of service?? If they can find 'honor' in death & dying, then they are more than welcome to it. Up to 10% of women are able to clean a man's clock? Apparently, it pays to deny statistics as well as math & science if one supports the progressive equality, parity & identicality pipe-dream. And, yes, otherness (racism) can be about more than skin colour, even though colour difference is more than enough to precipitate murder among chicken species (see 'chicken spectacles').

'Otherness' as a desirable quality (in principle & practice) is a glaring historical exception which many progressives credit more that 'The Rule'. And, wouldn't it be more 'scientific' & sensible to credit 'The Rule' rather than a glaring exception??

Alfred Differ said...

jumper,

Nut picking. Thank you. I think I've seen you use the phrase, but it didn't stick in my head until now.

I have a FB-style meme ready to go on my home machine that asks a reader not to incite the nuts. (It's just a walnut with some overly large text.) It is intended to signal when we shouldn't trigger some of our more nutty allies to come into a debate and make us all look like them. I should have made the connection. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Paul SB,

American Capitalism as a social cancer?! Hmpf. I encourage you to brush up again on the relationship between young cultures and barbarians. It’s not that we want to rape, pillage, and burn (in that order!), it’s just that the barbarians think they are right about important things to which they have given little thought compared to people from older cultures. Barbarians simplify and enforce. The European colonial powers ended their barbaric phases in 1914. We haven’t. None of this has anything to do with capitalism except that we are barbaric in our inclination towards trade. Our way is the right way. Open your markets or we’ll send in our gunships.

Barbarians are always a force for change. Whether we ride in on horseback or arrive in pinstripe suits matters little. Change is not necessarily a cancer, though.

I believe something exists, therefore it does exist.

Popper made room for this with his multi-world interpretation. What I imagine can exist in world #3, but not necessarily in world #1. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony exists in world #1 when it is played or printed, in world #2 when it is experienced, and in world #3 as an abstraction representing all the printed copies. One can expand the system to world #4 by abstracting the experiences if it is useful and then on to higher worlds by abstracting abstractions. We rarely go all that deep, though, and there is nothing about all these ‘worlds’ that we have to accept in a concrete fashion. They are useful distinctions much like the one we make between brain and mind. They help us keep track of the layers of our abstractions.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | In my experience, the progressives number around 10%. Some might say there are more around us, but I’m more inclined to label the others as liberals who might ally with progressives for certain issues. So… I’m amused. I think I’ll treat them as a 10% anomaly not to be banished for the sake of a belief in a rule.

Take care to distinguish the different categories of your political opponents. If you fail to do so, you’ll most likely drive them together and help maintain their fractured alliance.

Jumper said...

Capitalism is not a cancer; it is the "Typhoid Mary" carrying a host of malignant opportunistic infections, seemingly unconcerned.

LarryHart said...

If Democrats ever regain power, they should promptly enact their agenda and ignore the consequent 5-4 rulings from the #SoCalledSupremeCourt in the manner of Andrew Jackson. Let them enforce their rulings.

The institutions of all three branches of national government are collapsing, and at this point, I don't know what to root for.


LarryHart said...

...As long as the unprecedented and unexpected are becoming commonplace, it's probably time (once Democrats regain power) to overturn Marbury vs Madison and overthrowing the tyrrany of the Supreme Court, at which point it be such a life and death decision as to who steals whose nominations.

LarryHart said...

I continue to agree with myself, and am glad to see at least that today's www.electoral-vote.com backs me up. Bold emphasis mine:


While 2017 will be remembered as the year that the SCOTUS filibuster was killed, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo makes the very good observation that it was de facto abolished in 2005, when John Roberts and Samuel Alito were nominated in quick succession. Republicans made it clear that if the Democrats tried to filibuster either one, they would abolish the filibuster then and there. Rather than let that happen, the two parties made a deal: As long as the Democrats didn't use the filibuster, it wouldn't be abolished, but if they did use it, it would be abolished. In reality, if you have a weapon that will be neutered the first time you try to use it, then you don't really have it any more.

Paul SB said...

Alfred, capitalism is the banner under which the barbarians march and conquer, the vision that drives young men to their recruiters. As long as society gives legitimacy barbarism, making it a virtue instead of a crime, they will continue to flock to that banner. Burning the banner won’t end all barbarism by any stretch, but without it more young people are indoctrinated into barbarism. Without that banner, they might find another one to rally to, but because capitalism meshes so easily with strong-man tactics and Social Darwinian selective justifications, it’s unlikely other flags will draw hordes of soldiers so large. Religion is the only other flag they can rally behind that would draw so many, but, unlike capitalism, where might always makes right, most religions make at least some effort to stand for community over individual, rapacious greed (unless we resurrect the Aztec gods, of course, but even those were not as bad as the Gods of the Corporate World).

“It’s not that we want to rape, pillage, and burn (in that order!)”
-It’s that many of us (not “we” but a substantial number) feel that their business acumen makes them so superior to the rest of humanity that they feel no remorse whatsoever to creating and selling dangerous products that damage the minds and bodies of the public (rape), to trapping people into weasel-worded contracts that screw them for years to come (pillage) and then saying “You’re fired!” to hundreds of thousands at a go (burn), and feel completely smug about it.

"Our way is the right way. Open your markets or we’ll send in our gunships.”
You forgot to add, “… to our business.”

"Barbarians are always a force for change. Whether we ride in on horseback or arrive in pinstripe suits matters little. Change is not necessarily a cancer, though.”
Change that enriches the barbarians and sucks the life out of the peasants is not likely to be a good change, except in the eyes of the barbarians themselves. Of course values are personal and cultural, not objective in any sense (as our little locum likes to remind us). If your values are kill-or-be-killed, every-man-for-himself, cutthroat ruthlessness, your humanity approaches sociopathy. That’s capitalism. You're a good, decent man, but you were enculturated by Cold War America. I was enculturated as the Cold War was fading to meaninglessness. I suspect we will always Differ on this.

Jumper,
"Capitalism is not a cancer; it is the "Typhoid Mary" carrying a host of malignant opportunistic infections, seemingly unconcerned.”
I could see your point here, but the obvious reaction would be to isolate “Typhoid Mary” before she inadvertently kills more people. But Capitalism alters the minds of its victims, exaggerating and distorting natural, instinctive tendencies, shaping their orbito-frontal cortex (wherein moral decisions are made - which shows that humans all have a capacity for morality, though the culture in which they grow lays down the neural pathways within the moral structure). Maybe the cancer analogy doesn’t cut it. Capitalism is a brain-altering virus. The “Typhoid Mary’s” are that clad or ruthless, sociopathic CEO golf buddies and their mass media lackeys who shape and distort American culture from the Land of the Free to the Home of the Unemployed. There we go, better analogy.

Tim H. said...

From here, I'd say capitalism is a damned useful thing, that's easily overdone. And many who do, are in denial.

LarryHart said...

@Tim H,

As Dr Brin repeatedly states, even oxygen, food, or water can be deadly in too high of a concentration.

Alfred Differ said...

Typhoid Mary, huh?
Hmpf.
Hmpf^2.

Isolate her and undo the increase of the average real income in the poorest countries to about 10x the subsistence level. In the richest countries that is more like 100x the subsistence level. Account for quality improvements and it is higher. What’s the price of clean water nowadays?

Overdone? Sure. The most common way I see people doing this is to be overly focused on prudence. When the bottom line governs all, the other virtues are sidelined. Our philosophers get confused and try to reduce them all to prudence. Why did I agree to take on a new employee who wasn’t trained in our field? She wanted to break in and was willing to take a lower wage. That must be the only reason that mattered if one accepts this reductionism. There can’t possibly be any weight given to the fact that I knew she was a young mother of a special needs kid and she needed a break to get a possible career started. Nah. Homo Economicus does not consider justice, love, or hope. Max Utility scoffs at any calculation that cannot be reduced to his selfish measure.

Look at how most of the bourgeoisie behaves, though, and you’ll find that their capitalism isn’t that of Homo Economicus. Most of us don’t overdo it. Most of us get annoyed at people who do and then we dish up social consequences for them. We even have a way to measure this in a community. Look at results for the Ultimatum Game.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart,

They aren’t all collapsing yet. We are fighting over them, but they are still there. If the new judge takes a real conservative approach, he will re-enforce the motivation for the behavior that lead to his confirmation. THAT is when I will be most annoyed. Until then, I’m taking a wait and see approach.

What I DO see is that we are now fighting over SCOTUS seats a bit like we used to fight over state admissions. Each faction protects their turf. This is the clearest sign I know that we are in a ‘very warm’ phase of our civil war. However, I’m not willing to do as Andrew Jackson did. That would signal the military that we are the bad guys. Let them ponder on the use of the nuclear option in the Senate a while. Let them ponder the escalations while we try to remain cool and interested in preserving what they’ve sworn to defend.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul SB,

I can think of a banner that would draw the young much more successfully. It is the old Feudalism banner. It is very romantic. It has ancient stories of heroes, evils to be vanquished, social hierarchies to give life meaning, and gods to justify it all. The strong arm tactics used by those following Capitalism aren’t about capitalism, though. They are translations of the older stories re-applied. Social Darwinism gives us hierarchy. Innovators who fight market forces to become rich are the heroes vanquishing evils. Ponder our stories a while and you’ll see the re-purposing. Dig deeper and you’ll find we’ve even revalued the classical virtues.

Barbarism isn’t an evil. It is an immaturity. It is an error the young make and I don’t mean young individuals. Young cultures lack the depth of experience to understand that their cherished ideas aren’t all that new, their errors are embarrassingly common through history, and that the criticism of others is valuable.

I’ll take barbaric capitalists over barbaric feudalists any day.
I’ll take barbaric capitalists over mature feudalists any day too.
We are maturing, though. Barbarians tend to do that when they capture an empire.

As barbarians go, we’ve been rather benign. We DID invent the nuclear weapon, but we also leveled the world making education available to anyone with an internet connection. Both were acts of barbarism and will be well remembered by history.

David Brin said...

Catfish as usual is cogent. A mature human being watches out for not just confirmation bias, but also “Me and my kind” bias. Somehow, it turns out that mythology type of people and especially me, are superior! Sure, that sometimes turns out to be true! I am certainly one who has spoken up for the superiority of Pax Americana over other empires, of science over other “priesthoods,” of sci fi over most other literature or mythology… and I express a substantial respect for my own righteously and rigorously developed intellect.

But awareness of this bias does moderate me at least a little. I know I bear a steeper burden of proof if my declaration just happens to logically result in me and mine being extolled. I should get my ducks in a row and ye, paraphrase accurately the criticisms that others might apply toward my so-conveniently self-serving conclusions. And yes, this very paragraph is both an expression of fealty to that act of honesty (inspired by science)…

… and also a self-serving act! Since I know that honest self-critique enhances your credibility! Or at least your appearance of credibility! As did my own action in THIS paragraph, dissecting the very process by which I’ve just maneuvered my way into greater credibility! And sure, there is irony! But in the end, I am both more honest/reliable and at least a bit more trustworthy.

Tragically, locumrach could read the preceeding paragraphs fifty times and never understand them. They are 3D fingers, poking into Flatland. Which is why my answers to HIM are almost always written for you guys.

Jumper - flat open fair and truly competitive capitalism that empowers the maximum number of skilled participants is the greatest generator if wealth the world has ever seen. That cornucopia is the first VICTIM of the cheater-oligarchic-crony-cheater-proto-feudalist cabal.

David Brin said...

Conspiracy theory time. But first a cavil: cautioning that I give this a 90 in plausibility but a mere 10 in likelihood that I would bet upon. But here it is.

Putin orders Assad to chemical-attack civilians, an atrocity that gives Trump an excuse to bomb some non-essential and Putin-selected Syrian target, so that Trump can then yell "See? I'm no Russian puppet! I attacked Russian ally! So back off looking for puppet strings!"

Hey I am paid to do scenarios. As plausible as this one is - and it is - it also suits my prejudices too closely to be trusted. But hope there are people...

matthew said...

Slate published this article on the origins of Anti-Enlightenment today. Highly relevant to the OP

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fascism/2017/04/anti_intellectualism_poses_a_great_danger_to_democracy.html

Alfred Differ said...

It is possible Assad did the calculation himself figuring the reward/risk ratio was large enough to justify the act. It is also possible he checked with Putin's people before acting. It is also possible the act was suggested to him by Putin's people. I'd give about 50/50 odds there was some interaction and within that path I'd give 70/30 that the communication started on the Syrian side. Any support for the act from Putin, though, is 99.9% likely caused by the desire to misdirect our attention by giving his asset some cover.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

What I DO see is that we are now fighting over SCOTUS seats a bit like we used to fight over state admissions. Each faction protects their turf. This is the clearest sign I know that we are in a ‘very warm’ phase of our civil war. However, I’m not willing to do as Andrew Jackson did. That would signal the military that we are the bad guys. Let them ponder on the use of the nuclear option in the Senate a while. Let them ponder the escalations while we try to remain cool and interested in preserving what they’ve sworn to defend.


The better angel side of me agrees with you. But the realistic part says that Democrats and liberals can't keep playing by the so-called-rules while the other side is allowed to win by breaking those rules. Something has to give, and it seems to me that that point has been passed already. Gorshuch on the court will make it easier for Republicans to cheat in future elections, by voter suppression and dark money. Unless we simply refuse to recognize the power they claim by cheating.

Alfred Differ said...

Our other choice is to let him be part of the cheat (if that happens) and then disagree. Assuming the voter suppression cheat will happen now won't go well with active duty folks. Let them DO the cheat, THEN protest vigorously.

Conflicts like these require harm be done first. Imagined harm isn't good enough. In our Civil War, the real harm was signaled when Fort Sumter was fired upon.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Putin orders Assad to chemical-attack civilians, an atrocity that gives Trump an excuse to bomb some non-essential and Putin-selected Syrian target, so that Trump can then yell "See? I'm no Russian puppet! I attacked Russian ally! So back off looking for puppet strings!"


I'm not sure I buy that exact scenario, but something like it is certainly plausible.

In any case, George W Bush did us one huge favor (although a Pyrrhic one) with his war in Iraq. The American public, even the Republican ones, have no appetite for more wars in the Middle East. There'll be a certain amount of cheering for the missile strike, but I don't get the idea that anyone is clamoring for more.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Assuming the voter suppression cheat will happen now won't go well with active duty folks. Let them DO the cheat, THEN protest vigorously.


But they have, and I am.

The only unproven assumption I am making is that a ninth justice chosen by right-wing think tanks will make cheating more likely in the future rather than less.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Conflicts like these require harm be done first. Imagined harm isn't good enough.


Do you wait until your house is on fire before deciding that you should have fire extinguishers charged and handy, that your fuses shouldn't be replaced with pennies, or that it would be a good idea for your city to have a fire department?

Yes, we don't retaliate against imagined harm, but we also have to be vigilant enough not to let them inflict strategic, permanent harm before we take defensive actions that the harm has fatally weakened. In a fight between baboons, whoever breaks the other guy's jaw first probably wins. It does the harmed one no good at that point to say, "Ok, no more Mr Nice Guy!"

Alfred Differ said...

LarryHart,

You are thinking like a progressive. Foresight isn’t enough to demonstrate harm for everyone else. I can see the potential for harm that worries you and real harm to certain social institutions, but the Constitution hasn’t been harmed yet. Short of that, the nation will manage to proceed with another round of the American Experiment.

Yes. I’m willing to wait until my house is on fire. I won’t wait to become armed, but I WILL wait before I use them.

Look at the active duty people. If they aren’t convinced of our need for them to step in and defend the Constitution yet, we aren’t ready for the real fight. Until then, it is imagined harm.

What is this strategic, permanent harm stuff of which you speak? Permanent? Is anything permanent?

David S said...

If you model democratic vs republican politics as repeated prisoner dilemma games, it would seem that the republicans have figured out the the democrats always "cooperate" so the optimal republican move is "defect". Game theory says that tit-for-tat is a successful strategy, so maybe democrats need to stop cooperating, so that both side experience "defect vs. defect" quadrant. Then maybe both sides will decide to cooperate.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Yes. I’m willing to wait until my house is on fire.


I don't think you read what I wrote there. You're not telling me you'd wait until your house is on fire to decide it's a good idea to buy a fire extinguisher, or that your town should organize a fire department. Are you?


I won’t wait to become armed, but I WILL wait before I use them.


Will you also wait until you've been actually harmed to learn how to use the gun, or practice your marksmanship? Unless your answer is "yes", we're not really disagreeing here.


What is this strategic, permanent harm stuff of which you speak? Permanent? Is anything permanent?


No, of course nothing will survive heat death of the universe. But some harm is easily repaired, while other forms of harm reinforce the chances of more harm building on itself. By analogy, it's better to control global warming before methane is released from permafrost than to try to do so afterwards.

Examples of what I mean by that kind of harm, which is already being done? Gutting the Voting Rights Act makes it easier for Red...excuse me, for White States to use their local election laws to disenfranchise likely-Democratic voters. Voters with firearms-owner cards can vote, but student id's don't count--that sort of thing. The #SoCalledConstitutionalists fining that campaign finance reform is unconstitutional allows the billionaire donor class to buy elections, most often for Republicans. Before God stepped in to rescue us from Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court was on the verge of finding that "whole number of persons" actually meant either registered voters or eligible voters, shifting representation away from cities and over to rural areas.

What I'm saying is that right-wing decisions by the Supreme Court can reinforce right-wing legislative and executive power. That can't just be reversed at the next election, because the systemic damage is already done.

LarryHart said...

David S:

If you model democratic vs republican politics as repeated prisoner dilemma games, it would seem that the republicans have figured out the the democrats always "cooperate" so the optimal republican move is "defect". Game theory says that tit-for-tat is a successful strategy, so maybe democrats need to stop cooperating, so that both side experience "defect vs. defect" quadrant. Then maybe both sides will decide to cooperate.


That's kinda what I was trying to say myself.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ,

A specific example: The Republicans harmed the constitution by neither advising nor consenting on Merrick Garland. And no, this not the same as Robert Bork (who lost an up or down vote). They did not vote against Garland, even with a filibuster. They just didn't do what the constitution requires them to do.

And by not performing their constitutional duty, they insured a Supreme Court seat was held open so that their own party could appoint a right-winger.

I think your point is that someone breaking the law doesn't "break" the law, as it were. But if one is allowed to break the law and do better than they would have by following the law, then the law really is "broken" in the larger sense.

Jumper said...

And here I'm the guy who said capitalism is NOT cancer...

Typhoid, fleas, barnicles? The opportunistic infections which plague capitalism are the liars and cheats, not the system itself. Depending, of course, on how you define it, but I'm in no mood to parse definitions. Free commerce under impartial common law works for me.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I would not say Capitalism is "Cancer"

It's more like fire - a really useful tool - but one that needs to be kept under control

Or even like a motor car - Great for getting from A to B - but you need to keep your hands on the wheel and keep it on the black stuff

We use fire and cars - but we don't leave them alone to control themselves

This is in addition to Jumpers "opportunist infections"

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Jumper is cool. Fleas infest us all if we don't watch for them. Annoying little carriers of disease they are, but not hard to kill if we pay attention and deliver consequences.

Duncan likes his car metaphors, though. They fail me because they give the impression that the thing can be controlled. Fire works a little better as a metaphor because it can get out of control, but there is still too much emphasis on control. One shouldn't light the planet on fire, for example. If capitalism is like fire, I really AM advocating lighting up the entire planet. It's not, though. It's just something humans do when we trade fairly. It is positive sum when we do it right and when we do... we solve poverty, ignorance, and a host of other things I was taught as a kid were intractable problems.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart,

Yah. I know I mixed up what you were asking. I did it intentionally to point out that I thought you were asking the wrong questions. Of course we don’t wait until the town is burning to learn how to fight fires, buy extinguishers, and train the volunteer fire fighters. We aren’t really in that situation, though. Look around you and you’ll see lots of people already know how to fight back. The GOP isn’t exactly getting what they want right now. Part of it. Painfully.

As for David S’s game theory suggestion, I suggest that you are all free to do so. I’m not a Democrat, so I won’t speak for any of them, but if you feel you can win something with that strategy, by all means employ it. What I will say is you’ll need the active duty folks on your side. You need the so-called Deep State. You need the people who are thinking as if they were parts of the nation instead of as parts of their faction. If you think tit-for-tat will win them to your side, go for it. I rather doubt it myself.

As for the Senate failure, I very much disagree. The history of the Senate shows them to most often be a rubberstamp. They rarely advise. They usually just consent. Not so much lately, though. As for Garland, that was a dirty trick, but not the first time the Senate and President have fought on this issue. FDR tried to pack the Court and the Senate objected after they re-discovered their collective spine. There isn’t much that says there must be nine justices. Our current version of the tradition comes from the FDR fight.

As for systemic damage… sure. That is bad. It isn’t permanent, though, and it sure is useful for pointing out to the active duty folks that damage has been done. However, I encourage you to be careful about dictating how laws should work in states where you are not a resident. There is a reason we are a federation of states. It isn’t so we all have to stand by and watch our fellow Americans get screwed by their neighbors. It is so we can avoid turning small differences into straws that break the camel’s back. We wind up shooting each other when that happens. Yes. Some folks who should be allowed to vote will now have a hard time. I suggest we find a way to support them without making it look like interference from the outside.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: re your conspiracy theory
"Putin orders Assad to chemical-attack civilians, an atrocity that gives Trump an excuse to bomb some non-essential and Putin-selected Syrian target, so that Trump can then yell "See? I'm no Russian puppet! I attacked Russian ally! So back off looking for puppet strings!"

Utterly impossible that this scenario had not occurred simultaneously to both Putin and Trump advisers. They don't need to interact or exchange notes - merely to nod and talk about something else on Twitter to signal that they assent. Planning it? Less likely. Recognizing it and acting jointly on a mutual understanding? Far more plausible. Indeed, that is the standard practice of most of the business world - why would one collude or racketeer, when one simply can send signals another side can interpret, and that everyone outside the loop will misconstrue (for weeks/months/years)?

Tony Fisk said...

I must have been hanging around here too long, because I already thought of David's frenemy scenario. (to be honest, quite a few have). I think the Russian problem will still be there, if the smoke is allowed to clear.

For added fun, someone pointed out that Trump has shares in the company that has to be paid to refurbish the USN with those 59 tomahawks they just threw away for ~$50m.

What intrigues me is the share affecting reports that a lot of those tomahawks missed. What was the reason for that? Was it the unfortunate effects of a long time in storage, or some creative interpretation of field orders?

A: Take out that airfield with everything we've got.
B: Take out that airfield. Use everything we've got.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I’m not a Democrat, so I won’t speak for any of them, but if you feel you can win something with that strategy, by all means employ it. What I will say is you’ll need the active duty folks on your side. You need the so-called Deep State. You need the people who are thinking as if they were parts of the nation instead of as parts of their faction. If you think tit-for-tat will win them to your side, go for it. I rather doubt it myself.


Ok, but I am thinking as part of the nation, not as a party member. You're arguing against me as if my goal is for the Democrats to get what they want. No, I want the country and the states to respond to the will of the governed. If the Republican Party was doing so, then they wouldn't feel the need to dodge their constituents at town halls and such. They're doing what their megadonors demand, not their voters. I guess we'll see if there's a downside to that strategy for them. So far, it's successively won them the House (2010), the Senate (2012), the White House (2016), and the Supreme Court (2017).

It really bothers me that we now have to think in terms of which party "wins" the Supreme Court, or any of the courts. It would be as if the winner of the Super Bowl gets to appoint next year's referees. If Tom Brady wins by cheating one year, that's just one year. But if cheating helps insure that they'll win again next year, that's a problem, not just for the "losing" teams, but for the integrity of the game.


As for Garland, that was a dirty trick, but not the first time the Senate and President have fought on this issue. FDR tried to pack the Court and the Senate objected after they re-discovered their collective spine. There isn’t much that says there must be nine justices. Our current version of the tradition comes from the FDR fight.


When I first heard about FDR trying to pack the court, I was glad he failed, even though I was totally in favor of his policies even as a youngster. That was a bridge too far cheating-wise, and I was glad he ended up "winning" fair and square. No more. These days, if the Democrats are able to add 10 more seats and appoint them all (starting with Merrick Garland, Barack Obama, and maybe Al Gore or realPresidentHillary) I would be all for it. Sure, that means the Republicans could do it first. Eventually, we'd have hundreds of seats on the court. I'm for that because it would force us to recognize that the institution is broken and do something about it. Dave Sim once said "Sometimes, jumping on the bandwagon is the best way to demonstrate that the wheels have fallen off."

As long as respect for decorum and tradition are no longer a concern, I say we get around to overturning "Marbury vs Madison". That would be more of a "constitutionalist" position than the #SoCalledConstitutionalist Republicans take.

continued for character limitation...

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ (continued) :

As for systemic damage… sure. That is bad. It isn’t permanent, though, and it sure is useful for pointing out to the active duty folks that damage has been done.


Be careful about focusing on permanence. In the long run, we're all dead. Society is not just about which final end we achieve. How we get there, day to day, is important.


However, I encourage you to be careful about dictating how laws should work in states where you are not a resident. There is a reason we are a federation of states. It isn’t so we all have to stand by and watch our fellow Americans get screwed by their neighbors. It is so we can avoid turning small differences into straws that break the camel’s back. We wind up shooting each other when that happens. Yes. Some folks who should be allowed to vote will now have a hard time. I suggest we find a way to support them without making it look like interference from the outside.


Taken to the extreme, that's the "lay off of our slavery laws" position. You're not easy to read politically, so it wouldn't surprise me all that much if that was what you were saying. But as your avatar wears the Union kepi, I have some hope you're not completely on the bad guys' side.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ,

In the light of day, I might have been a bit harsh with that last post. I'm not nearly in as much disagreement with you politically as it sometimes seems. Where we differ (no pun intended) is on tolerance for the threatening times and on confidence that cheating as a tactic can't do lasting harm to the system.

It may have to do with you living in California, where one might be able to sit out a right-wing coup in relative safety (as long as Kim Jung Un isn't too trigger-happy). I also live in a blue state, and thank God for that, but we're surrounded by a sea of Republicans with corporate-owned governors, including our own. I'm not clear what our escape plan would be should the worst come to pass. Jewish people tend to think that way, and with good reason.

Let's be clear...if a state that I don't live in wants to keep marijuana illegal, replace taxation with state lotteries, or make "Merry Christmas" their state motto, I don't see any need to intervene in local affairs. If they force local minority populations to live in ghettos while concentration camps are built for a Final Solution, then interference is warranted. I suspect we agree on both extremes, so the debate is where the line falls and how blurry that line is.

Paul SB said...

Back to Alfred,

"The strong arm tactics used by those following Capitalism aren’t about capitalism, though. They are translations of the older stories re-applied. Social Darwinism gives us hierarchy. Innovators who fight market forces to become rich are the heroes vanquishing evils. Ponder our stories a while and you’ll see the re-purposing.”
I noticed this back when I was still a history major in college. many of the elements of state-level societies are pretty much the same for all of them, they just get dressed up in new skins and everybody shouts, “Woo-hoo! Glad we got out of that dark age!” The Samurai Warrior became the Samurai Businessman. This does not mean things can’t get better - things are getting better - but we have to let our best and brightest discover these things, then look deeply into our collective souls and decide if we (as a whole) want to remain in our semi-permanent dark age, or if we truly want to change and cast out those ancient demons.

"Conflicts like these require harm be done first. Imagined harm isn't good enough. In our Civil War, the real harm was signaled when Fort Sumter was fired upon.”
Um, do you realize how much this sounds like Michael Collins?

"Let them DO the cheat, THEN protest vigorously.”
Can’t protest too effectively from inside the concentration camp.

"I can see the potential for harm that worries you and real harm to certain social institutions, but the Constitution hasn’t been harmed yet.”
Not yet, but they have shown intent to undo the Bill of Rights with all their proposals to make peaceful assembly a crime against The Grope. And this is pretty consistent with Republican policies at least since the time of Edwin Meece, who was trying to dismantle the Bill of Rights one amendment at a time, to say nothing of constant Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters who they suspect of being Enemies of the Party.

"Look around you and you’ll see lots of people already know how to fight back. “
Winner-take-all and leave-no-quarter capitalism has ensured that a majority of people have no power to fight back, because they are sinking into grinding poverty. Here’s another, one I have brought up before. In fact, I wrote about it yesterday morning, but my post seems to have mysteriously vanished, like that card in the old Nuclear War card game. Alas, for my copy also mysteriously vanished. But let’s see if I can get back on subject.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

"Scientists have acquired the power to impress and intimidate every time they open their mouths, and it is their responsibility to keep this power in mind no matter what they say or do. Too many have forgotten their obligation to approach with due respect the scholarly, artistic, religious, humanistic work that has always been mankind’s main spiritual support."

Wow. We could discuss those assertions and assumptions all day -- for example by probing whether classical Romans, or post-Alexandrian Hellenistics, or medieval scholastics were ever mass-effective at preaching an admirable life. Or whether any scientist has ever sought to "impress and intimidate" as heavy-handedly as nearly all kings and priests and scholarly pedants did, in times past.


Indeed, the quoted complaint might be more appropriately directed at a president of the United States than at scientists.


"Scientists are (on average) no more likely to understand this work than the man in the street is to understand quantum physics."

To which, I am behooved to put it plain. That constitutes one of the most profoundly and demonstrably counter-factual assertions I have seen in years. Pick almost any scientist, almost at random, and this calumny will collapse, as she or he displays far greater than average knowledge of art, literature or history. Indeed, nearly all first rate scientists have artistic or humanistic pastimes that they pursue at almost professional levels. C. P. Snow’s two-cultures divide was never symmetrical.


The quoted part might seem intuitive to someone who doesn't actually know scientists or scholars of any time. Just as someone without kids of a certain age might think that high school band students lack knowledge outside of the area of music. When my daughter had orientation for high school band, the director made a point of demonstrating how many of the band kids (virtually all of them) were also involved in sports and several other academic activities. He was trying to push the idea that band wasn't something you disappeared into, but something which correlates to a broad, rounded school experience.

I suspect that training in science helps one understand how things work in a variety of areas. But then, there has been an unfortunate dumbing down of American culture in general for decades now. The average housewife contestant on a 1950s tv game show knew things about art, history, current events, civics, engineering, and even science which only specialists are presumed to have any knowledge of these days.

Paul SB said...

20% of all people in the US will have a depressive and/or anxiety event (the two are often interconnected, though this comment is probably too long already for me to pull an egghead maneuver and explain the details) before their 65th birthday. That sounds really bad, doesn’t it? The APA estimates that at least 50% of the general population suffers from stress-induced mental disabilities, but most go undiagnosed, just as most people who have diabetes never know they have it until they go into diabetic shock and die, at which point it is a little difficult to tell if they learned anything from it.

Our good host often points out the vast waste of human life (as well as economic potential) caused by abhorrent vices like racism, sexism and other biases (remember the definition of /bias/ - a systematic error). He is absolutely correct, but job stress is the #1 factor leading to clinical depression, anxiety disorders and suicide. Poverty comes a close second, followed by sexual abuse (and these factors compound for many). The stress of too much competition becomes a failure mode for half the people in any given industrial society. Capitalism is the best thing that ever happened to us? Sure, if you want to maximize human misery.

Capitalism is not, as our Kiwi buddy suggested, "It's more like fire - a really useful tool - but one that needs to be kept under control.” Sorry, Duncan, I see what you are saying, and I generally agree with most of your words, but capitalism is not interested in being kept under control. Ordinary, small-scale business works well under reasonable and fairly-applied rules, but that breaks down as soon as capitalists get the upper hand and begin to carve themselves out as exceptions to those rules, while using them to crush their direct competitors, as well as any potential customers, meaning the rest of the human species.

Yes, international free trade has lifted millions out of poverty, but capitalism is not free trade. Capitalism eats the freedom right out of free trade the instant a few successful business bastards get enough capital to start snowballing over everyone else. This is both its aim and its main diagnostic feature. It cast millions back down into poverty, and produced a culture so toxic to human nature that about half of them are crippled by it (depressive disorders are now the leading cause of disability the world over, says WHO) and pretty substantial numbers choose death over living in such a world. Some of this is inherited - 2 of the 5 etiologies are. Two are nutritional (poverty does wonders for your nutrition, but Capitalism does an impressive job of blaming the victims there) and one results from heavy mental poisoning. All version, however, are largely triggered by a downward spiral of misery causing brain regions to alter their sizes and strengths.

Paul SB said...

Okay, techno-babble time. 2 major effects of stress on the brain:
Amygdala Hypertrophy - chronic stress, experienced by a majority of people who work for a living, causes the fear center of the brain to grow and become hyper sensitive. This makes things that seem like no big deal to neurotypical people feel nightmarish, which causes their endocrine system to release - guess what? More stress hormones! Joy! That makes their fear centers more sensitive, which causes their endocrine systems to release - you guessed it! more stress hormones. Technically this is a + feedback loop, but there is nothing positive about it. It’s a death spiral.
Hippocampal Atrophy - the same stress hormones cause the memory retrieval and consolidation center to shrink, becoming weaker and less capable of doing its job. Studies have shown that this leads to an inability of its victims to recall joyful moments in their lives, leaving them with nothing but a sense of dread when they think about themselves (Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!). And you can probably guess what that does. You got it! It causes more stress hormone release, which damages the hippocampus more, which causes more stress hormone release. This is why mental patients rarely recover fully and relapse for the rest of their lives. The stress that created their disorders leave their brains so damaged they take years to recover, but just like a recovering drug addict, they continue to feel the same compulsions almost continuously. Please tell me again how Capitalism is the best thing that ever happened to the human race.

One other point to make, here, one which I made earlier but you made no answer to. You and all of your generation grew up when the Cold War was raging hot. In your time Capitalism was the mighty hero, the David to Communism’s Goliath, Theseus to the Communist Minotaur, Beowulf to the Red Grendel. Neural circuitry laid down in childhood put Capitalism deep into the schema that contains God, Truth, Justice, Bambi and cute puppies. That is the power of enculturation - to make an idea “no duh” to one generation in one location that seems utterly ludicrous to other generations in other locations. Sometimes it helps to get a second opinion, not because a second cultural opinion is any more likely to be correct, but because a diversity of opinions allows us to triangulate reality as distinct from our conditioned perceptions of it. My generation saw the Cold War as our fathers’ paranoia. Growing ghettoes and shrinking livelihoods were much more salient.

I’ve gone way past my hour a day, haven’t I? Time to go back to bed...

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The Samurai Warrior became the Samurai Businessman.


Did you ever read Kurt Vonnegut's "Hocus Pocus"? It posits a near-future in which Japan had bought all of our assets and then found themselves forced to make them work. The protagonist refers to the "army of occupation in business suits" who come over here to implement policy. They have rotating tours of duty the way American soldiers did in Vietnam.

Jumper said...

One aspect of the progressive movement is mass education. Plato thought, apparently, that the ignorant would always be with us. Is this true? How to define "ignorance?" Whether the theories of humankind are right, wrong or irrelevant, the ignorant have not even heard of them. History, whether distorted by the crafty and deluded, or discovered verbatim on old tablets, the ignorant knows not of it. That kind of ignorance. Specialization doesn't count - to know hogs or jet engines makes no difference, to not know the library is a different thing.

Robert said...

As a libertarian (compared to a Libertarian), I can sometimes notice patterns as I do not have loyalty to any specific party structure.

Thus I notice that almost all of the protests from the Republican Party over the unauthorized use of military force on a target that did not attack the United States under Obama has evaporated.

As a lower-case libertarian I can also notice that a lot of the Libertarians have shut up about it. This has me realizing that a significant portion of the vocal Libertarian party may in fact be shills who are trying to steer Libertarianism to the Republican Party. In short, the Libertarian Party has been undercut by Republicans who don't want to lose any more voters.

That said, there are some Libertarians and a lot more libertarians who ARE protesting this attack by Trump and calling bullshit. Who knows... maybe we'll see a shakeup in the Libertarian party so we can get rid of the rot and end up with a solid foundation from which to build a proper political party.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert H:

Thus I notice that almost all of the protests from the Republican Party over the unauthorized use of military force on a target that did not attack the United States under Obama has evaporated.


You may also notice that there are no more Tea Party protests about the deficit. That was as easy to predict as the next solar eclipse. Republicans can lower taxes and raise military spending and that's just fine and dandy. The point is not to tame the deficit, but to implement policies of naked cruelty. The worse off Americans are under a policy, the more the "Freedom Caucus" is behind it. Because it makes liberals feel bad. Ultimately, "making liberals feel bad" is the core principle behind everything they do.


This has me realizing that a significant portion of the vocal Libertarian party may in fact be shills who are trying to steer Libertarianism to the Republican Party. In short, the Libertarian Party has been undercut by Republicans who don't want to lose any more voters.


To the extent that Ron and Rand Paul are indicative of libertarian politicians, they've already become shills for corporatists and white supremacists. My reading of the situation is that Libertarians favor liberty for bullies, not liberty from bullies.

David Brin said...


Various:, Robert Bork was a monster and a deliberate incitement.
Our tour guide today in Scotland was Duncan Fraser.
donzellion no way the Assad-Putin-Trump attack scenario happens without a bit more than a nod and wink.

Matthew thanks very interesting re the anti enlightenment.

locumranch said...


Our host may understand this a little, but 'awareness' of cognitive bias does little to moderate it even though he knows that his declaration requires a steeper burden of proof if it 'just happens' to logically result in he & his being extolled, resulting in self-serving conclusions (weakly disguised by self-critique) in order to generate the 'appearance of credibility'.

Our commie-progressive friends PaulSB & Jumper appear to share in this particular cognitive flaw, as evidenced by their condemnations of 'typhoid cancer' capitalism even while they luxuriate in the pathological benefits of said capitalism. Believing themselves 'civilised', they assume that those 'barbarians' who do not share their idiosyncratic views are not.

They reference the APA estimate that at least "50% of the general population suffers from mental disabilities", yet either they rationalise rule by the mentally disabled or (even worse) they self-identify as the 'sane' minority. And, while they both crow about how "progressive" mass education is, they remain enamoured with a mass educational system that results (has resulted) in unprecedented levels of mental disability, ignorance, entitlement & cultural narcissism.

Rather than blaming Capitalism, Alfred points toward the actual source of all these inequities, cheats & lies: Our enemy is Politeness !!

The mature civilisation emphasises politeness (beginning with little 'white lies' & petty deceits) in order to 'get along'. It argues that (1) 'Those pants don't make your ass look big (despite textbook obesity)', (2) 'You can be ANY gender you want (because genetic realities don't apply to you)', (3) 'You are so exceptionally fit, intelligent, good looking & capable (even when you are ignorant, ugly & fat)', (4) 'Your make brilliant investments that will make you rich (even though our financial institutions are Ponzi schemes)', and (5) 'You are even getting YOUNGER every day (even though time just don't work that way)', and such little lies & petty deceits quickly evolve into reality denial & massive institutional fraud.

And, what is the hallmark of the Barbarian? Their preference for raw vitality, plain talk, brutal honesty, direct action & the absolute rejection of 'polite niceties'.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Barbarism & Incivility has always been the source of US military & economic world dominance. This is also why you should support a barbaric, uncivil, rude & lewd Trump Presidency if you want to 'Make America GREAT Again'.


Best
______
My take on the US missile strike on Syria is this: It was 'Theatre', timed to strengthen the US negotiating position with the visiting Chinese Premier, especially in reference to North Korea & the South Chinese Sea dispute, occurring with the tacit permission of Russia in order to stabilise the Middle East by proving to Syria, Iran, Turkey & other Arab Nations how much everyone needs alliances with either Russia or NATO. This is especially true for the EU. They need to be reminded of US & Russian relevance.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

It should come as no surprise, then, that Barbarism & Incivility has always been the source of US military & economic world dominance. This is also why you should support a barbaric, uncivil, rude & lewd Trump Presidency if you want to 'Make America GREAT Again'.


Is there some reason you get to use the word "should" in sentences, but no one else can?

And since no one here (all exceptions duly noted) likes Trump nor uses the expression "Make America Great Again" except as a joke, what was your point?

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Rather than blaming Capitalism, Alfred points toward the actual source of all these inequities, cheats & lies: Our enemy is Politeness !!


Yours certainly is.

Jumper said...

Deliberate falsification of what I said is pretty low, locumranch. You are a liar. Go peddle your lies in a hole.

locumranch said...



Whereas Jumper's accusation (above) is an act of psychological projection (most likely), LarryH is correct on at least 3 points:

(1) Most mature cultures do define truth-telling as uncivil, hateful & impolite;
(2) My preference for unpleasant truths & my dislike of polite fiction means that I am uncivil, hateful & impolite by definition; and
(3) The use of terminology like 'must', 'should', 'ought' and 'supposed to' signifies wishes, magical thinking & a denial of reality.

As in the case above where I stated that "you should support a barbaric, uncivil, rude & lewd Trump Presidency if you want to MAGA", I was projecting 'wishful thinking' (aka 'my desire') for a particular relationship between cause & effect to represent a truth, much in the same way that most Judeo-Christians deny the reality of human maliciousness by wishing that the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you 'should' have them do unto you) is also true.

Shakespeare constructed a tautology of this when he quipped that 'Only a fool can speak the truth', forever defining truth-telling as both a foolish act & the act of a fool.

So, maybe Jumper was trying to pay me a compliment by calling me a liar? This is unlikely, imho, because that would mean that Jumper's accusation was either his idea of truth-telling or a deliberate falsehood, meaning that Jumper self-identifies as either an impolite truth-telling fool or a morally virtuous liar.

Jumper is correct, too, it seems: Lying is an act of virtue !!


Best

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB
When did I say that the "fire" wanted to be kept under control?

Fire "wants" to eat the world - which is why we need to keep it under control!

As you said capitalism works at a small scale - and when the capitalist get too much power it turns to custard

But we NEED the small/medium/large scale effects - too much of the "stuff" that we have requires industrial operations far too big to be "safe" without careful regulation
The "economies of scale are just too powerful

Without those effects computers would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars

So we need the "fire" - but we also need the stone lined fire-pit and the array of extinguishers

Currently we don't have our stonelined firepit - our "fire" is burning madly out of control and a lot of people are getting burned

Paul451 said...

Re: Syria.

I suspect there was an "accidental conspiracy". Assad felt assured of Russian support to remain in power, thanks to the usual euphemisms and veiled language of such things. Then combine Trump's previous tweets on Obama and Syria, with Trump's non-response to Syrian/Russian air attacks against civilians.

It would seem reasonable that the US a) wasn't paying much attention, and b) would defer to Russia's views on Syria. And if Trump did something stupid, Putin would cinch his chain on Assad's behalf.

So Assad took the next genocidal step.

Yeasin World said...

The latest technology news.
Tech Tea Store

David Brin said...

Stunning that no one seems to note that the Syrian biz drove news of DT’s russian puppetry right off the headlines. And Putin got to analyze and test spoofing our tomohawks. Putin lost a couple of obsolete syrian jets and saved his biggest asset.

Locum’s pathetic confession: “ 'awareness' of cognitive bias does little to moderate it —“ speaks for itself. Sorry Flatlander who knows nothing i=of science. That assertion is diametrically opposite to true. Both qualitively and quantitatively, such awareness reduces self-deception. Moreover, it does a 2nd, far more important thing. It makes one more receptive to criticism by others who CAN see your delusions. Sillyperson. That is precisely HOW we got all our fantastic, positive sum productivity. Are you even slightly aware how you keep yelling “There is no so-called “up”!!!”

His ‘white lies’ idiocy is beyond belief. No other society lied as LITTLE as we do. In harshly pyramidal societies you had to flatter and lie every minute of every day, just to survive. loco.

“(2) My preference for unpleasant truths & my dislike of polite fiction “ OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!! Reeeeeeeelly? Oh, I am glad I wasn’t drinking any fluids when I read that.

David Brin said...

If Donald Trump gave the Russians the opportunity to experiment with
anti-missile systems, that's treason. But what's one more?

Seriously. Someone should shout from the rooftops how the winners in this "ounitive attack" were Donald Trump, Assad and Vladimir Putin. The loser was the US and our military and the Syrian victims whop were gassed in order to provide this pretext for a distraction from DT's Russia troubles.

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David Brin said...

Those who doubt collusion could arrange this so-convenient distraction in Syria: “Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel
Erik Prince met with a Russian close to the Kremlin in a meeting brokered by the United Arab Emirates.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/blackwater-founder-held-secret-seychelles-meeting-to-establish-trump-putin-back-channel/2017/04/03/95908a08-1648-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html?wpisrc=nl_most-draw16&wpmm=1

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

His ‘white lies’ idiocy is beyond belief. No other society lied as LITTLE as we do. In harshly pyramidal societies you had to flatter and lie every minute of every day, just to survive. loco.


Are you kidding, though? Locum would be at home in such a system. No wonder he wants it so badly.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Jumper is correct, too, it seems: Lying is an act of virtue !!


Too bad he was lying when he said that. :)

The universe you live in does pose some interesting puzzles though. Like, when Donald Trump calls mainstream outlets "Fake News!!!!!!", does he mean that as a compliment? When right-wing judges lie about what they would do on the Supreme Court, are they exhibiting the height of virtue? And is "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" the exception that proves the rule--the only situation in which lying is discouraged?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Stunning that no one seems to note that the Syrian biz drove news of DT’s russian puppetry right off the headlines.


The news media does seem to be desperate for a "Donald Trump grows into the office" moment, and of course, they also love saber-rattling. This not only knocked President Snow's ties to Russia off of the front pages, but also the illegitimate installation of a right-wing Supreme Court justice and the resignation of Devin Nunes from the ironically-named House Intelligence Committee.

For ordinary people who aren't already in the Trump camp, though, I don't think it has escaped notice that this "response" was full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Even Bill Maher already noted that the airfield in question was up and running again the next day. And that Russia and Syria had time to remove their people and best stuff from the airfield before the attack. And that Russia has underwritten the replacements for Syria's air force, while a Trump company will be paid to resupply those Tomahawk missiles.

Ultimately, this won't change anything domestically. Fervent Trump supporters and party-first Republicans will find it one more reason to give the illegitimate president the benefit of the doubt, while #TheResistance will not be swayed by these bull-in-china-shop antics.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

Speak of the devil and he will appear. From today's www.electoral-vote.com :


Indeed, putting on a military show for symbolic purposes seems to be all the rage these days. As details trickle in about the attack in Syria, it is evident that the Tomahawk missile attack on Shayrat Airfield had no appreciable effect on Syria's military capability. The United States did not even attempt to destroy the runway at Shayrat, reasoning—remarkably enough—that it would be easily repaired. Consequently, the airfield is already operational again. Late Saturday, another attack was launched on Ash Sha'irat, the target of the original chemical strike. It is, as yet, unclear if the attackers were Russian or Syrian. What is clear that the U.S. strike was not a success. Unless, of course, it too was primarily for the benefit of the American public. Certainly, whether by design or by chance, nobody has given much attention to the Trump-Russia connection for the past few days.

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

There is nothing you wrote here I disagree with. My whole point is that any trade system needs careful supervision (fire pits & extinguishers) to prevent it from eating up the world. And yes, we need free trade, up to the point it starts destroying the "we" it is meant to enrich. That line was crossed back during the Gilded Age, and now the organization that is supposed to supervise (government) has been pretty thoroughly corrupted by it (or burned to the point of teetering on collapse, to go with your fire metaphor).

But you are still missing the point about Cold War enculturation and the difference between free trade and capitalism. You, like most people in your age group, are equating the two, but they are not the same. Free trade has been going on as long as H. saps have walked the Earth. Capitalism is a distorted concept made for the purposes of propaganda. For Marx it was propaganda against the evils of Industrial Era big business, which was corrupting governments right and left (though that started before the Industrial Revolution - as Dr. Brin pointed out way back, with the British and Dutch East India companies). Much of Western Europe and the Americas turned that around to become anti-Communist propaganda, turning the Deadly Sin of Greed into our greatest virtue. When you equate free trade with capitalism, you are falling for that propaganda hook, line and sinker.

Paul SB said...

Our little locum is back to his usual solipsism and outright lies.

"pathological benefits of said capitalism. “
Pathological benefits? How can a benefit be pathological? Behavior can be, like locum’s pathological lying.
"Believing themselves 'civilised', they assume that those 'barbarians' who do not share their idiosyncratic views are not.”
Absolutely not. Progressives accept all views, regardless of how idiosyncratic they might be, except those that refuse to accept any views except their own. This is not a difference between ‘civilized’ and ‘barbarian’ - plenty of human civilizations have promoted deep ethnocentrism and insisted that their ideas are universal. That is the difference between tyranny and democracy. You only need to look at Western History during the needlessly bloody Reformation vs. most modern democracies, in which all views are pretty much tolerated so long as citizens abide by the law and pay their taxes.
"And, while they both crow about how "progressive" mass education is, they remain enamoured with a mass educational system that results (has resulted) in unprecedented levels of mental disability, ignorance, entitlement & cultural narcissism.”
Now this is a truly outlandish fabrication. I have been railing against the American education system for as long as I have been on this blog, yet he insists that I am enamored with it. Deepest horse shit here.
"And, what is the hallmark of the Barbarian? Their preference for raw vitality, plain talk, brutal honesty, direct action & the absolute rejection of 'polite niceties’.”
Obviously this guy only knows barbarians from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. People who have been labeled ‘barbarians’ historically (irrespective of the subjectivity of such labels) have always had their own rules of politeness, as do all human (bot not all movie) societies.

Paul SB said...

Locus's lies, con.t,

"commie-progressive”
Seriously, after all I wrote about Cold War enculturation, he can still equate the two? Yet another example of selective reading and motivated reasoning. Argument by assertion (basically what you are doing any time you put 2 unrelated words together and pretend they are equivalents) doesn’t hold a candle where people are actually capable of critical thought. Wherever he is, this guy must be surrounded by nothing but bobble heading sheep.
“most Judeo-Christians deny the reality of human maliciousness by wishing that the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you 'should' have them do unto you) is also true.”
This one gets an award for the purity of its solipsism. The Golden Rule is not something that is “true” or “untrue” - it is a cultural value, meaning that it is a shared notion, not a fact. On top of that, the Bible is chock full of admonitions against sin, so the expectations of the Golden Rule are in no way a denial of the darker sides of human nature, they are an ideal for its proponents to strive for. This is true of any religion you can name - they all see that dark side but try to persuade humans to cast it aside (a proposition that is often psychologically damaging).
"Lying is an act of virtue !!”
Apparently low level, presumably harmless or even esteem-boosting lies are, but not higher level stuff like (I would never cheat on you, Honey” or “My bid for the presidency has nothing to do with Russian oil deals.” Here again I could cite Douglas Adams.

And this one isn’t a lie, but it does tell you something about him.

"(2) My preference for unpleasant truths & my dislike of polite fiction means that I am uncivil, hateful & impolite by definition "
This textbook Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (contra popular belief, OCD is not always about cleanliness. There are versions in which the fixation can relate to moral issues such as truthfulness, fairness or any other moral concern enculturated into people from a young age. He is claiming to be more truthful than anyone else because he has a problem with what most people call “little white lies.” I probably share that compulsion, but I recognize it for what it is, rather than an indication that I have god-like powers of perception. Pitiful.

Of course, no one here seems to be falling for his endless mounds of excrement, yet, like a Bible-banger shouting his fanaticism from the street corner, he persists exclaiming the the virtues of imaginary barbarians he saw in the movie theater. Once again, pitiful.

Paul SB said...

A quick thank you to Yeasin for providing that tech link about cell phones. No one else seems to have noticed the bloke.

Paul SB said...

And a (hopefully) quick note on nods, winks and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which is now mostly obsolete. Ever wonder why prices of most goods are the same all over any given country? Is this competition reducing consumer costs to the "highest price the market will bear"? Hardly. Just as both Truman and Stalin were smart enough to anticipate the post-war economic decline and create the Cold War to keep the factories open, CEOs the world over know better than to get into a war of undercutting each other's prices. They make more money when they nod and wink at each other by simply observing each other's prices and matching them (much like the Christmas Truce of WW I, there is no direct communication b/c that would be caught by supervisors and stopped). So much for a holy tenet of the Capitalist faith!

locumranch said...


It's thrilling to see my foolish acts of truth rewarded by David's 'spit-take'.

As proof that our society rewards liars & acts as if lying is virtue, look no further than D Trump & B Clinton. The first admits to sexually aggressive kitten-grabbing & is labelled an uncivil villain, whereas the second denies proven acts of kitten-penetration & is labelled a civil gentleman.

Donzelion, also, can attest how our system of 'Criminal Justice' (a Freudian slip, perhaps?) actually encourages our Protector Caste to lie to those that they have sworn to protect & serve (which they call 'suspects') in order to provoke either compliance or an inadvertent admission of guilt.

Orwell's 'newspeak' has become so commonplace that even our meekest schoolteachers, who earn their bread as educational system propagandists, collaborators & enablers, claim to have "been railing against the American education system for as long as (they) have been on this blog".

That I am a FOOL, I freely admit:

"A wise man knows himself to be a fool (whereas) a fool thinks himself to be wise" (Shakespeare again).


Best
_____
Which of the following sayings is true? (A) 'Unity is Strength', (B) Diversity is Strength', (C) Both, (D) Neither. You're an uncivil truth-telling fool if you choose A; you're a polite civilised liar if you choose B; you're an Orwellian genius if you choose C; and you're an ignorant sociopath if you choose D.

Marino said...

Unity is Strenght, as in Norsefire?

LarryHart said...

a fool:

As proof that our society rewards liars & acts as if lying is virtue, look no further than D Trump & B Clinton. The first admits to sexually aggressive kitten-grabbing & is labelled an uncivil villain, whereas the second denies proven acts of kitten-penetration & is labelled a civil gentleman.


First of all, since when is Bill Clinton perceived as a civic gentleman? The popular image of his character is summed up in the SNL "Family Feud" sketch with the Trumps on one side and the Clintons on the other, in which "Bill" ambles over to the other table in order to chat up "Ivanka".

More to the point, though, Trump is not labeled an uncivil villain for admitting sexual aggressiveness.

Your argument amounts to "This guy is vilified for admitting that he killed his pregnant girlfriend, while this other guy who commits a similar crime gets off because he doesn't testify against himself. Telling the truth is punished and lying is rewarded. Therefore, society values lying and abhors truth-telling."


That I am a FOOL, I freely admit


The big secret is that we didn't need you to tell us that. It would make you a good sig line though. You should consider substituting it for "Best".


"A wise man knows himself to be a fool (whereas) a fool thinks himself to be wise"


And only the true Messiah will deny his divinity.

So are you freely admitting to being a fool who is therefore wise by definition, or are you freely admitting that you only think yourself to be wise? I'm guessing even you don't know the answer.

LarryHart said...

Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him:

Which of the following sayings is true? (A) 'Unity is Strength', (B) Diversity is Strength', (C) Both, (D) Neither. You're an uncivil truth-telling fool if you choose A; you're a polite civilised liar if you choose B; you're an Orwellian genius if you choose C; and you're an ignorant sociopath if you choose D.


Which answer does a FOOL pick?

Do you know why just about every tree planted along the sides of the road in my suburb is dying or dead? Because the Asian ash-borer invaded the region, and every single effing tree in town (all exceptions duly noted) was an ash tree. They were apparently planted in the 70s when all of the elm trees were killed by Dutch elm disease. Now, the city is planting a variety of different trees to replace the racially pure dead ones. Why? Because diversity is strength, you fucking moron. And that's not just polite lying either, because I wouldn't have said "fucking" if I were attempting politeness.

Ok, now I'll try one:
Which of the following sayings is true? (A) 'Trump is dangerous', (B) 'Hillary is dangerous', (C) Both, (D) Neither. You're an uncivil truth-telling fool if you choose A; you're a polite civilized liar if you choose B; you're a useful idiot for the Republicans if you choose C; and you're completely ignorant of anything political if you choose D.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "Those who doubt collusion could arrange this so-convenient distraction in Syria..."

Noted, but again, secret meetings tend to go toward reducing costs or arranging payments for something off the radar - not for colluding or taking orders. Businesses have evolved from the 'direct orders' model that typified the trusts Roosvelt and Taft abhorred. States are even more sophisticated.

Why would Trump collude with Putin, even indirectly? Both can get 80% of the benefits of collusion, while taking none of the risks, simply by carefully orchestrating signals in a way that maintains plausible deniability. If some journalist asserts that collusion is going on, he has counters to discredit that - which will drown out the claims for years - so long as there is nothing direct and explicit that ever comes to light (like a tape recording).

This is how they can respond to transparency to retain the same control and collusion. Even a report about secret meetings and plans plays into the game - how many views? What response, and from whom? Feed those reports yourself and assess the traction. Then determine what can be ignored, what must be responded to. Disinformation can crowd out any response as easily as accurate information - esp. when the code includes its own special platen (e.g., a leak to buzzfeed = x, a leak to brietbart = y...same nugget of fact, totally different meaning in the message conveyed and action to be taken).

donzelion said...

These kinds of codes within codes alter the information of transparency back into mere data noise. As the quantity of data expands, the actual information exchanged remains relatively consistent. If anyone cracks the code, esp. in a context that might result in someone being held accountable, a new code is utilized that further adds complexity.

Read through the transcripts that are available for Putin and Trump crony contacts. They are already feeling out a coded set of exchanges, hints about sanctions serving as a public canard, while other pieces are tested and confirmed...

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Why would Trump collude with Putin, even indirectly? Both can get 80% of the benefits of collusion, while taking none of the risks, simply by carefully orchestrating signals in a way that maintains plausible deniability.


You're being way too literal. :)

The question of collusion is to whether Trump and his campaign worked in concert with a hostile foreign government in order to subvert Americas interests in favor of his own. As opposed to simply being the beneficiary of such actions without themselves actually taking any treasonous action. Whether there was an actually phone conversation or secret face-to-face meeting at which each party specified contractually which actions were to be taken by whom is irrelevant.

Before 9/11 made him insane, Frank Miller wrote a graphic novel in the Sin City series in which a character, Senator Roark, laid out the facts of life to the protagonist. I'm paraphrasing from memory here, but essentially: "I could beat you to death with a baseball bat the way I did to my wife, and a hundred people would swear that I was somewhere else at the same time. I wouldn't even have to ask them; they would just do it. That's what power is."

It would have been 21 years ago when I read that, and it stuck with me ever since. So I can chuckle knowingly when an alderman swears that Mayor Daley (or Mayor Emmanuel) never asked him to do some particular thing.

LarryHart said...

locumranch also misunderstands just what "Unity is strength" and "Diversity is strength" actually mean.

There is strength in unity when people pull together for a common goal and/or a common defense. The concept doesn't require the people exhibiting unity to be of the same race or physical type. Likewise, diversity is strength when different people bring different expertise together into that "unity". No one who would claim unironically that diversity is strength means that internal conflict is in itself a good thing.

The racial purity argument would prefer iron to steel on the grounds that iron, as an element whose atoms all look alike, is pure. It's a strong metal, but can be brittle, and is also susceptible to rust and magnetism. A good steel alloy will beat it in a sword fight.

In other words, he wasn't lying when he admitted to being a FOOL!

David Brin said...

onward (at last! But spread word about the Gelernter piece.)

onward

Robert said...

Before moving onward I just want to say I was disappointed with the tech tea link.

I was hoping we'd see a website with information on technologically crafted blends of tea leaves for better flavour teas and the like. Not stuff on phones. tsk.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

onward then...

Interested Observer said...

With all due respect Dr. Brin, some of the worst human beings I've ever worked with were from Academics, in my field PhDs are famous for trying to get themselves, or worse, some dumb kid killed.

I get your point about the propaganda but the constant articles about how professors are the font of all hope and life are making me throw up in my mouth. Scientists of all stripes and professions are not a separate species, by which I mean they are no more or less noble than the societies and cultures they come from.

David Brin said...

Glad I dropped by Interested Observer. And I am sorry your sampling set was painful to you. Only note that we are all trained to hold authority in suspicion. If scientists supplied your own betes noir, then you will denounce them.

You accuse me of calling scientists a different and better species, just because I defend them from an outrageous attack by those who would lobotomize our civilization. But note, first -- that you are wrong -- but secondly, it is SCIENCE that I primarily defend. As individuals, scientists may be as flawed as anyone (though knowing a whole lot more.) But the PROCESS of science is the only way we've found that systematically disproves lies.

We are now awash in lies, and the powers who have re-ignited the American Civil War have made it their business to attack full-force every profession that might offer expert and experimental disproof of falsehoods.

Moreover, you know this to be so.

onward.

Linda C. Brown said...

Melania, Barron Trump reportedly moving to White House this summer

Melania and Donald Trump are moving in together.

The First Lady and 11-year-old son Barron will finally move to the White House this summer, according to People.

Melania and Barron have been living in Trump Tower in Manhattan since inauguration so the youngest Trump child could finish

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