Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Almost done posting POLEMICAL JUDO! But here are some vital final features.

 I had hopes that self-publishing my book of 100+ unusual/agile political tactics a year before the 2020 elections would give time for some of the ideas to percolate to the political and punditry castes who might use a few effectively. I should have known better. There are no stronger guild-protection rackets going than the corps of political advisors surrounding every representative, senator and candidate... even the good guys. And they are pikers compared to the closed-shop enforcers who rigidly control the op-ed pages.

That complaint is orthogonal to our current crises, but it exacerbates the dullard incompetence of the democratic/moderate/liberal, scientific-ethical coalition's leadership at turning what could have been a tsunami into a nail-biter. Even if this election turns out to be a 'landslide" against the Putin-Murdoch cult... it could have been spectacularly better.

But we persevere. I'll be finishing these chapter postings and spend the last two weeks ranting and praying, along with everyone else, looking forward to the scenes of celebration November 4, when a billion people around the world spill into the streets in celebration.

Last time we finished Chapter 13... 'What would adults do?' laying out dozens of concepts for governance that could efficiently achieve reform and end the cheating, some of them both surprising and trivially easy.

 Next would be Chapter 14: Our 250 year Family Feud -  Phase 8 of the Civil War? where I explain how this recurring national fever has erupted many times, ever since 1780. (What we call the "Civil War" was only phase 4, though a bad one... as is this phase we're in.) But that topic was already covered in a blog posting, and many of you have seen it before, so let's move on.

This time let's post from the "mini-sections" I arrayed between main chapters of the book. Again remember this was published last November 2019... This one offers capsules that might yet - even this late - help in some polemical battles over the remaining supply of undecideds or sway-ables out there.

Mini-section #1 for…

One-Liners, Zingers and “tl;dr” Quick-memes


I. ZINGERS & ONE-LINERS: Meme grenades distilled from chapters.


-  “MAGA? Okay wise guy, when do you claim America was greater than today?” Hint: when they say “the 1950s….” pounce! (See Polemical Judo Chapter 3.)


“Fake News problem?” Why do no voices on the right offer to help moderates and professionals to set up an impartial fact-checking service? If all current ones are ‘biased,’ will you name ten eminent and widely respected conservatives to join a commission, charged with helping design acceptable and competing fact-services? What, you can’t name any? (Chapter 5.)


- “Fake News Fix.” If you hijackers of the right won’t propose august, respect-worthy American conservatives to serve on such panels, then we will. Retired justices, retired admirals, Nobel winners, or almost any citizen of Utah![1] Folks who may differ from us over markets and regulation – even about guns – but who agree that ‘facts are things’ and Nazis are bad… and that we need a way out of the poison fog of lies. (Chapter 5.)


“Deep State?” Which seems more likely? A ‘conspiracy’ by ten million scientists, journalists, teachers, doctors, civil servants, FBI agents, intel and military officers - the same folks who defeated Hitler, stymied Stalin and won the Cold War and the War on Terror? Or that just five thousand golf buddies in an incestuous CEO caste connive secretly with Wall Streeters, casino moguls, foreign despots and inheritance brats? (Chapters 8 & 10.)


Adam Smith, the core founder of both market economics and liberalism, would today be a flaming Democrat. (Chapters 3, 10 & 11.)


Who’s a commie? How many times must Donald Trump hold secret debriefing sessions with communist despots - or conveniently "ex" communist dictators who grew up reciting Marx - without any reputable U.S. officials present - before you'll admit something fishy is going on? 


Vladimir Putin called the fall of the USSR “history’s greatest tragedy.” All of today’s Russian oligarchs were raised reciting Leninist catechisms. The KGB transitioned without a hiccup. But you folks call them all great guys.[2] Sure, they dropped the hammers and sickles, but surely you didn’t fall for a trick of symbolism? Because nothing else changed. (Postponed for Volume 2.)


Wanna bet? Oh, glaciers are advancing? Would you put an actual money wager on any of your ravings, from climate change to inaugural crowds to those mighty Trumpian accomplishments? (In Chapter 15 we’ll see that demanding wagers, rather than being an immature stunt, actually works ferociously well.)[3]


-  Wrong, almost always. "Tobacco is harmless,” “Cars don't cause smog,” “No seat belts in cars!” and “Keep lead in gasoline!” then McCarthyism, Burning Rivers, the insane War on Drugs, mass incarceration and Supply Side voodoo... the list of wrong, wrong, wrong is endless. Can you offer times when the GOP was provably/decisively right? Actually, I can! A couple of times. But there’s been so much more wrong. (Chapter 6.)


Conspiracy Theories: show us any of the ones you keep changing and then dropping, that ever proved decisively true? There are conspiracies that pass half a dozen “sniff tests.” But not many. (Chapter 7.) 


IGUS. The recent Whistleblower Crises revealed weakness in one of our major bulwarks of clean government, as the seventy-four Inspectors General of federal departments and agencies endure unprecedented meddling and bullying – or else mal-appointment – by Republican politicians. In Chapters 5 and 10 we’ll see how to restore autonomous oversight by bringing them all under an independent office of the Inspector General of the United States[4] (IGUS), along with other reforms including the Fact Act.[5]


- Obamacare was the Republicans’ own damn plan! Cooked up by the Heritage Foundation,[6]it was on GOP platforms through the 90s and enacted in Massachusetts by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.[7] Now Republicans call their own plan satanic. Which is worse? That hypocrisy? Or failure of any Democrats to mention it?


And by the way… where’s the alternative health insurance plan that Republicans have promised for … what now? Eleven years? Any day now.


Judges and taxes? Millions of U.S. conservatives who are ashamed of all the rest – Trumpism, bigotry, climate denialism, cheating, lies, trashing our alliances and blatant cozying with tyrants – justify their hold-my-nose loyalty to the GOP in one incantation: “judges and taxes.” But if every other fruit is poisonous, might the whole tree?


Aren’t you curious… even a little… about those tax returns? Or Deutsche Bank funneling Trump loans from Russian oligarchs? The contents of David Pecker’s National Enquirer safe ought to fill any American with flaming, nonpartisan curiosity, along with the scores of Non Disclosure Agreements (NDA) that Donald Trump openly brags about.[8] What happened to “We deserve to know!”




- Some congressional committee could unleash a tsunami of revelations just by offering full protection and immunity for testimony from anyone who has an NDA - or Non-Disclosure Agreement - with Donald TrumpTrump has bragged about his Great Wall of punitive-protective NDAs. Shatter it and let the revelations spill. (Michael Cohen will tell you whom to approach.)


- Assume Chief Justice John Roberts will use the Court’s right wing majority to uphold his clever new Roberts Doctrine of "no-interference between the legislative and executive," or non-justiciability, thus allowing GOP henchmen to passively refuse House subpoenas on lame and unprecedented excuses. They think fait accompli resistance will stymie investigation and oversight. But there's a judo move that Schiff and Nadler and Pelosi can try. It means appealing to the Fourth Branch of government. It would work.[9]


- Immaturity alert! This one is almost… Trumpian. But imagine if one mid level Democratic politician were to hold a news conference denouncing fellow Democrats for their unsympathetic pestering of an addled-volatile old man who clearly qualifies for extra care and kindness under the Americans with Disabilities Act... I mean it. Paul Krugman and Nancy Pelosi have come close. But go all the way.[10] Close your eyes and imagine that being drawn out, again and again. Even those who don't 'get it' at first will catch on when Trump responds with volcanic fury, ironically proving it's true! What a tweet-storm that would trigger, hysteria that undermines his one pillar of support – the superficial appearance of “strength.” (Chapter 15.)


- More immaturity: Bush and Trump and others on that side love to hurl nicknames. And yes, as grownups we avoid schoolyard bully ploys. Still, if you go there, I recommend using “Old Two Scoops.” It’s not overtly sneering or mean or obscene. But it mocks the pompous preening of a narcissistic character trait – emblematic of aristocracy – that even the reddest booster can’t defend.


III. WAGER DARES FOR TRUMP: Hey you major public figures or late night hosts: instead of reacting every week to the next distraction outrage, then the next, try openly and repeatedly challenging Donald Trump to:


- accept a medical exam by skilled doctors he can’t control, 


- prove his “stable genius IQ” with a panel of simple tests applied by professionals chosen randomly,


- waive IRS privacy rules enough for them to at least say publicly whether or not there’s an audit


- roll dice and randomly pick any week’s top five accusations of “fake news” for a jury of respected Americans to audit in detail (see Chapter 5). Or even randomly chosen Americans. 


- prove the birther thing, at long last. That Obama’s parents planted – all the way from Kenya – birth announcements in Hawaiian newspapers, or to  golf less than Obama.  Or to pay the money he owes every city where he held a rally.[11] Make that a money bet, right now, 


- or swear never again to be alone with foreign despots without trusted American witnesses present.


It’s not that any one such demand will be transformative, or even become an actual wager – none of them will (for reasons given in Chapter 15). Alas, no Democratic politician or pundit seems to understand the power of repetition and persistent hammering, despite having witnessed Trump use that method to great effect. 



IV. WAGER-DARES FOR OTHER REPUBLICANS: A bit different, these in-yer-face challenges are for your confederate cousins. Demands for real-money bets will send most of them backpedaling. Or else (rarely) persuade one to resume viewing at facts as real things. (See Chapters 5, 11, 13, and especially 15). And yes, some of these will be repeated, later in the book.


- How many Trump appointees and associates started out described by him as 'great guys,' who later 'betrayed' him? I bet it’s more than any ten other presidents. Whatever the anecdotal merits or turpitudes of any particular case, will you admit it proves he's a lousy judge of character?


- Put money on military readiness. Which political party generally leaves U.S. defenses, alliances and resilience in better shape than how they found them? Which party nearly always leaves the American military worse off than before they took over? (And yes, it is the GOP. See pause#10.)


- Quick, name a Republican top leader between Reagan and Ryan who was mentioned at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Neither Bush president, nor Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Hastert, DeLay, Romney, McCain… not even mentioned. All “ancient history.” But if you disavow those past Republican administrations, then where is your party’s credibility?


- I bet you can’t name a fact-profession not being warred upon by Fox & Accomplices. Even one. (Chapter 5.)


- Name one Supply Side “economics” prediction that ever came true. That tax cuts for the rich would be invested in R&D and new factories? That they result in increased revenue and reduced deficits? That they achieve anything other than asset bubbles, collapsed money velocity and skyrocketing wealth disparities? Name one reason we should trust a supply sider with a wet match? (Chapter 11.)


- The rate of change of the rate of change of debt was positive (toward reckless acceleration) during almost every year of every Republican administration (post Eisenhower). It was negative (braking the rate of deficit growth gradually toward prudence) in every year of every Democratic administration (post Johnson). How does that fit the GOP’s last ditch justification… that they are the prudent, pragmatic ones?  (Chapter 11.)


- Across the last 25 years, the GOP either controlled Congress, or else could thwart it, for all but two. Care to name any positive accomplishments? Not wars or tax gifts to the rich, but major adjustments to law or even major de-regulations? (Chapter 10.)


- And again and again. Put money on Trumpian lies for any given day. Pick at random day in the near future.



V. SLIGHTLY LONGER MEME BOMBS: Also in chapters, with longer summaries.


- What if Obama did it? “WODI” can be effective. Every day, your “ostrich” Republican shrugs aside some antic that would have sent them ballistic, if done by Clinton or Obama. A decent bar bet would be to say in advance “Next Thursday let’s try out WODI on that day’s Trump travesty.” It only works on a gal or guy who has a shred of remaining honesty or honor.


Clinton or Obama-related “investigations” – after a quarter of a century and half a billion dollars – and never a stonewalled refusal of testimony – congrats. You proved a husband fibbed about some adult-consensual (while still inappropriate) infidelity and the wife was caught using the same sort of somewhat improper email system as Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, John McCain, Mike Pence, George Bush, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. That’s it. After 25 years without proof, where’s your cred?


Answer both right and left critics of Pax Americana. If the U.S. had behaved like all other empires and imposed mercantilist trade patterns after WWII, then America would have no debt today. Its cities would gleam and factories hum. The country would swim in gold...but hope and prosperity in the larger world would be ruined by the same short-sighted greed that brought down Babylon, Persia, Rome, Pax Sinica, Pax Britannia etc. And when we finally fell, it would be in a tumult of well-deserved wrath. But we didn’t do what all those empires did. We did something very different. (Chapter 9.)


- Mitch McConnell’s declaration that no judges should be appointed or confirmed in an election year, then chortling he’ll pass anyone nominated by Trump in 2020… a perfect example of how one complaint – or a few – can be shrugged off as whining. But a concerted campaign of mockery….[12]


- Offer an amnesty for Americans now enslaved by blackmail.  It’s speculative! Perhaps no one will step up… or perhaps too many to count… in which case it’s unlikely, amid a tsunami of revelation, that our scheming enemies will survive. As we’ll see in Chapter 8, the long range victory condition for our kind of civilization is a future world that’s filled with open-fair competition, calm negotiation, but above all… light.






That’s but a sampler list, offered for those who find an actual book “TLDR.” 


For the rest of you, hang in there. Chapter 15 will dive into the effectiveness of wager-demands, even – especially - when the other side weasels and refuses to bet! The tactic corners them anyway, by their own macho standards.  It destroys the illusion of macho “strength.” And there will be other distilled “meme bomb” collections, especially near the end of the book.


Finally… here’s a challenge that I’ll reiterate many times – in chapters 6 and 12 and 13 – aimed at every dogmatic purist out there:


Are you actually asserting that you are absolutely 100% right, with no margin of error?


And yes, this question can bedevil purists of the left as well as the right. Dig it (and this is good news!) Your enemies are likely no more than 99% wrong! Possibly as little as 90%. Moreover, have you the character strength to sift through your opponents’ maelstrom of “wrongness” for those slivers where they actually have a point? 


We’ll come back to this. It’s not just about being the mature person. Entering and understanding your adversary’s head is a key ingredient that Sun Tzu recommended… for achieving victory.

There's still time to use some of these!!


[1] This will come up again. Utah is probably the largest concentration of RASRs – Residually Adult Sane Republicans –disgusted, even outraged, by the Trumpian travesties. Outreach by moderate-liberal America would seem timely, even overdue. 


[2] The Right’s romance with Russia:


[3] As Christopher Walken’s character in Blast From The Past dubiously observeswhen told that the Kremlin had simply dropped communist revolution – or at least all the surfaces and incantations: “You got to hand it to them,” he said, with errie brevity.


[4] The Inspector General of the United States


[5] The FACT Act:


[6]  See the signing ceremony, April 12, 2006, for the crowning achievement of Mitt Romney's governorship – a health insurance plan that was the template for the Affordable Care Act. The head of the Heritage Foundation crows over the role his group played in designing "Romneycare" based in the earlier Republican Party Health Plan for individual mandates and insurance buying markets or "exchanges" that originated at the Heritage think tank and that was touted as a way to use market forces to solve the problem of the uninsured.


[7] Think Progress:


[8] Karen McDougal released from her NDA:


[9] As of pub date, 10-25-19, it appears that civil servants are taking matters into their own hands, not waiting for Congressional subpoenas to step forward. I don’t mind seeing some of my “judo Suggestions” bypassed in such ways. We’ll be saved by heroes.


[10] In October 2019, Nobelist Paul Krugman wrote: “I don’t mean that Trump is stupid; a stupid man couldn’t have managed to defraud so many people over so many years. Nor do I mean that he’s crazy, although his speeches and tweets – ‘my great and unmatched wisdom,’ the Kurds weren’t there on D-Day – keep sounding loonier.” Krugman adds, however, that Trump is “lazy, utterly incurious and too insecure to listen to advice or ever admit to a mistake. And given that he is, in fact, what he accuses others of being – an enemy of the people – we should be thankful for his flaws.” Well… we’ll see. The same week, on Saturday Night Live, Weekend Update host Michael Che voiced (brilliantly) a meme I had been spreading about a new and clever way to deal with the weird-crazed phenomenon of Donald Trump. ““I don't know how to ask this, but are we sure that it's OK to make fun of this guy?” he asked. “Did you ever read Of Mice and Men? Remember how Lenny was really ‘strong?’ What if Trump is really strong? I've got a cousin who is also strong. And he loves alligators too, but we don't make fun of him.”


[11] Minneapolis mayor: We saw Trump stiffing cities for his rallies, so we told him to pay up.


[12] Old fashioned terms like honor, courage, dedication, devotion, integrity, etc. These are core values for a lot of people. And they await rescue from hypocrites who have stolen them.



Russ Abbott said...

You have great ideas. Yet you seem to self-sabotage. You talk about the "closed-shop enforcers who rigidly control the op-ed pages." How hard have you tried to publish op-eds? You write well. Your writing is sharp and stimulating. I'm sure there are lots of widely read op-ed pages that would publish your op-eds.

Russ Abbott said...

You often seem a bit naive. You propose challenging conservatives to "name ten eminent and widely respected conservatives to join a commission, charged with helping design acceptable and competing fact-services."

I doubt that anyone believes that conservatives cry "Fake News" because they believe it. They cry "Fake news" because they know that repeated lies help further their cause. That's the Trump way. Assert boldly what you want people to believe. It doesn't matter whether it's true or whether you believe it's true. All that matters is whether it would help Trump if people believed it. So let's not pretend this is an honest debate.

Russ Abbott said...

But I don't want to be all critical. You have lots of interesting and important things to say. It's late to get started, but I suspect that even now, given your name and reputation, you could get published in NYT, WP, Vox, or any number of widely read platforms. Please try it.

David Brin said...

I appreciate your thoughts, Russ. And yes, I haven't tried as hard at any one thing in life, from promoting my patents to inundating the inboxes of op-ed editors to pursuing physics theories. My blessing/curse is a wide stance and hence when one path snubs me I shrug and then veer down another.

But I've sweated pretty hard to get through to the political caste and I truly have found that my reputation and "name" only get me so far. I have been dismissed as a "brilliant kook" by so many gatekeepers that I can tell they each view me as a threat. Perhaps not in surface thoughts but viscerally. At this point it's hopeless.

Have you any idea how long I have been pushing some of the simplest of these ideas? Alas.

john fremont said...

Joe Biden with a judo move of his own.
"If elected what I will do is I'll put together a national commission of -- bipartisan commission of -- scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative, and I will ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it's getting out of whack, the way in which it's being handled," Biden said in a one-minute released clip from his "60 Minutes" interview with Norah O'Donnell.

"And it's not about court packing. There's a number of other things that constitutional scholars have debated and I've looked to see what recommendations that commission might make," he added.

Biden warned against the Supreme Court turning into a political football...

Biden says if elected he will form bipartisan commission to recommend changes to Supreme Court
By Sarah Mucha, CNN
Updated 9:53 AM EDT, Thu October 22, 2020

jim said...

Alfred said something in the comments of the last post that I found really useful ;-)

“The tiny miracle that remained was that any of this actually worked. It does. Reductionism really should NOT work, but it does. Sometimes. Sometimes with great power. The closer I looked at it, though, the more I realized it worked on certain problems because we walked away from the other problems where it didn't. Selection Bias in its purest form.”

I found really useful because it is basically restating something I have said before
“Science is useful not True.”
It seems to me that most of the rational-materialist think that science leads you to the truth (an accurate understanding of reality). It does not do that at all. What the scientific process does is to look for and find useful, measurable concepts and situations to help us describe and manipulate some of the parts of the world around us.
For example, science was able to make accurate predictions on the movements of the planets, not by accurately describing all the details of each and every planet in the solar system, but by pretending that each planet was a point mass and plugging that vast distortion of reality into a simple equation and getting really good results.

David Brin said...

jim tries hard to make a distinction that's conceptually difficult... to reconcile the fantastic discovery and practical power of science with the fact that scientists themselves avow to NOT being prioests of perfectly objective Truth. jim then says:

"It seems to me that most of the rational-materialist think that science leads you to the truth (an accurate understanding of reality). It does not do that at all. It does not do that at all. What the scientific process does is to look for and find useful, measurable concepts and situations to help us describe and manipulate some of the parts of the world around us."

While this is true is some ways, it is blithering nonsense in others.

First "most of the rational-materialist think that science leads you to the truth (an accurate understanding of reality)." Name one example of someone saying that. One. Anyone? I dare you now to find anyone in the scientific community who asserts that. I call STRAWMAN!

Second. The aim of science is not JUSt to offer practical predictive abilities. That's your effort to demean their ability to interpret actual reality and demote them to mere boffin tradesmen and engineers. We are use to that. It is the desperate ploy used for 3+ centuries to salve wounded egos in the face of vastly superior scientific knowledge.

What science does is create MODELS OF THE WORLD. We know these models are imperfect! That's part of the fun. But we hammer at their edges, 'disprove' some parts or else refine those edges or discover new parts previously unsees, and add them. We know that we will never have a totally "True" (with a capital T) view of reality. But many... most... of the models are so vastly more-true than what came before that... yes... scientists are our era's proper interpreters of 'truth."

Especially since we are fiercely competitive with each other.

So... naw.

scidata said...

Ever since Laplace, science = observation + theory
(inference is in there too, but I keep it bundled as part of theory)
That is, you can use the scientific method to get a testable model. Is the model True? Almost certainly not. Too much of the 1st term and you get stamp collecting. Too much of the 2nd and you get pathological mathematics. Not enough of either, and you get Fox News.
As usual, there's an Asimov for that:

David Brin said...

Sorry I inflict first draft, rapid-typed stuff on you guys.

jim said...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
I guess in David's mind science is like Schrodinger's arbiter of (T)truth, it is simultaneously the arbiter of truth but not the arbiter of Truth.

Science does not create MODELS of the world it creates USEFUL ways to DISTORT our understanding of reality.

And I found this to be really insightful from a class perspective:
" Second. The aim of science is not JUSt to offer practical predictive abilities. That's your effort to demean their ability to interpret actual reality and demote them to mere boffin tradesmen and engineers."
It sounds like Davis thinks of himself as some sort of upper caste Brahmin of Science with the ability to be the arbiter of truth, as opposed to those dirty underclass tradesmen and engineers who use the scientific method to help solve practical problems.

Larry Hart said...


That Asimov essay on "The Relativity of Wrong" is one of my two favorites of his--the other being the one about the discovery and naming of vitamins.

He describes here the argument I was always having with locumranch, that "The earth is not exactly spherical" is not equivalent to "It is equally valid to assert the earth is a sphere, a cube, or a pyramid, since none of those are true."

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...


David has a fair point regarding the strawman. There are a few science people who claim to be pursuing Truth, but there aren't many left. Back up a few generations and the percentage who did was quite a bit higher. We are human beings and not immune to mixing our spiritual expectations with our scientific ones. Nowadays, though, most of the people claiming we mix them are asserting that we do with little evidence. Much of the assertion comes from outside our community and reflects a 'truth' about us that no longer is for most of us.

There is a middle ground where you'll still find many of us, though. Instead of Objective Truth, we will use the lower case version 'truth'. A 'truth' is essentially an assertion consistent with theory and observation. Whether or not Creation confirms them isn't in question. Creation never does. She ONLY EVER falsifies them if we figure out how to ask the right question of her. Never, ever confirmation. That realization swept through the science community and has taken hold in most of us. It's VERY hard to refute Popper's core argument on this. Most of us have surrendered to it even if we haven't read him.

What I described was my evolution as a student of science. I came in with the popular understanding of how science worked and learned the real version. Like an apprentice carpenter, I learned there was a lot more to putting together fine furniture than becoming adept at swinging a hammer and finessing a saw. There was also a lot less to it than the act of genius art. Science is very human in both its beauty and warts.

Also, it's a lot more than a process to generate useful knowledge. For many of us it is a calling in the old religious sense. We can't imagine doing anything else. For many of us it is an Art. For others it tickles their engineering impulse to tinker. I can go on and on and on like this because it is human.

Where you are confusing matters touches on a topic I used to teach my intro astronomy students. I always started day one with two questions. What is a Science? Why do we do it? I learned to insert these discussions early because, like me, my students arrived with a popular understanding of science which was often indistinguishable from 'creation and memorization of dogma.'

I entered the field looking for something personally spiritual, but found something FAR more moving. I got to see how real human beings evolved our knowledge. They were all smart for sure, but more importantly they were liberated and in possession of their dignity. It's difficult to explain to someone who hasn't been through it just how moving that was, but it really hit me at my graduation ceremony where I could see so many assembled on the floor. 8)

jim said...

You are missing the point.
The sun and planets not a point masses but if you pretend they are you can plug them into a simple formula and get really great results for their orbits.

The earth is not a sphere ether but if you pretend it is you can get good results for certain types of questions. And there may be certain types of questions you can ask and get good results for if pretend that the earth is a cube or pyramid.

Newtons laws of motion aren’t true but man oh man do they give you really good answers quick. And if you look at how science is actually done you see people try to throw away (or control for) most of the complexity of reality and focus on trying to find simple relationships between some of measurable qualities.

Yes David I am sure you see yourself as some sort of high priest of Scientism.

Alfred Differ said...


It sounds like Davis thinks of himself as some sort of upper caste Brahmin of Science with the ability to be the arbiter of truth...

I was in the middle of writing my response to your earlier piece when this landed. If I had seen it, I would not have bothered answering you.

Acquisition of an advanced education is not analogous to noble birth. No matter how hard your drive yourself, you'll never change your birth status. That is not true regarding education.

You are an intellectually lazy ass.
Playing the 'noble' card is insulting.

Alfred Differ said...

On a different note, one organization I helped in the past tried to learn to write Op-Eds and get them published. Turns out there was a lot more to it that writing concise, informed essays. Writing skills were, of course, required. What mattered next was relationships. It's not just who you know, but how long you've known them and whether you've been directly involved and helpful in their projects.

It sounds like a 'gatekeeper' idea, but it's really more about a limited supply of publishers. They get way more material than they can put in front of their captured eyeballs. Even in an internet world where everyone can get to the content, they simply don't.

It's easy enough to understand, though, in terms of attention management. My site isn't relevant to everyone and doesn't get through many gisting filters. Why would it, hmm? Big publishers have the same issues just scaled up. People filter so the publisher has to figure a way through in order to sell their ad space at a price that sustains their organization. I can publish whatever I want on my personal site ONLY because it costs me nothing but my time.

Wanna publish an Op-Ed? Cultivate the people involved. It could take years of close relationship effort. And yah... even that might not work. 8)

David Brin said...

m is ACCURATE! "I guess in David's mind science is like Schrodinger's arbiter of (T)truth, it is simultaneously the arbiter of truth but not the arbiter of Truth."

Yes! That IS what you guess! Of course it is jibbering-drooling utter claptrap nonsense. But I am totally convinced that IS what you guess. It's sad. But I believe you.

Well said, Larry.

matthew said...

Dutch "ethical hacker" hacks into Trump's twitter account after guessing Trump's password. He is able to post (though he does not) and read the DMs.

Trump used "maga2020" as his password, and did not have two-step verification engaged.


And how damn scary is that? How many others have guessed the same thing? How many foreign governments have had access to POTUS' DMs?

David Brin said...

"Yes David I am sure you see yourself as some sort of high priest of Scientism."

Again! Yes! I believe you are "sure", jim!

He seems to delight in demonstrating that his perceptions are capering-foaming spews of utter loco.


I would not answer such insanity, except that I do like the metaphors he inspires from my fingertips for the few seconds he is worth.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: they were liberated and in possession of their dignity

I would describe most of the scientists I've met, especially those I've befriended, as having successfully matured. The opposite of man-babies.

I believe that maturity is not an outgrowing, but a growing up: that an adult is not a dead child, but a child who survived.
Ursula K. Le Guin

Larry Hart said...


The earth is not a sphere ether but if you pretend it is you can get good results for certain types of questions. And there may be certain types of questions you can ask and get good results for if pretend that the earth is a cube or pyramid.

Et tu, Brute?

I would seriously be interested in an example of a question that is answered better by postulating a cubical or pyramidal earth than that of a spherical earth.

Of course, Superman comics portray Bizarro World as a cube, so maybe that's where you're coming from.

Larry Hart said...


I think you might have been kidding. If not, then please take it up with Isaac Asimov:

My answer to him was, "John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
In short, my English Lit friend, living in a mental world of absolute rights and wrongs, may be imagining that because all theories are wrong, the earth may be thought spherical now, but cubical next century, and a hollow icosahedron the next, and a doughnut shape the one after.

What actually happens is that once scientists get hold of a good concept they gradually refine and extend it with greater and greater subtlety as their instruments of measurement improve. Theories are not so much wrong as incomplete.

duncan cairncross said...

Larry Hart

What actually happens is that once scientists get hold of a good concept they gradually refine and extend it with greater and greater subtlety as their instruments of measurement improve. Theories are not so much wrong as incomplete.

That is exactly what I have been trying to say to Alfred!

We have a good idea how to change and operate the engine of society - and as we tweak it we will learn more

scidata said...

One quick note I left off my Computational Psychohistory thoughts from the end of the last discussion.

Fisher indeed had some despicable traits. Mostly eugenics, but also an extremely pompous mathematical arrogance. But for me, the most unforgivable one was that he was a shameless Christian apologist, bending and twisting a pathological death cult into a nobility. This is the world I was raised in. 20th century British nationalism was perhaps just a more proper and reserved form of German nationalism. I'll be trying to wash the taste out of my mouth till my last breath. Still, he managed to add a lot of rigor to the theory of evolution, making it much harder to dismiss on purely ideological grounds (as it actually was for over half a century after 1859). Another good example of how the pursuit of science wrings gold even out of mud.

I have to disagree with Alfred Differ on this one point: (pure) science is not so human. The Temple of Athena is largely aspirational, like Seldon's Time Vault. A fleeting glimpse of what we could be someday. When I was young, I had hoped for AI to be a vehicle, but not so much anymore. AI too now seems to be lying in the ditch, looking up at the stars. Perhaps chaos is a required element of divinity. Or perhaps I should get back to my solder station.


gregory byshenk said...

This really jumped out at me:

jim said...
Science does not create MODELS of the world it creates USEFUL ways to DISTORT our understanding of reality.

I ask myself: what does this even mean?

Such a statement seems to assume that there could be some true or undistorted understanding of reality, absent any models, which is utter nonsense.

Alfred Differ said...


living in a mental world of absolute rights and wrongs

The problem lies with a belief in the possibility of a priori truths. People who believe in a Christian-like belief system often have room in their heads for such things. Not all of them do, but many.

It seems to me that most of the rational-materialist

Jim's own words point to the danger. If a priori truths exist, then the people explaining them to us are all in essentially the same profession. Priest.

Jim's error comes from an undemonstrated belief that a lot of us believe a priori truths exist. Most of us if pinned down on the subject will argue that they might, but that they are untestable thus not science. If we are just asked our opinion over a beer instead, we are usually more dismissive. Knowledge is posteriori. Even when it appears a priori, it isn't. The statement 'All bachelors are unmarried' appears to need no observation to be evaluated as True, but the words are constructs of an evolutionary process. We learn what 'bachelor' means from experience. The logical evaluation occurs long after the knowledge is acquired.

All that's left to be a priori is Revelation if you believe in such stuff.

As for his hand-waving dismissal involving point, sphere, cube, and other shapes for the Earth, the truth is rather different. We can treat the Earth as a point in some cases because it doesn't appear to matter much. It's not that we can pretend it's a point. It's that it doesn't matter much.

I spoke earlier of "Astonishingly good ideas being recycled". One of them is broadly named "perturbation theory". It is a wonderfully powerful example of reductionism. As a young student, I thought they had made up several variations on it and I had to memorize them all. Nope. Turns out they are all mathematically related and even tie into the first level of abstract mathematics most students get to see. Linear Algebra with its vector spaces.

The reason you can get away with simplistic shapes for the Earth in many problems is because the higher order perturbation terms contribute to a calculated sum as smaller and smaller numbers. Done right, each order gets closer to zero and the sum converges. If your observational data only provides (say) three digits of significance, don't bother with terms that won't contribute to the first three digits of a sum. If your lab test can distinguish results to six digits, better include enough terms to get well past that many.

For example, the Earth is roughly an oblate spheroid. Imagine a sphere with a toroidal belt at the equator. Those shapes are actual, honest-to-goodness expansion terms one gets from Spherical Harmonics. The sphere shape is good enough to predict the basic orbit of the Moon around the Earth, but it won't predict how the Moon's orbit precesses. Throw that toroidal belt in, though, and one gets precession. Throw in the higher order harmonics and one gets more accuracy when precision is demanded. Those higher terms are absolutely necessary for near-Earth satellite orbits if you want to make long term predictions and not needed at all for short term predictions.

Perturbation theory really IS one of the astonishingly good ideas we recycle.

Der Oger said...

@matthew: Don't know if I could have resisted to post something ... funny. And I don't even imagine how ashamed the secret service must feel.

jim said...

What I find so funny is none of you actually provide an argument about why it is wrong to say
Science is useful not true. As a matter of fact from a philosophical perspective you agree that science can’t tell you the Truth. But boy oh boy do you get your panties in a bunch when somebody just comes out and says it.

It kind of reminds me about how David reacts when I say “if you are not reducing the use of fossil fuels you are not fighting climate change.” Or “Economic growth causes ecological destruction.” Those cause extreme panty bunching too.

Alfred I made the Brahmin crack about David because of his evident (but maybe subconscious) class biases. (David said this “ That's your effort to demean their ability to interpret actual reality and demote them to mere boffin tradesmen and engineers." The people getting their hands dirty using science to help developing practical solutions are beneath those who write about science. )

David Brin said...

"What I find so funny is none of you actually provide an argument about why it is wrong to say
Science is useful not true."

Again, you start out with an assertion that would be an outright lie, if we thought for a minute you were sapient enough to fabricate it deceitfully. But instead, yes, it is clear you actually believe this, despite the fact that we have refuted the nonsense repeatedly.

You know nothing about science at all, just some chants. All you are is masturbating to a comfy delusion-incantation.

Is there a level where it's true that science cannot know what's "True"? Absolute objective reality? Truth with a capital T? Yes, in fact science is the first truth-seeking system that openly avows the revolutionary idea that perfect description of Objective Reality will always be impossible. That is one of our cornerstones and you got it from science... then turned it into a pathetic incantatory attempt to undermine science. That would be ironic, if it weren't just plain stoopid.

Scientific models of the world are subjective, but become more reliably accurate representations of Objective Reality with the pounding tests of time and experimentation and then the crucial test of prediction. Scientists are deeply competitive and eager to find the next flaw in the model and then gain fame fixing it.

jim's pathetic effort to demean that process, which clearly terrifies him as much as he does not understand it (at all) is a familiar one, used by aristocracies and priesthoods all over the world, especially Britain, to demean and cauterize the influence of 'boffins' who might at any time use facts to disprove their justifications for lordship... and hence jim is exactly and totally a co-agent with the oligarchy he claims to oppose. All would-be tyrants desperately hateful of facts.

Darrell E said...


I'll simplify it to the imprecise level that you insist on.

The claim, "science is useful not true," is wrong. Science is both useful and true. That science is true is what makes it useful. What science isn't is True. The reason it isn't is because Truth is a nonsensical concept that does not have any correspondence with reality.

"Science" = the methods and tools of formal science, the methods and tools of science used informally, and the body of knowledge derived therefrom.

"true" = true in the common everyday usage of the word.

"Truth" = a philosophical concept of a perfect, absolute objective fact that can not be changed and that is so by definition.

The methods and tools that have been refined in formal science and those methods and tools continuous with those which are used more broadly in fields from history to plumbing (as some say, science broadly construed), are the only game in town when it comes to figuring out true things about reality. There are no other valid "ways of knowing" when it comes to figuring out how shit works. That doesn't mean that the arts are not valid or not important, it merely means that if the task happens to be figuring shit out, then they aren't the right tool.

jim said...

You are just projecting your Shadow upon me.

You said “Yes, in fact science is the first truth-seeking system that openly avows the revolutionary idea that perfect description of Objective Reality will always be impossible.”
And I have paraphrase that as “Science is useful not True.” And you get your panties in a bunch and throw a bunch of insults.

matthew said...

Boogaloo Boi charged with firing into police precinct house in MN riots. Also, the man was in contact with the BB in CA that shot and killed a Federal Protective Services Officer.

I remember when certain commentators here dismissed the idea that right-wing terrorists were using the G. Floyd protests as cover for accelerationist activities, and the precinct fire was used as ammunition against the protests.

More and more we are finding out that Trump's "thugs and criminals" were white, right-wing, and organized in their attempts to start a race war in America.

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle on Twitter recognizes the obvious:

I mean, seriously, what's the actual Republican objection to clean energy?

Is it the clean part?

Is that the problem? They literally cannot enjoy life if they're not fucking up the planet?

Seriously, what's the obsession with fossil fuels?

Alfred Differ said...


Theories are not so much wrong as incomplete.

True to a point, then Kuhn takes over. They eventually get tossed and a new paradigm takes over.

One of the longest lasting cosmologies taking generations to complete was one described by Aristotle, reviewed by Ptolemy, and pursued in exhaustive detail by Arab astronomers many of whom found it necessary to dislodge the Earth from the center. Before Northern Europeans were considering a heliocentric cosmology, the Arabs were already trying ideas that, while novel, couldn't beat the accuracy of the geocentric model.

You can still use the old system if you add enough fiddly bits to the model. As the centuries go by, more and more are needed to match both old and new observations. If there is ever a sign of a model's failure, that's it. Never ending toil in the fiddly bits should be treated as if the bush next to you erupts in flame and tells you something useful.

Of course, no one uses the old model anymore. It got replaced with Newton's.
We don't really use Newton's either. It got replaced with Einstein's.
What's next?
The old models are still there and useful… if you don't mind working the fiddly bits.

We have a good idea how to change and operate the engine of society…

No. You have a Ptolemaic model of society.
Macroeconomics assumes much and has so many fiddly details it is unfalsifiable.
Most of the social 'sciences' are worse.

The 'Engine of Society' is an illusion.
It is a hodge-podge of useful heuristics that work if you don't stray far from both known and unknown assumptions.
It is epicycles on epicycles on epicycles.

It's all we've got, you say? True enough. Go ahead and try to improve things, but stay humble. We are still struggling to get out of our ancient assumptions about ourselves.

Alfred Differ said...

gregory byshenk,

seems to assume that there could be some true or undistorted understanding of reality, absent any models, which is...

"a priori knowledge"

Yup. A big bunch of hooey.
Utter nonsense? Worse. I deem it a harmful meme.

A whole lot of people believe in it, though.

duncan cairncross said...

Its epicycles upon epicycles

Very true

And the epicycles upon epicycles WORKED! - it predicted the planetary movement

Which is why the earth centered model was the "best theory" -
The sun centered model required just as many epicycles and predicted that the stars would move - observation showed no movement

It wasn't until Kepler used ellipses rather than circles that the sun centered model produced superior results

The "Engine Model" is a good one as an engine requires all sorts of bits that work together and changing some parameters can change the optimum of a few more

As todays computer modeling gets better the "Engine Example" gets worse as we are approaching the stage where we WILL be able to model exactly what is happening in an engine

When we can do that the analogy will break down!

David Brin said...

Hey jim, if you don't like receiving insults, then stop being insulting, You spew ravings lecturing scientists about science - which you clearly know nothing at all about, but are desperate to dismiss the whole activity as a "scienceism" cult religion. Then whine about 'insults" while yammering "panties" crap.

Above all, there's absolutely no sign of God's second greatest gift to us, after love, which is curiosity. You never, ever, ever show a scintilla of curiosity, only a desperate need to preen and LECTURE people who clearly know a helluva lot more than you do.

It's a pity. Your desperation only quashes what might have been a decent intellect. But all you ever do is come here and sneer at us. I do not recall you ever posing s sincere question. Again a pity.

Alfred Differ said...


Brahmin crack

Okay, but let's take a look at your perception then. What he did with his 'crack' is suggest that it is YOU who was guilty of a classist perception. I'm inclined to agree with him. My nose detects the same annoying whiff.

I've met him. In person. Over a vendor demonstration table where I had my ignorance on display. He could have smacked me down while imparting valuable wisdom upon my humble soul. Instead, he smiled and wished me well with my effort. That smile spoke loudly but gently. He didn't think I'd make it. Turns out he was right about that project. I moved on a few years later, but didn't forget how to provide the same service to the inexperienced.

In a nutshell... you are wrong about him... and I'm going to wish you well in your effort to understand.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Acacia H. said...

Here's the thing about science. It's true and exists whether you believe in it or not.

If you were to murder every scientist out there and destroy every single science book out there, then in time you would have people emerge who would study and discover the same principals exist.

If you were to murder every religious person out there and destroy every single religious tome out there, then in time you would have new religions form and new myths and none of them would be like the old stories.

So. Which one is real? Which one is true?


David Brin said...

They say Biden's "oil slip" may hurt him in PA and TX, but it stregthened bonds with the left.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I think even the fossil fuel states are starting to come to grips with the fact that technology has moved on. The fact is solar and wind are becoming cheaper and more efficient, and even here in far northern California, a hot bed of climate change denialism, the fact that six towns within 250 miles of us have been nearly wiped out by fires over the past few years has made even the most strident deniers have to admit that something has gone seriously wrong with the west's fire cycle, and unraked forests aren't the cause.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: Seriously, what's the obsession with fossil fuels?

Money, of course. Fossil industries still make hundreds of billions in profits and use a small percentage of them to buy up most of the American legislative and judicial processes, and a similar amount on propagandising the public.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Science isn't factual as much as it is an objective depiction of our present understanding of the world around us. Until someone comes up with a GUT, physics remains a mess, and biology is still measured mainly by what we do not yet know and understand. Science is still better at approximating the universe and our role in it than any other approach.
The discussion about whether the Earth is a sphere or not is a matter of terminology. Orbital mechanics are based on the notion that the Earth is essentially a sphere, but objects in orbit will decay, not just because of atmospheric drag, but because gravitational variations caused by variations in the Earth's shape and density cause orbital perturbations. "Oblate spheroid" is both more accurate and less precise. Most potatoes are oblate spheroids, too, and come nowhere near the Earth's configuration and shape.
"Truth" is a crutch for people who don't like or don't understand variables.

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

LH: Seriously, what's the obsession with fossil fuels?

Money, of course. Fossil industries still make hundreds of billions in profits...

That's what drives the politicians who feed at the Koch trough, but I doubt it motivates the man on the street who engages in "rolling coal" and the like. No, they take a certain affirmative pleasure in doing harm, partly if not entirely because it makes liberals feel bad.

Alfred Differ said...


(pure) science is not so human

Heh. Sciencia/Minerva/Athena isn't, but Science is.
I should be careful with my nouns, though. Let me try this instead.

"Science is very Human, but it isn't human."

Science isn't Athena or any other transhuman, but many of us anthropomorphize it as one.

It is exactly social, not smaller or larger, as it emerges from liberated, market-using communities of humans. It is a feature of a liberated Human civilization.

Der Oger said...

Ahh ... the "Ivory Tower" vs. "Common People" debate.

Science in itself is neither "good" nor "evil". It produces tools that can be used for any purpose, from healing to genocide, from communicating with the whole world to surveilling, censoring, suppressing it. Granted, it will stray from the path of "true" sooner or later in oppressed societies or lag behind, but even the USSR and eastern European states had meaningful science, and China is rapidly closing up.

And then there are bearers of academic honors and degrees and people with a large ego who DO see themselves as a sort of Brahmin caste, above the unwashed masses. I have worked with them, and in fields were strict adherence to best practices is absolutely necessary ... but not enforced. It reminds one of a illiberal society with strict, stratified hierarchies ... which in itself hinders creativity, progress and enlightment. Which, in turn, fosters cheating and stealing.

And a caste they form ... there is evidence (at least in my country) that the first name has an influence on grades in elementary school, and if your parents have an academic degree, you'll have a much higher chance of obtaining one by yourself.

On the other hand, we have a lot of uneducated people accustomed to instant gratification, biased information and hedonistic escapism ... who demand that truths confirm their pre-existing opinions, ignore and deny those which don't, and fall prey to political agitation. They cannot empathize that science is awfully slow, and takes years of drudging, boring labor to produce meaningful results. The "Educated Worker" seems to be a dying race. Hence, Trumpists, climate deniers and anti-vaxxers.

Der Oger said...

"If you were to murder every religious person out there and destroy every single religious tome out there, then in time you would have new religions form and new myths and none of them would be like the old stories."

What intrigues me, that if you look closely, that there seems to be an underlying mechanism producing similarities in belief systems and mythologies. Some might be coincidental, but some are not, and I wonder if there is something hardwired into our brains that actually creates these similarities.

For example, the travel from animistic to polytheistic to monotheistic or dualistic belief systems. Or dragons that developed in western/near eastern, far eastern, and mesoamerican mythologies (though their place in that mythologies is different as servants of hell and heaven, respectively).

So I think if religion was set to zero, it might restart due to predefined processes, while the individual results might surely vary.

matthew said...

It's not so much the value of the hundreds of billions of profits for the fossil fuel industries. It's the trillions of dollars of "potential value" still under the ground. They've leveraged against that potential value *heavily*, making Trump look like a paragon of prudent investment in comparison.
All that leverage is just like an anchor around their necks, and their ship is going down. They have to find some sucker to take the anchor from them before they try to swim to the lifeboats.

Why do you think environmental divestment campaigns take *so* much heat and fury in opposition to them? They get in the way of unloading of the tons of debt to suckers.

David Brin said...

matthew and I are in raging agreement, for once!

David Brin said...