Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Is lying endemic to ALL nations? Are Western nations in any position to judge? A guest blog!

I do very few guest blogs. But this letter sent to me by a friend and tech-colleague was so thought-provoking that I feel I must share it. Also below, see my response to his concerns.  And - I believe - the concerns felt by many of you.

-------

 Dear David,

I finally watched the popular series about the Chernobyl disaster. During the first few episodes, I worried that the lying seemed to be too clearly ascribed specifically to Soviet practice. My own feeling was that analogous failings of a wider range of other organizations including religious as well as government organizations can result in similar pressures and stories. 

I think that the combination of novel technologies, complexity, political issues, and auras of secrecy can also lead people to feel that "lying for the greater good" is both understandable and likely to succeed. In fact, I think that those features may tend to recur in nuclear accidents, partly because it is often thought feasible to get away with lying about radiation doses and implications. Note that adding new software to most smart phones (with no new hardware!) might let them detect substantial radiation exposure, perhaps due to bit flips in mass memory. I'd like that.

My musing led me to wonder about the US response to the H-bomb we lost track of near Palomares Spain, and initial confusions after 3 Mile Island and Fukushima.

But then it hit me that there are far more recent analogues lurking not very far below recent news headlines. They include:

1. The unwillingness of nearly all Republicans to acknowledge apparent traitorous acts by some Trump associates.

2. The similar unwillingness of most Republicans to acknowledge sustained clear incitement by Trump of the Jan 6 invasion of the US capitol building as an insurrection, and the obviously restrained response of the security personnel. 

3. Some details of the 1921 attack on the "Black Wall Street" Greenwood (Tulsa) community exactly a century ago, that suggest advance planning, including positioning of a machine gun, and airplane drops of incendiaries on Greenwood buildings. How can we get away with fussing so much over Chinese mistreatment of their minorities, given our own sustained mistreatment of both blacks and Indians?

4. Sure, China has not been frank enough about the beginnings of the Covid pandemic.Though I doubt many other countries would be, including ours. But Covid-19 does appear to have started in China. Even if there is nothing to lab leak claims, China has to have long known the gambles associated with its wet markets and the suppliers that support them.  I suspect that is the main reason that foreign health experts work in a lab near there. 

The first two items above have not led to massive deaths, as Chernobyl did. But our sustained mistreatment of blacks and Indians might even exceed the direct and indirect deaths from Chernobyl. And we know Covid has caused far larger deaths than Chernobyl. We don't know what the true responsibility of China is for it. It is possible that secrecy will be maintained not because of a lab leak origin, but rather because of a far smaller mistake, but by someone able to keep that mistake secret, or shift the responsibility to someone else who has already died.

But let me focus on just the US death toll from Covid. I believe that many of our ~600,000(?) US deaths directly flowed from Trump choices over a year ago, and his lies "for a greater good." (Note how few people appear to have died in most Asian countries other than India, despite earlier exposure. In particular, South Korea and Taiwan and New Zealand appear to have been models of proactive and competent response.)

I suspect that the CDC has been more broadly handicapped for years. One cause might be Republican reaction to the CDC studying gun deaths. But more generally, I suspect nearly all Republicans and even many Democrats don't want the CDC looking under any new rocks that could justify new regulations on pollution. I have also been puzzled by how long it has taken for the CDC to acknowledge the most common Covid transmission routes. To put it briefly, I worry that the US may have become to some extent an "epidemiological third world country," perhaps largely by indirect intent.

Now let me get back to a question on the Chernobyl series: I hope that enough of the people in all large organizations around the world recognize the Chernobyl series as not being mostly about Chernobyl, but potentially about them. 

Is that likely?
Jack

== My response ==

Jack thanks for your missive, and permission to turn it into a guest posting on my blog.

Of course, what you are describing is fundamental human nature. 6000 years in which 99% of human nations and tribes were pyramids of inherited privilege that rewarded thuggish cheater males - and their sons - with extra reproductive advantage. (And we are all descended from the harems of guys like that.) 

This pattern - seen on all continents, in almost all centuries - saw top male cheater-clades exhibiting one top priority: to repress criticism. Sure, this helped them to keep their top positions and harems and pass it all to their bratty sons. But it also resulted in spectacularly bad governance for those 60 centuries and more! Because we humans are all delusional and the one thing that those kings and lords and priests compulsively repressed - criticism - also just happens to be the only known antidote to delusion and error. (CITOKATE.)

Want another horrific example? In 1915 the "Young Turk" leader of Turkey - Enver Pasha - hurled hundreds of thousands of poor peasant boys into mountain passes to be slaughtered by Russian machine guns. Needing to deflect blame for that disaster, he then concocted a genocidal rage against all Armenians. Millions died because of one SOB's attempted distraction-coverup... as have many millions from covid-coverups... as have hundreds of millions of others from this age-old human reflex, across the annals of humanity.  

This pattern - of top males cheating and manically/murderously crushing criticism - so well explains the litany of horrors seen on all continents that's called "history." It is also what stallions and bull elephant seals and indeed most male animals try to do, across the animal kingdom. Moreover, it is likely pervasive across the cosmos! Everywhere that species attain almost any technology, even just agriculture. It is a stunningly depressing vista and alas, I rank it highly as a theory to explain the Fermi Paradox.

And yet, I see the bright side. For humans may be exceptional and maybe even able to break the pattern! 

On certain occasions - escaping the feudalism trap - we seem to have found an alternative attractor state -- Periclean Enlightenment -- which flattens societies enough so that the children of elites must compete with each other and with girls and boys empowered by equality, rising from below. This social condition, while rare, has shown itself also to be powerfully creative and productive.

Even the poor extent to which this alternative model has been implemented -- frustratingly  incomplete -- has unleashed more human success, justice and creativity than all the rest of 99% of human existence, combined. And the waves of criticism that are unleashed (name one other society that ever indoctrinated its youths to be so critical!) is exactly how we catch mistakes and delusions and make rapid progress.

== Why the standard response is nonsense ==

Which leads us to my answer to your comment: "How can we get away with fussing so much over Chinese mistreatment of their minorities, given our own sustained mistreatment of both blacks and Indians?"

Yes, that is the standard Chinese response to any criticism. Generally they do this by citing fierce denunciations of the USA and West pouring forth from our own liberals and our own children!  And none of them - not the Chinese, nor our leaders, nor those liberals or children - ever step back and look at WHAT JUST HAPPENED.

What happened is that the PRC mouthpieces are hurling at us our own self-criticisms and reform messaging. A reform and self-crit process that they do not allow their own liberals and youths to undertake. 

A rich irony that we could exploit (if anyone on our side had a lick of brains), is that we are better than them, morally and in all other ways...

... not because we have committed no crimes. We have
 But because criticism flows! And all those crimes repeatedly have their scabs ripped off by young people who have been trained by four generations of Hollywood memes of Suspicion of Authority, Tolerance, Diversity and individualist Eccentricity. 

 (For more on this indoctrination for self-criticism by western media, see: VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood.)

That is how we are better, not just quantitatively but qualitatively, than our adversaries. Because we have the strength and confidence to encourage our citizens - especially new generations - to shout at crimes and hypocrisies.... 

... only now a world cabal of oligarchies are united in their united project to bring us down by using these strengths against us, with their shared aim of ending the Periclean Enlightenment forever. But to see how this inherent enlightenment strength is being used against us - inciting Western youth not to criticize for improvement but denounce their own cultureas meriting destruction - you may need Vivid Tomorrows.

== A final note ==

Last night we watched Hunt for the Wilder People, Waititi's lovely, fun film about a kid and an old man heading into the bush to hide from a pretty darn nice civilization. Well, it's New Zealand, after all. Or rather Aotearoa, where I set many scenes in my 1990 novel Earth, with a prominent role for a Maori billionaire. 

What struck me in this film was that a large majority of the characters -- both the wilder boy plus sympathizers and the cops chasing them -- were either Maori or half-Maori or some such... and this seemed so normal that probably very few viewers even noticed or remarked on it! Except for a few gliding, half-references, this film was almost completely... and comfortably... post-racial, in a way you normally only see delivered (sometimes tortuously) in sci fi futures. 

No guilt trips. No beratings. Just a simple, confident assumption that the task is mostly done down there.  Or, certainly farther along than almost anywhere else on Earth.

(And yes, Jacinda Ardern for World PM! I lay my sword at her feet.)

Only now let me tell you something that occurred to me -- something that kind of proves my point that human civilization is gradually, grudgingly evolving. (A point I also made here in my year 2000 essay about "2001 a Space Odyssey.")

Look across the globe at countries with a history of difficult encounters between civilizations, especially native peoples viz. conquering incomers. And from the start, widen your view of history; stop assuming it is entirely a tale of savagery by European colonialists!  Tell that to the Xhosa and other peoples who inhabited most of Africa and were almost utterly wiped out by the Bantu Migration. Tell it to the non-Han peoples of what is now China - not just the Four Kingdoms crushed into homogenized uniformity by the First Emperor Chin, with all their cultures erased, but a vast array of polyglot peoples now all-gone, except for some residual dialects. Tell it to the original waves of people who migrated to the Americas from Asia, whose blood genotypes now only exist south of Panama, after later arrivals (ancestors Northern American Natives) drove them out.

No, we are ALL descended from rapaciously warlike tribes. That does not excuse the crimes of colonialism!  But it does suggest we can gain real insight by looking at matters of how and who, and when.

Why did Maoris get the most favorable initial treaties and the best follow-up deals with their white immigrant neighbors?  Because New Zealand/Aotearoa was among the last places colonized by Euro-invaders, well after guilt and tolerance and diversity memes began their slow bubble through art and literature.  

Go to the other end of this story.  The first nation in the Euro-colonization wave - the Portugese - dived right into the horrific slave trade without a second thought. The Spanish who followed Columbus into the Carribbean left no Carib peoples alive... followed by Cortez and Pizarro. They made no well-intentioned treaties to be later neglected and/or betrayed. There were no gestures of dignity or respect for - say - Nahuatl or Aztec culture. 

"You name is now José and this place is now called San Cristobal," they told those who survived the plagues and silver mines. There were no memes of guilt or diversity or even curiosity, as every Mayan manuscript or codex burned.

Such memes were - barely - starting to percolate a little later. It began as a wee bit of patronizing romanticism that caused the front edge of Anglo expansion to contain enthusiasts. "What's the NAME of this place?" they asked the local inhabitants, while pointing at the nearest stream or river or valley. And hence, from Massachussetts to Alabama to Michigan to Dakota to Albuquerque to the Sequoias, at least that dignity survived... small comfort after later, poorly policed predators stole the land with forged deeds, or gave out smallpox-ridden blankets, or incited "incidents" that the natives could never win. 

I am not asserting that place-name preservation... or even later tributes in songs and then novels and movies and even giant statues... can ever make up for real crimes and betrayals, either inadvertent or lazy or deliberate. What I'm saying is that a pattern emerges. One showing that first contact events -- while continuing to be drenched in tragedy and injustice -- have been evolving. Far, far too slowly! Horrifically too slowly! But to deny that progression is in itself a kind of blindness to a cultural trait that can be amplified, if we first admit that it exists. Real cause for hope that memic reform can work!

It's the very thing that today's activists demand. Shouldn't they look for... and not reject evidence out of hand... historical proof that the thing they wish to achieve can be achieved? Because in a grindingly too-slow way, it was already underway?

52 comments:

scidata said...

One possible good use for the Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is as a manifestation of an enlightenment meme. Specifically, the original author(s) or rightful holder(s) of that meme could produce an NFT object that would have all the advantages of a meme, plus the multiplicative power of trading/collecting/listing of securities. Story telling, imitation, metaphor, and syntonicity are to civilization what ATP is to cellular biology.

Of course the dark side could make their own NFTs, so the market would very quickly reveal the relative strength of good vs evil in a monetary way. Sort of analogous to the bet challenge scenario. IMHO, Asimov NFTs would mop the deck with Rand NFTs (CruderRands?)

(No, I don't create or trade in NFTs)

duncan cairncross said...

While the late settlement and higher consciousness did help the way the Maori were treated there was a much bigger reason that the Maori were treated so well

They were damn formidable!

The Maoris were probably the most flexible people that the Europeans encountered anywhere

History - The Maori were a Polynesian people with a lifestyle that was based on living on small tropical Islands

About 1100AD some of them were marooned on Aotearoa - a large NON Tropical Island

This permitted a complete change in lifestyle - along the coast there was ample food just waiting to be picked up and the interior was filled with birds that were not frightened of man and a lot of them were poor flyers or flightless - there were effectively NO predators on Aotearoa

This permitted a massive growth in population from an initial 70 or so to something in the hundreds of thousands

With this population the lifestyle had to change again - the easy prey had gone

So the Maori’s changed to a more agrarian settled lifestyle

By the time the Europeans arrived the agrarian lifestyle was changing again to the limited resources warrior - tribal warfare model

All of this in about 500 years! - 4 different lifestyles in 500 years - the Maori were incredibly flexible

So when the Europeans arrived the Maori used them - settlers were welcomed because they could show them how to do things - grow crops

And weapons!

The Maori were already in the warring tribes mode - they had “Pa” - effectively strongholds or fortresses at strategic places on their lands

Muskets made these Pa useless - one of the first Maori to be taken to Britain wowed high society with his looks and his intelligence and returned to NZ with a pile of valuable gifts - which he sold in Australia and bought muskets (and ammo)

Armed with Muskets and potatoes his Iwi proceeded to take over a large amount of territory from neighbouring tribes

This was the start of the “Musket Wars” - a great re-balancing of Maori society with different Iwi conquering the land - and about halving the population!

The Maori then developed the “Modern Pa” - a fortification designed for modern war

So we have a very flexible people who took to modern weapons and agriculture and had a very warlike culture -

Do you need to ask any more about why the Europeans treated them better than other races??

They really didn’t have that much of a choice

Slim Moldie said...

I heard the following Samuel Clemens quote yesterday. "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

And just now looking up the quote I saw a 2013 publishing from PsyPost titled New study confirms Mark Twain’s saying: Travel is fatal to prejudice.

However, it's easy to get down on humanity when you read something like this from Business Insider. "A Republican congressman [Rep. Andrew Clyde] who denied there was an insurrection and likened Capitol rioters to tourists was photographed barricading the chamber doors against them."

And if you're pessimistic on humanity you could (to borrow our hosts' term) shit on Twain's rug, and argue that the conquistadors were tourists and look how that turned out. But your argument would be flawed.

What I get out of the ending of Brin's response here is that despite all the rug shitting, the Twain quote still emerges victorious if you apply the eradication of prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness on a multi-generational macro scale.


Larry Hart said...

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn agrees with me...

https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/eric-zorn/ct-column-gop-lawmakers-and-the-fight-for-the-soul-of-america-zorn-20210601-2kimednay5gzfipp7kddzajyre-story.html

(too many egregious Republican state bills to itemize)
...
You may believe every idea above is just dandy, and so you may be rooting for the GOP vision of America. You’re clearly not alone.

But if you don’t — or maybe even if you do — you’ll understand why Democrats in such blue states as Illinois aren’t eager to be conciliatory or bipartisan when it comes to such issues as how political maps are drawn or where budget priorities should lie.

At first I shake my head, too, at how heavy-handed the Democratic supermajorities in Springfield were at the close of the legislative session that ended this week; how they steamrolled the men and women across the aisle.

Then I look around our deeply polarized country, see how high the stakes are in the fight for the future and how important it is for the Democrats to hold the line where they can.

Treebeard said...

“we are better than them, morally and in all other ways …”

This is such a pithy statement of Liberal Supremacism, I love it. In case you’re perplexed by the continuing hostility of all those deplorables—Chinese, Trump-supporters, and otherwise—who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their inferiority and embrace the ways of their superiors, this is probably why. (No need to repeat the mantra about resentment over emigration to liberal Mordor every spring—it just confirms the point).

BTW, I was amused to see one of the few other blogs I read mention our host:

https://www.ecosophia.net/toward-the-breaking-point/

Some interesting observations here. I wasn’t aware of this “taking a loyalty pledge to science” phenomenon, but I can’t say I’m surprised. It just shows you that anything can become an authoritarian ideological cult, including science. Ultimately humans worship power, not truth, and science can be so very, very powerful.

Robert said...

who denied there was an insurrection and likened Capitol rioters to tourists was photographed barricading the chamber doors against them

Well, that makes sense in light of the Clemens quote. Think about it.

If travel broadens the mind and reduces prejudice, then tourists will be less narrow-minded and prejudiced than regular folks. And what does the Republican party fear? Broadminded folks who aren't prejudiced, who can see through and call them on their bullshit.

So if he honestly thought they were tourists, then they be just the type of people he would be afraid of! :-)

Zepp Jamieson said...

I think Jack is correct that all large (organised) groups lie, but I think the extent and malice behind the lies rests in large part on how authoritarian the group is. The USSR was extremely authoritarian, to the point were lying about nearly everything was often a matter of reflex than political or strategic design. Indeed, "Chernobyl" was making the point that the Soviet response to the accident played an even bigger and more destructive role than the melt-down itself did.
One point I make with the "America is god's property" crowd is that what they propose is a theocracy, about the most authoritarian form of government possible, and it's no coincidence that churches and fascist movements are often conjoined--both seek to rule rather than govern.

David Brin said...

Kind-o-sad that our sole spokesman for the confederacy now - in locum's absence - is so dismally stoopid.

The ENTIRE point of the paragraphs from which he cherrypicked the admittedly arrogant phrase "better in all ways" was that enforced homogenization of viewpoint is the great human tragedy of 6000 years and we have created systems and values to oppose it.

The irony that his cult has screeched "we REAL (red) Americans are better than city folks in all ways!" ... while they (except Utah) lose any comparison of actual moral turpitude, from domestic violence, murder, gambling, addictions, divorce, teen sex/pregnancy/stds... would be hilarious is not terrifying, sad and tragic.

I wasn’t aware of this “taking a loyalty pledge to science” phenomenon, either and it sounds nutty. But for you, a member of many loyalty pledge cults... who also as a confederate BETRAY all pledges when convenient... to assail that simply shows how far we've come in the LIBERAL value set that such pledges are silly.

===
Chernobyl almost SAVDED the USSR by giving Gorbachev one of two dozen pretexts to fire hundred and thousands of wretched communist apparatchiks. He came close to reaching a soft landing when some of the remaining asses tried an absurd/incompetent coup that ended it all. Well, not all. The KGB evil part lives on.

Alfred Differ said...

I guess this is my week for skepticism.

Getting from an initial population of 70 to a few hundred thousand in 500 years takes a growth rate at least 1.7%. Higher since infants DID tend to die of stuff, but plentiful food would have helped with that in early years. No so much in later years, so higher than 1.7% later... probably.

That's a lot of babies to have with an initially small population leading to inbreeding risks. Hmm.

Also, I think we overstate the 'niceness' of Polynesians. I'm skeptical of significant cultural changes in 500 years, but can easily believe they were pretty relaxed about things while food was easily found. That the Maori were credible threats to foolish Europeans is a given, but I suspect their recent ancestors would have been too.


The Aztecs weren't beaten because they were foolish or non-credible threats. They were beaten because they were often hated by their neighbors AND the Spaniards showed up with guns and germs and a 'let God sort them out' attitude. Doesn't matter how tough you are... plagues are catastrophic foes.

Our host's point is a fair one. The Maori met up with people who had a very different attitude than the one shared by Spanish or Portuguese conquerors. I'm not inclined to give any credit to 'Europeans' for making progress, though. I see it as a consequence of Enlightenment Civilization. We ARE weird and getting weirder with each generation. That our civilization started in Europe just confuses the matter.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. I saw the 'loyalty pledge' thing make the rounds on Twitter the other day. On the surface it seems decent enough, but the reaction of many scientists I follow was pretty strong against. The paraphrased response went something like "Who the HELL do they think THEY ARE to question my loyalties?"

Cats being herded? Not a chance. Many angry cats mixed in with all the aloof ones who give you that very brief look that clearly says they can't imagine ANY reason to give you ANY attention.

Their strong reaction will (of course) be mis-understood by foolish confederates who are even less likely to get any of their attention.

len said...

It's always funny how the people who are preoccupied with preserving WESTERN CULTURE, who believe in AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM, and who proclaim to worship the ONE TRUE GOD tend to lose their shit when someone else suggests supremacy over them in some way.

No one has ever asked "you think you're better than me?" who isn't inwardly railing against their fear that it is true.

Daniel Duffy said...

A word about the Spanish Conquistador's "let God sort them out attitude".

Prior to Columbus' voyages to the new world, Christian Spain had spent 800 years waging the Reconquista, driving the Muslim Moors out of Spain, expelling the Jews and instituting the (very popular with the devout and patriotic Spanish people) Inquisition. Auto-de-fes were considered to be glorious victories for Christ by ordinary patriotic Spaniards.

That's 32 generations of men being brutalized by killing other men in a kind of warfare where their enemies' blood splattered and flowed over them during the act killing. In addition to conquering and enslaving half the world (with their allies the Portuguese - who had a similar brutalized history - conquering and enslaving the other half) Spanish pikemen and musketeers created the first modern army with their tercios dominating battlefields across Europe.

(As for slavery, millions of Europeans had been the victims of Barbary slavers from Africa for centuries prior - slavery was accepted by everyone. The Spaniards and Portuguese never lost any sleep over it.)

By comparison, a single generation of men brutalized by 4 years of trench warfare later became the rank and file of the Nazi party.

The Spaniards of the 16th and 17th century were a brutalized society and a marcher state equipped with advanced naval technology and weaponry.

How could they do what they did?

How could they not?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Heh. I saw the 'loyalty pledge' thing make the rounds on Twitter the other day. On the surface it seems decent enough, but the reaction of many scientists I follow was pretty strong against. The paraphrased response went something like "Who the HELL do they think THEY ARE to question my loyalties?"


I'm reminded of Dave Sim's observation, "There is no Church of Newton's Laws in which we give thanks that an object at rest or in motion remains at rest or in motion until acted on by an outside force. What exactly would we be giving thanks for?"

scidata said...

There are times when I'm really down on myself, not being an academician and not making any formal contribution to science. Low though my start in life was, I think I could have done better.

Then I see someone like the Director of the NIH spewing about how the laboratory is a church and how science is a form of worship. All things, including evolution and viruses, are part of His Plan.

Utter delusional cowardice. Hiding behind phantoms is Triumpian, not Periclean.

Calculemus indeed.

scidata said...

Trumpian, not Triumpian.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

Then I see someone like the Director of the NIH spewing about how the laboratory is a church and how science is a form of worship. All things, including evolution and viruses, are part of His Plan.


I don't know the man well enough to do more than guess, but I wonder if he thought that he had to phrase it like that for the American public to tolerate. Or maybe even that he got used to having to say such things to keep a job during the Trump years.

* * *

Reposting because it disappeared into the ether:

Alfred Differ:

The Aztecs weren't beaten because they were foolish or non-credible threats. They were beaten because they were often hated by their neighbors AND the Spaniards showed up with guns and germs and a 'let God sort them out' attitude.


IIRC, the Spaniards had help from a really big coincidence. Legend had it that when the god Quetzalcoatl was banished in 1019, he vowed to return for vengeance in 500 years. When Cortez and company arrived in 1519, it must have felt as if Burnham Wood had come to Dunsinane.

(Among other places, this was referenced in a very good short story about the Supreme Court having to rule on psychic phenomena. "Probable Cause" by Charles Harness.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Stateth our hoste: "Chernobyl almost SAVDED the USSR by giving Gorbachev one of two dozen pretexts to fire hundred and thousands of wretched communist apparatchiks. He came close to reaching a soft landing when some of the remaining asses tried an absurd/incompetent coup that ended it all. Well, not all. The KGB evil part lives on."

Gorbachev got credit in how he handled the Chernobyl crisis (and from what I've read and seen, he earned it) but part of the problem was that most of the Soviet population had no real idea of how serious the crisis was. Even the BBC and RFA were downplaying the severity of the situation. What did for Gorby was widespread dissatisfaction with the economy (which was in ruins) and breakdown of essential social services. That, and amongst hardliners (such as Putin) he was seen as being too conciliatory to Reagan/Bush, and absurd demand given that in each of the prior five years, the Soviet military budget had been cut because they couldn't afford to maintain the levels they had. In Russia, in the years following the fall of the Soviet State, these came to be known as "the good old days."

Robert said...

Gorbachev got credit in how he handled the Chernobyl crisis

Years ago I watched a documentary on Chernobyl (can't remember which one) that had an interview for Gorbachev. In it he said that the Chernobyl accident was what pushed the USSR into collapsing and breaking apart. In my memory it was more a log-that-broke-the-camel's-back kind of thing (ie. a bad situation that stretched an already stressed system too far) — possibly 'a crisis too much' is a better (mixed) metaphor.

I think the documentary was British, but not BBC. Fairly but not totally certain of this.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry & Scidata,

There ARE some scientists who treat their work as a calling. The religious ones occasionally do sound like they are swapping out church for lab. In a Puritan sense it actually works as they are testing God's creation to learn from His works.

Most religious scientists I know, however, go with the non-overlapping magisteria notion. Where the boundary is located is technically unknown, but they expect one to exist and curtail their curiosity accordingly. They might not admit to the curtailment, though.

A fairly common trait for all of them, though, is they treat this as a very personal choice. Many Americans treat religion that way. Ask them for details and they get concerned about your pushing into their privacy.

The scientists take it a small step further and it is this step that I think provokes the "Who the HELL are you" response that is VERY revealing. Someone asking me if I'm 'loyal' to science might be asking out of curiosity… or they might be challenging me and my dedication to my sense of identity. A secular version of this questions is "Are you faithful to your wife?". Yes… but WHY would you ask that? Hmm?! You want me to sign a pledge saying I am? Who the HELL do you think you are?!

Heh. That pledge floated the other day was more than sorta a stupid idea. Those of us who ARE loyal to science don't need it and find it more than a little insulting that someone would ask. Those of us who aren't loyal could fake it anyway, but why would they? Why would they sign it either?

There is no Church of Newton's Laws, but there IS an active faith associated with science. Many of us ARE loyal to 'it' and consider ourselves 'scientists'. When some cultural element is used to form identity, there IS an associated faith/loyalty in play.

Where Dave Sim got silly is in mixing the propositional and loyalty definitions of 'faith'. Newton's laws are propositions like 2+2=4. We aren't loyal to propositions. We are loyal to identities. In this case, physicists know themselves to be what they ARE by HOW they go about dealing with propositions… and tests… and falsifications. Do we give thanks? Yes.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry & Daniel,

I got very curious about the Aztecs a number of years ago when I was researching how humans adapt to hostile environments and then adapt those environments to become habitable. It's a very common trick humans have been using for around 10,000 generations and it has enabled us to cross most of Mother Earth's harshness to inhabit six continents without high tech. We treat everything as an evolving set of tools including ourselves, our stuff, our foods, and the very place we live in.

What the Aztecs did to eek out a living where they were is an interesting tale. WHY they had to adapt, though, is one of the oldest tales in history. They really WERE hated by some of their neighbors and got pushed into places where few could get by, let alone thrive. They did, though.

Who is to blame for what tends to be lost to history. I take Pinker's point that our HG nomadic ancestors weren't as nice as we'd like to think and the agriculturalists they turned into with domesticated animals and grains were often less so… with one important point. As 'states' grew larger, people in the centers didn't have to be as hostile to strangers because strangers were only really found at the borders.


The other day I was following a Twitter thread from a friend who reports on volcanic activity and how it affects air travel. He pointed out some activity in Iceland that reminded me of an early 70's eruption from a similar location. My family was stationed there and the locals found it rather funny that we tried to douse the lava with a lot of water to save a harbor. Turns out they are doing the same thing themselves nowadays. That got a chuckle out of me and added another anecdote to how humans adapt environment.

To remember which volcano it was I vaguely recalled from childhood, I had to do a bit of internet research. I found the island and tripped across a bit of history I had not known. The fishermen on that island back in the early 17th century were among the victims of the Barbary slavers. Seems they got raided and hauled off. Few of them ever made it home after ransom payments. Most were never heard from again.

[The added neat thing about the event is that in Eric Flint's 1632 universe, this raid would have been very recent history. So recent that one of the ransom payments would have been so recent as to alter the course of those involved. Alt.history stories can be fun at times. ]

For the Spanish and Portuguese treatment of others, though, I'm not inclined to get all blame-y. They were men of their times. Barbaric by our standards, but that's not really fair of us nor wise since some future generation will look back at us some day too. I think we've done well by the current 'standards' of this world. Very well. We are adapting them much like every other tool of ours.

Robert said...

a very personal choice. Many Americans treat religion that way

Maybe, but many don't, and that's what's incredibly visible to outsiders. America is much more obviously religious than Canada, France, Germany, the UK, Norway, Iceland…

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Where Dave Sim got silly is in mixing the propositional and loyalty definitions of 'faith'. Newton's laws are propositions like 2+2=4. We aren't loyal to propositions. We are loyal to identities. In this case, physicists know themselves to be what they ARE by HOW they go about dealing with propositions… and tests… and falsifications. Do we give thanks? Yes.


Well, I think we're describing two slightly different things. We can be loyal to the scientific method and personally thankful that we have such tools for understanding the universe, but we don't grovel before such concepts in order to earn their favor, nor do we fear their vengeance if we fail to earn their favor. I think that's the distinction Dave was going for.

Dave Sim wrote that bit back before he became religious himself, but after he became religious, he said that prayer had basically two forms--"I'm sorry" (for my shortcomings) and "Thank You" (for God's grace). Those are the kinds of things one would do in a church, not in a laboratory.

Larry Hart said...

What am I missing>

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/18/texas-heartbeat-bill-abortions-law/

Instead of having the government enforce the law, the bill turns the reins over to private citizens — who are newly empowered to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The person would not have to be connected to someone who had an abortion or to a provider to sue.

Proponents of the new law hope to get around the legal challenges that have tied up abortion restrictions in the courts. While abortion providers typically sue the state to stop a restrictive abortion law from taking effect, there’s no state official enforcing Senate Bill 8 — so there’s no one to sue, the bill’s proponents say.


So any private citizen can sue another private citizen who has an abortion or who aids and abets an abortion in any way? Sue for what damages? Lawsuits are civil matters, not criminal ones, so in what manner does the plaintiff demonstrate damages?

More to the point, if they can do this, why not go completely off the rails? Allow private citizens to sue other private citizens for driving black people to the polls? For sheltering an illegal alien? For tweeting something insulting to Donald Trump? I mean, if a thing is not a criminal offense, but anyone and their uncle can sue you for doing that thing, then the law really "is a ass!"

Personally, I would love to see some of these draconian Republican moves flipped against them? It's legal to run over protesters with your car? Let's see what happens at the next anti-abortions protest. Let's allow private citizens to sue Republicans* for running for public office.

* Ok, to be fair, it would have to be worded as "to sue members of an insurrectionist organization"

David Brin said...

You'll notice that all modern anti-abortion laws target the providers of services, never the women themselves who make the choice. In fact, the hypocrites pushing these things would supply their daughters with funds to fly to another state. A point that alas, is seldom made. What would actually shift MAGA opinion would be to stress the implication. "Oboy, in this cas the offspring of the poor will quickly outnumber yours here. Congratulations on a bill helping you to be replaced!

Re prayerevidence from most of human existence shows that there is one kind that actually works, much of the time! The urgent "please give me strength right now!" kind. It has anecdotally worked so often - from battlefields to sickbeds to emergencies - that it would be dumb to deny it. But of course, that COULD just be humans each drawing on her or his own deep reserves, with the prayer as a focus mantra. In fact, the latter seems likely. But the former cannot be ruled out. It is the one kind of miracle that is routine and replicable.

scidata said...

Larry & Alfred,
Re: Francis Collins

I appreciate both of your perspectives. Here's mine. I spend a lot of time (and a portion of my modest treasure :) on advocacy for citizen science. I've talked before about how I have a lot of respect and hope for red staters and their equivalents outside the US. For example, some of the best amateur astronomers I know are such. They can be reached. They can even be turned (20th century fascism wasn't defeated by libs only).

Occasionally though, I get this push-back: 'but xyz scientist was/is religious'
The xyz list often includes Einstein, which really bugs me, but I keep being pleasant (not easy for me). But when the Director of the NIH, during a pandemic, during a time of fear, confusion, conspiracy theories, and outright lies is on that xyz list, it hurts. I have an even harder time remaining pleasant. I'm not for silly 'belief in science' litmus tests either, they're almost as counter-productive. I just don't want public, authoritative, powerful scientists [oxymoron alert] talking about falling on their knees and giving themselves over to fairies (not a stretch from Collins' actual conversion story!). It's at best unhelpful, at worst cowardly. The whole Earth is the tomb of heroic men ... woven into other men's lives. Honour the fighters that came before. Some of them gave all for this weird enlightenment.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin on praying for strength:

But of course, that COULD just be humans each drawing on her or his own deep reserves, with the prayer as a focus mantra.


I tend to believe that's what's going on. But of course, I would. :)

The true experiment would be comparing the efficacy of prayer in a universe which has God in it against that in a universe without God. Good luck finding a suitable laboratory, though.

Still and all, I take your point to the extent that I feel I should try it when I worry about living in a Republican autocracy*. Praying for strength might just be a better solution than pretending to wake up going, "So, it was all a dream!"

The religious right likes to portray Hollywood as an atheist conspiracy, but in fact, movies are full of scenes like the pivotal one in It's A Wonderful Life in which Jimmy Stewart breaks down in sincere prayer at his lowest moment and then everything turns out all right.

* I will then refer to said oligarchy as "ameriKKKa".

Alfred Differ said...

Robert,

Maybe, but many don't, and that's what's incredibly visible to outsiders.

Very true. Also very visible to many of us, though we don't like to admit it often. Lots of wishful thinking going on over here.

Best I can say is we inherited many of Europe's hot-heads. Our vanilla textbooks describe it as 'seeking religious freedom', but the truth was often closer to 'seeking a place to live by our oppressive rules and enforce them on any who live there'. There is an ugly truth as to why people who lived along the Scotland/England border got tossed out of colonies where they first sought refuge over here.

Larry,

we don't grovel before such concepts

True enough, though struggling grad students might claim otherwise. 8)

I freely admit that I don't know any scientists who anthropomorphize Science the way the faithful do God. Without that step, groveling makes little sense. Apologies too, but not so with thanks. After all, we can make some sense in thanking a cool breeze for wafting by on a hot summer day.

Der Oger said...

Re: Chernobyl:
There is still a considerable nuclear pollution in mushrooms and the meat in wild animals, especially wild boars, in Austria and southern Germany.

It also fell into an era of starting environmental activism and protests against nuclear energy, and by extension, against the corruption that befell the conservative parties.
I could imagine if not for that disaster, our Green Party might not have been strong enough to enter the government 12 years later.

Alfred Differ said...

David,

One of my former business partners made a similar argument for prayer. I didn't think much of it at the time as it struck me as wishy-washy. Believe or Don't. My Universe was a bit more black and white back then.

Nowadays, I don't much care. I can see the point of the argument and realize there is nothing to be gained by attempts to counter it. My personal position on such prayers hasn't changed, but I recognize it now as a PERSONAL position. The value I gain by my flavor of internal consistency could possibly not be universal. Heh. EASILY could be so.

scidata,

There are a lot of misunderstandings regarding religious positions taken by scientists current and past. Some involve cherry picking their words. Some involve the scientists themselves purposely fuzzing or misleading people. There have been damn good reasons not to go on the record as being what one actually is, so caution is required when considering source material.

One trick I like to use when dealing with the recent generation is to ask their former grad students. A professor might take steps to mask beliefs from tenure granting peers, but their students might get close enough to see through the screen.

An absolutely classic case involves Isaac Newton himself. It's VERY likely his beliefs would have been at odds with the Crown responsible for his positions. Heh.

Ultimately, though, we are all human beings. Be very cautious about treating any of us as authoritative in anything. Our social context matters, but more importantly it can help you decide for yourself to whom you choose to listen.

As for amateur astronomers, that's how I got into the world of science. I could access them as a kid in a way I could not reach the professionals. I got a head start that way. Amateurs in all the fields of science are important, but the astronomy community is well developed with a LONG history. Not many realize how much they've contributed or even how they do it.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I freely admit that I don't know any scientists who anthropomorphize Science the way the faithful do God. Without that step, groveling makes little sense. Apologies too, but not so with thanks. After all, we can make some sense in thanking a cool breeze for wafting by on a hot summer day.


Yes, although that's more like "thanking the fates" than "thanking the laws of physics". I mean, the cool breeze doesn't come just because we want it (or pray for it). You're thankful for a happy happenstance, not for Newton's Laws.

Also, I see that sort of thankfulness as something that feels positive to the thanker himself, not something he does because he feels an obligation to the entity he's thanking. And there's certainly not the sense that if you don't write the cool breeze a thank-you note, it's going to be miffed at you and withhold favors later.

The sense I got from the Dave Sim line was that it seems ridiculous to imagine expressing gratitude that physics works the way it does instead of some hypothetical other way.

Pappenheimer said...

Mark Twain put his acidic pen to the efficacy of prayer - God has to choose between the public prayer as in "Blessings upon us all" and the unspoken prayer of the heart "May THOSE people die horribly, in debt and diseased". And God, being Himself, recognizes which are the ones meant to be fulfilled.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

And yes, Jacinda Ardern for World PM! I lay my sword at her feet.


Ah, that reminds me of a favorite line from Tyrion Lannister to Denarys in one of the last good episodes of Game of Thrones :

“For what it's worth, I've been a cynic for as long as I can remember. Everyone's always asking me to believe in things. Family, gods, kings, myself. It was often tempting until I saw where belief got people. so I said, ‘No, thank you,’ to belief.

"And yet, here I am. I believe in you.

"It's embarrassing, really. I'd swear you my sword, but I don't actually own a sword.”

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Hah! I can think of a few times I've thanked the 'god' of biology. She's always anthropomorphized as female. Go figure. 8)

Also, I see that sort of thankfulness as something that feels positive to the thanker himself

That raises a useful point. Our host points out one of the effective uses for prayer. I think this is the other one. A truly thankful person is likely to live a less stressed life. That has serious advantages in job interviews, mate selection, longevity, and offspring success rates.

I think the buzz term most closely connected is self-affirmation. I'm doing great today! Why? Well... I'm thankful.

Probably doesn't matter if there is a god listening on the other end.

Der Oger said...

To answer the question posted in the headline of this blog post: A Citizen should always question information presented by politicians and the Media...veryfiing by other sources. Critical thinking ist a Skill that can be learned and honed, and should start at an early age. So the correct answer to people from an autoritarian Nation is: Yes, we did that, but we not only paid for it (and still do), but als make admendments that it can't happen again ( and still do). Then you can mount your counterattack, questioning the information basis of your opponent.

David Brin said...

Utter proof we are seeing a Western Revival and push back against the World Oligarchic Putsch. A landmark deal agreed upon by the world's richest nations on Saturday will see a global minimum rate of corporation tax placed on multinational companies including tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. After two days of talks in London, finance ministers from the Group of Seven, or G-7 nations, said they had agreed to having a global base corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent. Companies with a strong online presence, would pay taxes in the countries where they record sales, not just where they have an operational base.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/g7-finance-ministers-strike-landmark-deal-taxing-multinational-tech-giants-n1269728

It is far, far from enough! But at last some of my large scale 'suggestions' are being tried. Now to get all 50 US states to pass a treaty banning 'bidding wars' for factories, sports teams etc... with maybe a sliding scale tilted for poorer states or low populations. A trivially easy thing that'd save citizens hundreds of billions.

Over the longer run, what we need is the World Ownership Treaty. Nothing on Earth is 'owned' unless a human or government or nonprofit claims it openly and accountably. (See link in comment#1 below.) So much illicit property would be abandoned by criminals etc. that national debts would be erased and the rest of us could have a tax jubilee. The World Ownership Treaty
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/a-transparent-ownership-treaty-if-you-own-something-you-must-openly-avow-and-say-that-you-own-it--201817627025662315/

Larry Hart said...

My "Mike Doonesbury's summer daydream"...

Donald Trump:
"I have reliable evidence that I will be re-instated by August."

Interviewer:
"Really? You'll be lucky if you're not criminally indicted by then."

Donald Trump:
"That's the word."

David Brin said...

A fellow who claims to have been at times a vommenter in this community posted some drek supposedly "agreeing" with me while mischaracterizing my position on several issues and saying lots of false stuff.
https://www.ecosophia.net/toward-the-breaking-point/

I offer below the response which he refused to publish as a comment on his site. But it oughta go somewhere.

--
Dear JMG, host of "ecosophia": Just because we overlap on some general points: (e.g. I have long held that SARS-Cov-2 might have originated in a lab and that most of the UFO sightings that aren't optical illusions might be best explained as "cat lasers"). Nevertheless, I'm gonna chide the common friend who urged me to come over and read this mountain of paranoid doggie spew.

Too many absurdities to answer in detail without wasting more lifespan than you merit. But a few:

- The "science pledge" is a dismal piece of agitprop, either deliberately issued by some Kremlin basement or else by a well-meaning fool. NO scientist takes it seriously and you'd know that if you knew any scientists... who are the most COMPETITIVE humans our species ever produced and who have one value above all others... to catch their rivals in a mistake. THAT is how scientific progress is made, and it is diametrically opposite to a 'church' - which is why dopes like you attempt to attack science by calling it 'churchlike.' Gee I wonder where you got that value system.*

The fundamentally cut-throat competitiveness of science belies every single nasty, stupid caricature of them that you nurse. And proves you know nothing about science. Nothing at all.

It also explains why we keep dodging the "limits" that you dour doomsday junkies keep dumping on our rugs. Instead of 'peak oil' we'll wind up obsolescing fossil fuels and leaving them buried long before we use up even the easiest-accessible sources. Coal mines are shutting down and sustainables' payback times - both economic and ecological - are getting shorter every year. Oopsie.

I recommend your readers get THE BETTER ANGELS by Pinker and ABUNDANCE by Diamandis to balance the dyspeptic gloom-junkie masturbatory fantasies they get from panderers like you. Then know that these are LOWBALL estimates that leave out the grander possibilities I am working on at NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC) ... to access asteroidal resources that would make us rich enough to make the Earth a park.

I am no polyanna. In novels like EARTH and EXISTENCE I explored some of the tense tradeoffs we'll face as we skate the edges of disasters to reach a better world. (See the vivid 3 minute trailer for Existence! http://youtu.be/wzr-DSDMkJM ).

Enough. Anyone seeking one of the oldest, smartest communities on the web is welcome to drop by http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (Contrary Brin blog)

Thrive & persevere,
David Brin

*Where'd you get that value system? See VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood - http://www.davidbrin.com/vividtomorrows.html

Pappenheimer said...

Dang,

I started to look up Ecosophia ("Wisdom of the Dolphin?") and then I realized that I didn't even know what a "Vommenter" was.

Or is that (checks keyboard) a typo? It's my day off, critical function deactivated.

(warning - begin rant!)
"rich enough to make the Earth a park." That's an old Pournelle line. He showed me the math of how it could be done.
I prefer reasonable optimism over eschatology, but I remember that Pournelle's old novels preaching "asteroids and capitalism will make us all rich" were also overlaid with acerbic attacks on government welfare, non-STEM education, and the development of a non-taxpaying "Citizen" underclass that was unworthy to get any benefits except food and mind-numbing drugs. (Apparently income tax is the only tax that matters.)

I can see the opportunity, but if a great portion of Earths's raw materials will be imported from the sky, I can also see spaced-based quadrillionaires funnelling up most of the benefits. My old college socialist buddies deduced the likelihood of this back in the 80's and recommended we all die out instead. I disagreed with them back then, but I don't have to like it now. We need to be measured on this.
(rant ended)

Unknown said...

A bit of a misunderstanding here, perhaps? As I read it, JMG is only saying you agree with him about the UFO sightings, and emphasizing how unusual even that much agreement is. Not that you agree with him regarding the various other subject matter of the Ecosophia post.

I am a regular commenter on Ecosophia.

David Brin said...

"Vommenter" was clearly a typo... but a fin and maybe freudian one since some of these spews are like vomit.

Unknown, thanks for coming by. You are welcome here. But we have thicker skins. (I have only banned a very few of the worst trolls.).

I am sorry if I came across ascerbic. But JMG's stuff is such swill... even when I agree... that someone has to say: "Wallow here if you like, but there's better value for your time."

David Brin said...

WHat especially angered me was JMG's spreading this "Science Loyalty Pledge" nonsense meme. A dog whistle for science haters and loonies who want to discredit it. But it was only one of several outrageous dishonesties.

Ray Wharton said...

Science hater might not be a fair assessment of Greer. I know of at least two times he has mentioned science as being, I think I recall about this right, "one of a half dozen of the greatest achievements of the human mind." Which is a fairly nice thing to say about anything. I think Math, writing, speech, and logic were also up there.

As a matter of fact I can think of zero occasions when Greer has spoken ill of science as such. The method of answering questions about nature by observation of controlled variables and all that. He has critiqued many particular groups, for pretending to be more scientific than they are. What with topics in the humanities having so many variables, really getting rock solid results that hold up to the standards set by physics and chemistry is very rarely achieved.

Precisely what he has spoken ill of is certain groups, who I would think to be common enemies to both y'all, who claim to speak on behalf of Science, and in doing so for often selfish reasons have besmirched the reputation of science in the eyes of the masses who don't have the specific education, or intellectual temperament, to distinguish between science the method and the social hierarchies which are in the habit of claiming to speak for science. Obviously speaking for science is a stupid personification, but if one turns to popular media such stupidities are very common. If Greer's point is right, the commonness of that particular stupidity has become an interfering factor on the capacity for humanity to extract benefit from the application of scientific method to problems on a large scale.

Thanks for the invite to check out your scene over here, as a long time lurker on Ecosophia, the customs here are strange to me, but I might peep in from time to time... lots easier to keep up with the comments, and I trust it will be a powerful counter to any echochamber effects of Ecosophia.

duncan cairncross said...

Pournelle and the riches of the solar system

I just don't see any trillionaire managing to keep their hands on all of the wealth -

Regulated Capitalism is the way we will go - the brain damaged Boomers that have given us Trump and BREXIT will have all died off by then and our children are better and smarter than we are

In Pournelle's defense he was in his 30's when the murder rate was rising - and probably too set in his ways when the corner was turned in the 90's

Robert said...

a vommenter in this community

Vommenters are the people your filter keeps out, right?

Not certain why someone would embrace that role — "hey, I'm so obnoxious that I forced David Brin to filter me" — but then I don't understand things like rolling coal and ICE-ing either so what do I know.

Robert said...

Followed the link. An astrologer. And a Grand Archdruid, forsooth.

The woo-woo is strong with this one. (With apologies to George Lucas.)

Michael Byron said...

I read the Ecosphia post and figured that it would be of interest to David, as it mentioned him multiple times, including characterizing him, and so forwarded the link to him.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the welcome. I didn't intend to be anonymous, I thought my Google account (and real) name, Walt Freitag, would appear.

I too thought "vommenter" was some established local coinage (most groups of active commenters have 'em). In any case, I regard taking offense on others' behalf (especially others well equipped to speak up for themselves) as a very bad habit (at best, sometimes, a necessary evil) so no tone policing from me.

The pledge in question isn't something JMG (or the Kremlin) invented. It's a literal pledge, reading in full: "Trust in evidence-based, scientific facts is essential for providing sustainable solutions to today’s challenges. By adding my name to this declaration and pledge, I recognize the key role that scientific research and discovery plays in improving quality of life for all. I pledge to trust science." It was issued jointly by the IEEE Photonics Society, SPIE (an international optics and photonics society), the Optical Society (hmm, seeing a pattern here), and UNESCO. Not exactly a broad representation of the sciences, but it appears to have been earnestly intended. Calling it a "loyalty pledge" might be an overstatement, but the very use of the word "pledge" in the title and the text itself inevitably carries that connotation, in the U.S. at least. I'm glad to hear (from you and from other quarters) that no scientist takes it seriously. It's not clear from the wording that scientists were even its intended audience. (Did they expect politicians or social media influencers to sign on?) Well-meaning fools is a reasonable enough explanation (may I use the phrase "bad optics?") but it shows that such well-meaning fools exist.

As for limits, the one thing I wish both you and JMG would appreciate a little more is that from the ground, even for someone who pays attention to the arguments on all sides and can do their own math, it's not at all obvious which of you is closer to correct in your future scenarios. In the past five years, Americans talking about limits have no longer been talking about peak oil, or the 1972 Club of Rome book, let alone the energy output of the sun. They're talking about the limits that seem to be closing in on their own lives, on such things as their job security, buying power of their wages, housing options, and ability to receive medical care without financial ruin. Those limits are not being evaded; they've been getting worse for decades. The sense of making sacrifices today for a better future (endure construction delays and soon you'll have a speedy new highway; work hard at your job and you'll be promoted into the middle class) has been replaced by a sense of at best keeping pace (endure construction delays and the bridge will one day open back up again; work hard at your job and maybe you won't be replaced by a younger new hire earning a "training wage"), a perpetual making-do to cope with a perpetual budget crisis. If the future is wide open, why do those trends keep trending in the opposite direction? If those limits aren't a result of resource limits, what are they a result of? And can they be reversed without asteroid riches? Because in either version of the future I won't live long enough to see a penny of those.

David Brin said...

Ray W you are welcome here. We done go for numbers of commenters but for somewhat ornery - if generally thick-skinned and polite - argument rather than the cheering sections "amens" you get in most such communities.

As for Mr. Green. the most stylish way to attack science these days is to proclaim "I love science! And scientistsare betraying it by acting like a bunch of bleating sheep all pursuing conformity unlike ME cause I am a brave, independent minded fellow, the way scientists ought to be!"

It's crap spewed by talking heads on Fox and by those passing along Kremlin agitprop. When, again, scientists are generally highly competitive, looking for ways NOT to be in a crows, seeking whatever flaws they can criticize.

Are civilian critics welcome? Sure! That's why the world oligarchs are terrified of science and scientists, because it teaches cantankerous questioning. And that's become a central Western value. So they try to USE that value system AGAINST science by claiming scientists betray it! A clever attack meme. And it is an attack by our enemies.

David Brin said...

Walt F.... I agree "vommenter" seems a serentipetious discovery and I may use it, in future, when someone vomit-comments.

And yes, it is the 'pledge' connotation that was (perhaps unintentionally, or else cleverly Kremlin-crafted) tone deaf to an extreme and has provided plenty of grist for twits to howl abount lemming scientists demanding churchlike obeisance to central authority. No scientist I know - nor anyone who actually knows a scientist - gave the thing any more than a derisive snork.

"They're talking about the limits that seem to be closing in on their own lives, on such things as their job security, buying power of their wages, housing options, and ability to receive medical care without financial ruin...."

And none of that has to do with tech or science. It has to do with the utter failure of the "revolution" since 1980 against the Rooseveltean social contract, which had been leveling the playing field and thus engendering fecund-creative-competitive productivity and a burgeoning middle class, till then. Since then, every "supply side" voodoo "experiment" has plummeted money velocity, sent wealth disparities skyrocketing and incited rancor NOT againt the oligarchs doing this, but against all the knowledge castes.

Alas, the good guys in this phase of civil war (See Civil War Phases - CONTRARY BRIN - http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/09/phases-of-american-civil-war.html ). are politically inept.

See my book Polemical Judo, by David Brin: http://www.davidbrin.com/polemicaljudo.html

Robert said...

the utter failure of the "revolution" since 1980 against the Rooseveltean social contract

I would argue that (a) it was a counter-revolution, and (b) it succeeded.

The America of the Gilded Age is being brought back, with the the financial support of those who would be the new robber barons, and enthusiastic support of many of their new subjects who know nothing other than the continual struggle to hold onto their small piece of an ever-shrinking pie. (And who hope that this time the Danes will cease their depredations…)

"Supply side" was never anything more than intellectual cover for looting. It succeeded at it's real purpose, which was not the ostensible one…

Larry Hart said...

Walt Freitag as "Unknown" :

I didn't intend to be anonymous, I thought my Google account (and real) name, Walt Freitag, would appear.


Well, when I click on your profile, it says this:

Profile Not Available
The Blogger Profile you requested cannot be displayed. Many Blogger users have not yet elected to publicly share their Profile.

If you're a Blogger user, we encourage you to enable access to your Profile.

David Brin said...

onward

onward