Sunday, April 03, 2022

War & (long-term) Peace: Contemplating historical perspectives

The past dominates our thoughts and imaginations, even as we veer away from truly looking at its lessons, let alonge speculate uncomfortably about the future. Well, except in cogent science fiction. And even then, how to tell which projections are accurate?


Naturally, this applies to current events... we'll apply the question to the Ukraine War as well as World War II, below. But first...


The Future of Man: Take this rumination by Bertrand Russell in 1951, on the three possible futures he could conceive. “Before the end of the present century, unless something quite unforeseeable occurs, one of three possibilities will have been realized. I do not pretend to know which of these will happen, or even which is the most likely. What I do contend is that the kind of system to which we have been accustomed cannot possibly continue. These three are: 

1. The end of human life, perhaps of all life on our planet.

2. A reversion to barbarism after a catastrophic diminution of the population of the globe.

3. A unification of the world under a single government, possessing a monopoly of all the major weapons of war.”

Of course, we read these words more than two decades after his deadline, and none of the three has happened. One could berate Russell for the myopia of urgency that also led (that same year) to dire-warnings like the film The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Further, Russell wrote:


“If things are allowed to drift, it is obvious that the bickering between Russia and the Western democracies will continue until Russia has a considerable store of atomic bombs, and that when that time comes there will be an atomic war. In such a war, even if the worst consequences are avoided, Western Europe, including Great Britain, will be virtually exterminated. If America and the U.S.S.R. survive as organized states, they will presently fight again. If one side is victorious, it will rule the world, and a unitary government of mankind will have come into existence; if not, either mankind or, at least, civilization will perish. This is what must happen if nations and their rulers are lacking in constructive vision.”


I remain astonished by the pertinence of a brilliant thinker who – while correct in his general appraisals, was (fortunately) wrong in the very-widely-shared gloom of his assessment of our civilization’s future.


Wrong, that is, up until now? Having said that, I remain daunted by how almost everything Russell said in 1951 about his future could now be said about the tomorrows that we face, looking ahead.  Go ahead and read the essay, squinting and updating by 70 years, replacing some of the players and inserting ecological catastrophe to loom alongside the spectre of nuclear Armageddon. And an America-led enlightenment whose well-earned confidence has been shattered by a deliberately-instigated spate of wholly unnecessary internal civil war. 


To all of the oligarchies now united in desperate urgency to bring down this Periclean experiment, I will further quote Bertrand Russell from 1951:

“Only democracy and free publicity can prevent the holders of power from establishing a servile state, with luxury for the few and overworked poverty for the many. This is what is being done by the Soviet government wherever it is in secure control. There are, of course, economic inequalities everywhere, but in a democratic regime they tend to diminish, whereas under an oligarchy they tend to increase. And wherever an oligarchy has power, economic inequalities threaten to become permanent owing to the modern impossibility of successful rebellion.”


George Orwell surely must have read this essay before writing Nineteen Eighty-Four, wherein he portray's the oligarchs ruling Oceania doing this. The essay will likely shock you in some ways, especially in its militancy, given that Russell would later tout pacifism and denounce US errors in Vietnam. I know I blinked in surprise at a number of paragraphs!

As prediction, the essay failed, in ways that turned out to be fortunate. But as an exploration, it will make you rethink some of the crucial factors that are even more redolent than they were in the year that I first looked out upon the world.


It is in this context we must recognize that oligarchy - the ruling pattern in 99.99% of human societies across 6000 years - has had to concoct fresh tactics to counter the blazing, brilliant strengths and creative fecundity of democratic enlightenment, inciting our own virtues - like individualism and suspicion of authority - to divide and disrupt us.


Russell concludes his essay: "There is hope that law, rather than private force, may come to govern the relations of nations within the present century. If this hope is not realized we face utter disaster; if it is realized, the world will be far better than at any previous period in the history of man."



== Looking back to World War II ==


While sane and decent people are deeply moved and enraged by the criminal horrors of the invasion of Ukraine - and encouraged by not only the courageous defenders but also the obstinate stupidity of the invaders (more on that, below) - I am further prompted to comment on the struggle that shaped the modern world and gave the Enlightenment one more, last-best chance. 


For example it was 80 years ago, yesterday, that the USS Hornet sailed through fog under the Golden Gate Bridge laden with B25 bombers on a rendezvous - 2 weeks later - with destiny. An innovation that changed history and whose 'mother' was necessity born of innovative duplicity at Pearl Harbor.


I also read more about the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where my uncle (later professor at UIUC) Victor Stone commanded a set of landing craft. And I re-evaluated my opinion of Admiral Kurita - blamed for a Halsey-level flub in not pressing his attack after a hellish encounter with a small US force called Taffy 3. I've realized that blaming Kurita is simply wrong! During that 90 minute tussle, the IJN commander realized a simple truth - that the USN of October 1944 was not even remotely the same force that had been crushed at Pearl Harbor, in December 1941. Not by decades or even generations. Just as Imperial air power was annihilated a few months earlier, in the Philippine Sea, and as the IJN southern and northern forces were pulverized with ease that same day, Kurita’s Central Force faced skills, ships and technologies against which they never stood a chance. 


Consider that the totally surprised and unprepared Taffy Three - 6 tiny escort carriers with 3 destroyers and 4 destroyer escorts - applied 5-inch pea shooters and (with help from a couple of torpedoes) wrecked or sank four IJN heavy cruisers. Read that again. Radar control, gunnery stabilizers, terrific damage control and - oh yes - incredible courage and skill made the sacrifices of those tiny ships into a lopsided victory that left Kurita staring in astonishment as his flagship, mighty Yamato, veered wildly to evade other torpedoes…


… and 400+ aircraft equipped only for supporting ground troops, but whose bombs and strafings turned the superstructures of three IJN battleships into confusion and chaos.


Kurita’s later apologia claimed he had intel about more vulnerable US carriers to the north and he did spend a few minutes charging after that ghost target, before calling it a day. But even if he had continued south, chasing after my uncle and the fleeing transports, he’d only have met 14 more destroyers, who were preparing to charge in (again perhaps suicidally) and damage his force enough to make it easy prey for Adm. Oldendorf’s six older battleships, rushing north from their victory in Surigao Strait…. and then 5 newer ones hurrying south from Halsey’s Mistake.


I have a habit of re-evaluating earlier opinions, like coming around to realizing that the Battle of Gettysburg was never in doubt and never even close. And thinking maybe that a statue of Benedict Arnold wouldn’t be so inappropriate, after all. (Ask in comments!)


In this case, I have come to conclude that even with Halsery's entire 3rd fleet off chasing potemkin distractions, just Taffy 3 alone showed what a supremely competent buzz saw the USN had become, in just 2.5 years. And so, I have total sympathy for Takeo Kurita. The IJN was already finished. But at least his retreat meant a few of his sailors made it home to their families. And so did the crews of those 14 fresh U.S. destroyers, And so did Victor Stone.


== So many lessons from Ukraine ==


We are likewise behooved to learn from more recent events. Take this anecdote from one of the best members of an under-ratedly brilliant clade, retirees of the US military officer corps, Gen. Wesley Clark.


General Clark recalled teaching a class of Ukrainian generals in 2016 in Kyiv and trying to explain what an American military “after-action review” was. He told them that after a battle involving American troops, “everybody got together and broke down what happened.”

“The colonel has to confess his mistakes in front of the captain,” General Clark said. “He says, ‘Maybe I took too long to give an order.’”

After hearing him out, the Ukrainians, General Clark said, told him that could not work. “They said, ‘We’ve been taught in the Soviet system that information has to be guarded and we lie to each other,’” he recalled.


To which one could cynically reply that there is still plenty of butt-covering in the US military! Of course there is. Ass-covering and delusion-protection are core human nature attributes, perhaps THE core attributes responsible for the litany of horrors we call ‘history.’ 


After almost any war (including 'wars' between companies in the marketplace or between theories in science), the victors prepare for the same kind of war they just won, while the losers try to innovate. Hence, Russians rebuild what they think enabled them to crush Army Group Center in 1944, while Ukrainians had to re-adjust and listen to guys like Clark.


The biggest exceptions to that 'only losers innovate' rule? European observers watching the US Civil War went home appalled and demanded top-to-bottom changes. Except the French, who soon were smashed. by the Prussians.

But the biggest was George Marshall in 1945 asking: “What mistakes do empires always make?” And red-team critiquing became part of US military culture. Enough to maybe half compensate for inevitable human delusion. (The same question about mistakes of all previous empires led to US counter-mercantilist trade policies that for 75 years have uplifted poor nations all over the world, though some ingrates yowl "we did it all ourselves!")

The crux? We see today that teachings about flexibility by guys like Wesley Clark must have been heeded by those Ukrainian students, whose battlefield innovations - with some help - have turned a terrible and toxic tide.

Stay tuned to reality. Have we any other choice?


129 comments:

Dwight Williams said...

I hope that the practice continues at DND HQ, the academy at Kingston, and elsewhere in the Canadian Forces.

Alan Brooks said...

Worse than you think.
Many religionists want the Periclean experiment to fail, as they want the book of Revelation experiment to succeed. They say,

“The Prophecies must be fulfilled!”

They want the world to end because they believe that Christ shall Return with a New Heaven and Earth. Often the case was how such was imbedded in their minds from an early age.

David Brin said...

Alan B that is why we MUST win this before 2030, when they'll start going mad over the 2000th Easter.

Here's my best assortment of rhetorical/theological weapons: this TED style talk I gave at a Singularity conference, concerning how to converse - with understanding, erudition and empathy, but also decisively, with your neighbors who use the Bible as a shield against modernity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryoqtB6H5nw.

Larry Hart said...

Caveat emptor. I don't know how much of the real-life crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is actually documented.

If, as popularly claimed, He was crucified in 33 AD, then the 2000th Easter would be in 2032 (assuming that the Resurrection itself is the "first Easter", not the "zeroth Easter").

If, as is also popularly claimed, Jesus died on the cross at age 33, but He was actually born in what we now call 4 BC(E), then His death and resurrection would have been in what we now call 29 AD, and the 2000th Easter would be in 2028. It's closer than we imagine. Joe Biden could well still be in his second term in 2028 (as could Donald Trump).

All of which means absolutely nothing, as the Bible doesn't mention a second coming of the messiah at all, let alone that it would happen in even centuries or millennia after His first second coming (no, that wasn't a typo).

Not that that will stop the religious nuts from claiming the significance, of course. I doubt many of them have ever actually read the Bible.

Larry Hart said...

I think the math I just posted is off by one year. Point still stands.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Further, Russel wrote:

“If things are allowed to drift, it is obvious that the bickering between Russia and the Western democracies will continue until Russia has a considerable store of atomic bombs, and that when that time comes there will be an atomic war. In such a war, even if the worst consequences are avoided, Western Europe, including Great Britain, will be virtually exterminated.


That was the backstory for the graphic novel V For Vendetta. The difference being that in 1981, Alan Moore wrote it such that a newly-formed Labour government had disarmed Britain's nuclear arsenal, therefore sparing the Isles the worst of the nuclear barrage. As soon after as 1988, Moore wrote in the collected version that he no longer believed that Britain could survive a full-scale nuclear exchange between the US and USSR, even without being a direct target. He also ruefully laughed at his own premise that Britain would have a Labour government, or that it would take a near-Armageddon to nudge Britain toward fascism. He ended the intro with the statement:

I’m thinking of taking my family and getting out of this country soon, sometime over the next couple of years. It’s cold and it’s mean-spirited and I don’t like it here anymore.


Oh, what the heck, here's the entire text of the graphic novel's intro:

https://slendertroll.tumblr.com/post/66114152363

Unknown said...

Hey, even the late Prophet Zarquon showed up. Finally.

Pappenheimer

n1ck said...

Orwell wrote 1984 in the late 1940s and published it in 1949, so perhaps it was the other way around. Either way, Oligarchs always want to be the founding members of an Aristocracy.

The more power that Oligarchs are able to consolidate before they make their final moves, the more likely they will be successful at creating an Aristocracy. The entire "culture war" schtick paired with fervent election law/fraud/meddling that Republicans are currently playing is their last attempt at (relatively) peaceful power consolidation in the US.

Up next: stochastic terrorism and murder, and I'm not being hyperbolic. Accusing Democrats/liberals of "grooming" children and molesting and selling children as slaves, is just a way to get your violent base voters ready to actually, "Save America", which is what every single fascist has written on the very top of their podiums while making speeches.

If Democrats are the real enemies, are grooming children to be molested, and need to be defeated to "Save America"...aren't extreme measures warranted?

Fascists don't always start out saying that internal enemies need to be rounded up and murdered. But they do have to start making lists and broadcasting those lists to their right-wing authoritarian enablers.

GMT -5 8032 said...

The Battle off of Samar, one of my favorite topics. Ranks up there; my favorite battle is the Second Night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Nov. 14-15, 1942. Dr. Brin makes a good point that the DDs and DEs protecting Taffy Three did a magnificent job fending off Kurita’s Center Force.(though I don’t think the good doctor is taking into account some tactical errors made by Kurita and his unit commanders - Kurita thought that the force he was seeing was a group of fleet carriers protected by BBs and CAs hence he showed extra caution…and other errors).

One of the great “what ifs” for naval history buffs like me is what would have happened if Halsey had actually formed Task Force 34? A force of 4 BBs, 6 CAs, 2 CLs, and 10 DDs - roughly equal to Kurita’s Center Force (which lost the Musashi the day before). Equal forces tend to make closely fought battles. Most analyses of this “what if” battle show a US victory, but since luck plays a big role in war, who knows. But if we take into account the excellent US fire control (as shown by the DDs and DEs protecting Taffy Three) maybe it would not have been a close battle afterall.

Another factor, the Admiral commanding Task Force 34 would have been Willis Augustus (Ching) Lee, possibly the finest US battleship commander who ever lived. He was aboard his flagship USS Washington, a ship which he had led and trained until its crew used its nine 16” main guns as giant sniper rifles. The ship’s performance at night 2 of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, November 14-15, 1942, was nothing short of magnificent. It is very possible that Task Force 34 would have obliterated Kurita’s Center Force.

I’ve simulated this battle a few times and I would love to play it out with naval miniatures some day. There are some good naval computer sims that I might try it on too.

Slim Moldie said...

If you're interested in the military stuff, I saw this (from Kamil Galeev) via Malcolm Nance https://twitter.com/kamilkazani/status/1502673952572854278 that supports what Gen. Clark's recounted.

This is kind of a weird stretch, but I was listening to Jacob Krueger’s writing podcast the other day: “Is you character an adjective or a verb? When developing characters, writers often think that characters are their traits. But what makes a character feel like a character is  actually the verbs that they do.” 

If you synthesize Krueger's character notion and re-frame our political leaders as fictional characters with the primary roll of providing audience entertainment (rather than governing) you don't get JFK or Regan. I hate to go here, but on the page, Trump is a well written character; in that, we could make up a scenario and the audience can well-imagine what verbs his character would do. For example, contrast the scenario of Biden and Trump going to church. The Biden character will do everything that is expected of a character going to church. From a writing standpoint it is routine and boring. The character feels like a stereotype and their actions are unworthy of recounting. If we made an episode where Trump goes to church, the audience knows something interesting and maybe terrible is going to happen because he has established his identity with actions. We can all imagine Trump in church pulling out his phone. Nothing he does will shock us. Does he carve a penis on the pew in front of him? Steal money from the offering pan, eat a hamburger during the sermon?

Until people understand that Mr. Rogers is preferable to a Tony Soprano we're in for a world of hurt. Maybe people with backgrounds like Zelensky will become more of a norm. If we still have a democracy.

Alfred Differ said...

If you neglect Russell's deadline in his prediction, it's not a bad statement of our risks and their broad outcomes. We might not have a unitary government, but we do have the Pax and one nation capable of dominating in all oceans. I would say 'getting there' even though I'd rather government remain divided.

I agree with the conclusion showing the USN had become a competent buzzsaw, but I'd also point out that those ships in their numbers were there in the first place. The home front economy was the giant behind it all, but few debate that.

----

One of the 'neat' things I did not know from WWII was how PERT charts from project management practices were treated as a military secret. Not just the contents of the charts, but the concept itself. Don't know what a PERT chart is? Worth looking up. You might know what a Gantt chart is, but take a moment to look at the broader set of knowledge around Project Management best practices. Some of it was military-grade secret back then... and probably with good reason.

Why point at project management best practices? They point out the after-action-review. Every project should have one. Lessons get learned and lost if not captured.

There is a project rule that proves the point. Customers want stuff within a certain time at or below a certain price. Scope, Budget, Schedule. Decompose requires on a different set of axes and they become Scope, Quality, Time. The rule is you can pick two and the third gets forced. Customers see three degrees of freedom when there are really only two.

EXCEPT when projects repeat... and lessons are captured. Historical knowledge of a repeating process supports quality improvements. If you customers come to you with scope and time requirement for a process you know really well, you'll beat others who don't in terms of quality. Hands down.

That's military-grade secret sauce right there because 'frequent training' produces lessons learned.

David Brin said...

GMT Ching Lee might have made the mistake of holding back his destroyers. By my bets guess, those ten, plus 14 from the south would likely have made such a hash of Center Force that Lee's big boys would have little to do but clean up.

Kurita has taken a bum rap!

Almost as much as historians give the other Lee... Robert E.... WAY too much credit for a 'close" Gettysburg battle that was never anything of the kind.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Regarding Kurita you make excellent points. He brought much of his force home and many of those sailors survived the war thanks to him.

I agree that the DDs were doing magnificent work dealing with Kurita's force. I think that the some of the 7th Fleet's DDs had used up half of their torpedoes, but others were joining fresh for the fight.

Olendorf's BBs were low on AP rounds and were a lot slower than Kurita's BBs. But the short version is that if Kurita had stayed, his force would have been totally destroyed.

My hypothetical battle between Center Force and Task Force 34 supposes that Task Force 34 was guarding the San Bernardino Strait and was waiting for Kurita before he even got to Samar. Here is one take on the battle:

https://www.chuckhawks.com/task_force_34.htm

And another:

https://kbismarck.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4027

You are very much right that Lee would have held his DDs back. But both of the writers above assume that the DDs and CAs would have been fighting their own battles while the BBs engaged in a long range slug fest. Neither writer addresses you wonderfully stated observation about the effectiveness of US fire control and direction.

Fun fact. Halsey was aboard New Jersey and would have been a VIP passenger with a front row seat for this mayhem.

Did you ever read Admiral Morison's 15 volume history of US Naval actions of WWII? A fantastic read.

David Brin said...

GMT & I are quibbling over mere details. But assuming Halsey did leave a covering force he would have kept New Jersey and Iowa with him and the fleet carriers, going after Ozawa in the north.

The rest of the BBs + escorts making TF34... IF Halsery had done his job... would likely have been an even match with Kurita, on paper. But factor in confusion from the 400 planes of the taffys plus spectacularly better fire control and I doubt many Center Force heavies would survive.

But now we're just being nerdy. !!

(I like your image of 16" snipers.")

Unknown said...

One caveat about Gettysburg -

The first day at Gettysburg was close and was, by itself, a Treason for Slavery victory. There was a danger of the U.S. Army being defeated in detail as it arrived. However, the outcome left the United States forces in control of the high ground with plenty of open ground for artillery. That, by itself, nearly guaranteed either defeat or at best bloody stalemate for Lee if he continued the fight.

For the rest, I agree.
The second day wasn't close; interior US lines, well entrenched, assured that any threatened point could be shored up by reserve corps, which included well-motivated Pennsylvania militia. Lee did well to conclude with "bloody stalemate".

The third day - well, Pickett's charge should never have been ordered by the same general who'd seen what the same tactics resulted in at Fredericksberg and Malvern Hill the previous year. Lincoln was correct to be upset that Lee got his army back across the Rappahannock in one piece after Gettysburg. If Grant had been in charge, Lee would have had a far harder time doing so.

Pappenheimer, who plans to be buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor R. E. Lee.

Unknown said...

Addendum re: Leyte Gulf

It startled me to learn that the the IJN had nothing like the US CIC - Combat Information Center - set up on any of its warships through WWII, even though it started to mount experimental radar sets on its capital ships in...Wiki says...Oh. September 1944.

One month before Leyte Gulf.

Pappenheimer

Yeah, Ching Lee's fellow naval commanders were, as I recall, down on him because he didn't give a rat's ass about shiny brightwork.

David Brin said...

While yes, Gettysburg Day One MIGHT have mattered and been critical, in fact, Meade already had a partly prepared defensive fallback position at Pipe Creek. Hence the Army of the Potomac was never in any danger of annihilation.

"The Pipe Creek Line was a defense against Lee's threat to attack Baltimore and DC. The line also acted as a reserve line in the case that a Union fallback from Gettysburg was necessary. On 1 July 1863, events already unfolding at Gettysburg would compel General Meade to abandon the Pipe Creek Line and order a general advance on Gettysburg."

And even if he bloodied the AoP, what were Lee's options? To disperse and raid Pennsylvania with a huge army at his rear and militias from across the north arriving in droves? Attack the defenses of Washington with Meade in his rear?

Lee was good - brilliant - at one thing... fiercely aggressive defense on home ground, chewing up the flanks of a lumbering-oaf larger army that lacked good internal communications. It would not have worked with the technologys of 20 years earlier or just 10 years later. And he was an absolute fool whenever he tried to take the grand offensive.

The Sage said...

A Benedict Arnold statue?

Unknown said...

LOL I was thinking of Pipe Creek when I wrote my Gettysburg comment. Even Lee would have had second thoughts about frontal attack on that position. Longstreet would have thrown his hat on the ground if told to throw his corps at it.

I suspect, though, that Lee was hoping for British intervention after a clear victory on loyal soil.

Not totally off the subject, I read recently that the Lines of Torres Vedras that Wellington had prepared while he staged a fighting withdrawal against the French advancing on Lisbon during the Peninsular war - which resulted in the near starvation of that French army, who had no real supply lines across Portugal and an active guerilla war behind them in Spain - are now nearly entirely eroded away.

Pappenheimer

DP said...

RE: Forced innovation in militaries.

I highly recommend this fascinating video on Stalin's purges (and similar less bloody purge of the US office corps by Gen Marshall) before WW2.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnWNnI6YlQQ

If anything, Marshall was more ruthless in getting rid of dead wood from the American military, destroying the careers of thousands of admirals and generals who did not understand modern mechanized warfare and made room for Eisenhower, Patton, Arnold, Nimitz, etc.

What really crippled the Red Army wasn't the purges (which got rid of generals who only understood trench and cavalry warfare) but the political commissar system where a party hack could countermand battlefield orders of the professional military.


gerold said...

Bertrand Russell was one of the true greats of the 20th century. But his political prediction was a little simplistic; not too surprising given that complexity was so poorly understood in 1951.

He saw one-world government as the only alternative to nuclear armageddon. But it's a commonplace that civil wars are often the nastiest. One-world government would not eliminate conflict, it would probably exacerbate it.

We know that complex systems operate according to the interactions of multiple agents competing and cooperating with one another, each with a degree of autonomy. We don't need one-world government for that. We are fortunate that the most powerful geopolitical agents currently extant are the relatively enlightened West and some fairly rational self-serving East Asian nations. But none of them can be trusted with absolute power. A decentralized system provides checks and balances.

It may be that the economic sanctions clapped on Russia will go down as a pivotal turning point in world history. China is looking at them and suddenly re-uniting Taiwan with the Motherland doesn't look so attractive anymore. It may be that Putin has thrown the last dice on the table of power politics. What was supposed to be an unstoppable force encountered something more elusive than an immovable object: a dynamic decentralized jujitsu-style resistance which has put a slingstone through Goliath's eye. Bertrand Russell would have loved it.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

And thinking maybe that a statue of Benedict Arnold wouldn’t be so inappropriate, after all. (Ask in comments!)


Ok, I'll bite.

You mean that referring to Trump as "Benedict Donald" might be too insulting to the original?

Mitchell Wyle said...


>> We are likewise behooved to learn from more recent events.

https://creativehackers.substack.com/p/-harvard-professors-the-fucked-up

David Brin said...

Fascinated by Benedict Arnold who proved utterly competent FOUR times at saving the Revolution... and utterly incompetent when he let an infamous succubus talk him into treason. If a man is judged by his summed EFFECTS, there'd be statues to him. But that's not how things work. And just as well.

I'm not convinced a macro world 'government' that is loose enough for governance diversity but with a strong judiciary and transparency powers would not have been better. The power to demand elections would not have prevented aqll dictatorships... e.g. Russia today. But a n election victory by Ho Chi Minh, followed by a schism between Hanoi and Beijing, would have been a vastly better outcome for the US than the horrors in this timeline.

We might have been on Mars, by now.

I disagree about Russian generals, though. Their formative era was not WWI but the civil war of the 1920s that involved a lot of maneuver and innovative thinking. It was only fear of the Japanese - and Zhukov's vistory there - that kept Zhukov and a few bright ones from the firing squads.


locumranch said...


ONE of the persistent delusions of mankind is that some sections of the human race are morally better or worse than others.

https://criticathink.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/the-superior-virtue-of-the-oppressed-bertrand-russell/

In an essay called 'The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed', circa 1937, Bertrand Russell warned of a "logical fallacy" that could lead to the destruction of our culture and, despite this warning, this fallacy soon became the ruling Zeitgeist of the West (linked above).

It was the proposition that traditional merit-based moral paradigms were reversed; it required the rejection of strength, constancy, independence & accomplishment as moral virtues; and it offered a more 'enlightened' belief that moral virtue & deservingness correlate best with weakness, failure, dependence & poverty.

This moral fallacy has also given rise to the 'Cry-Bully', a modern term that describes any individual (and/or group) who simultaneously claims to be an oppressed powerless underdog in order to justify the use of violent oppressive power, a charade that Larry often glorifies & excuses as "punching up".

Of course, this is exactly how Dr. Brin (last thread) chose to describe the intellectual Nerdy Professions in order to justify what amounts to a slow-motion political coup by a simultaneously oppressed & therefore justifiably tyrannical Expert Managerial Caste of Nerds.

I therefore commit the unforgivable sin -- Dr. Brin may argue -- of betrayal (to my own nerdy caste & the greater enlightenment) by saying the quiet 'power grab' part loud & the loud 'underdog' part quiet, even though it's common knowledge that this is the motive force behind almost every group (and/or individual) that identifies as an oppressed victim in order to gain advantage.

Why do I do this ?

The reason I offer for this my position is, in equal parts, (1) my professional commitment to the ethical principle of Informed Consent, (2) an innate inclination to perversity and (3) an inability to refute the above argument by Bertrand Russell.

Insomuch as I am oft accused of 'straw-manning', I am compelled to point out that our fine host tends to indulge in Snidely Whiplash caricatures of mustache-twirling villainy that are the very epitome of 'straw-manning', as there are literally NO "casino moguls, mafiosi, carbon boyars and murder sheiks" who have not been fully supplanted by multinational corporations that still earn our host's praise.

Along with Hannah Arendt, I accept and endorse 'The Banality of Evil' hypothesis over that of cartoonish caricature, and I reiterate my assertion that great evil & tyranny can spring from underdog worship, progressivism, victimology, idealism & good intentions, just as easily as it can spring from the mostly bad.

I also argue that the banality (commonplace nature) of evil leaves us only with the choice of the lesser evil and NEVER allows us to choose between that which is purely good or purely evil.

Finally, the question "Who could have guessed?" is an insincere non-sequitur, as pretty much everybody knows that bad shit happens once they accept the commonplace nature of evil & badness.

A bad outcome? In a contest between Ukraine & Russia, Russia & NATO, Loser & Winner, Underdog & Victor, Liberal & Conservative, Democrat & Republican, Progress & Tradition? Who could have thunk it?

The answer is damn near everyone who thinks.


Best

scidata said...

I was going to write something about Russell and complexity, but gerold basically said everything for me. This is why Asimov truly nailed it with FOUNDATION. Monolithic, super-governments are doomed. It's just not the way complex systems work (attractors are not governments). Diversity, decentralization, and competing/evolving agents form the basis of computational psychohistory. I so wish Asimov had lived. At least we have FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH, which hits most of the important notes.

David Brin said...

I am asked why I allow locum's shrill howls to appear here.
Well, in part - as Oskar Schindler put it - 'because I can."
Indeed, I am honest enough to admit that the pleasure it gives me, to be so flamboyantly willing to post such screeches aimed at me, kind of tarnishes the cred I thus earn for willingness to view CITOKATE.

(And yes, that sentence was a logical gordian knot. Don't bother.)

In fact, though, I find it truly eye-widening to skim (it's all I do with locum) on those 'vitamin' occasions when he suddenly becomes articulate, even poetical... in the spewing of fecal-level swill and strawman after strawman:

- like that I posit PURE evil vs good, when I am a pragmatic incrementalist Smithian enlightenment reformer.

Though yes, his cult is pretty damn close to 'evil' across the board, by any metric of treason or turpitude... and note that he has never, ever taken on a crisp wager over compared levels of ALL turpitudes in Red vs Blue states. He knows his cult is steeped in every kind of shitty nastiness.

Likewise, inheritance brats, casino moguls carbon lords and murder sheiks and wall streeters ARE the core owners of today's GOP, both by campaign donations and as the hosts of 'retreats' to which every GOP pol is summoned in lackey-obedience. BET ME ON THAT, coward.

But of course the thing he flees is the word he knows he is supposed to love and that his cult destests - COMPETITION.
All the nerds he slanders as supposed members of a creeping cabal putsch are in fact reciprocally transparent and competitive. He projects upon us the oligarchic putsch that his cult pushes.
Projection is their zero-sum mastrurbation.
Knowing they are the evil traitors, pederasts, perverts, liars and cheaters, they accuse us of everything they see in the mirror.

In normal times, I am known for Bill Maher type willingness to poke in all directions! But that must wait because you, sir, and all you stand for, while not PURELY evil, are plenty evil enough.

Larry Hart said...

I posted this just before the "onward" last time. I don't often do this, but I feel it is important for anyone following the recent "vindications" of the Hunter Biden laptop story--from either political side--to understand how ridiculous the "evidence" really is.

Hal Sparks is correct that the NY Times and Washington Post should be ashamed of the shoddy journalism they practice just to demonstrate that they're not biased.

Re-posting: Hal Sparks credibly debunks the Washington Post "Hunter Biden's laptop" story.

(Show broken into two links because of a YouTube glitch in the middle)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4QQ-EWHcm4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o693UR3sj6U

Alan Brooks said...

Would like to read about Spruance’s role in the Navy, he’d be an interesting figure to research in-depth.

LoCum would be an interesting figure for David to do a brief video debate with. But LoCum wouldn’t do it because he’d make a fool of himself. Without knowing him as well as some of you (after years) do, it appears that he’s ‘all over the road’: he seems to be attempting a worldview of very many memes not fitting together...somewhere between a conspiracy crackpot and someone who is informed. Ambitious, but lacking the brainpower to match the ambition.
What he writes sometimes comes very close to making sense—but doesn’t quite get there.
A fifteen minute vid-debate might provide some clarity. After meeting Dinesh D’Souza, I watched a vid of him being interviewed by a sharpie who in the end got him to admit he was sentenced to house arrest because he committed an election-law felony. The interviewer finally got D’Souza to confess how he got off easy, though it wasn’t easy for the interviewer.
I then realized how someone can hide in print or replying on the Web, yet not in a real-time debate. If a fifteen minute DB-LoCum vid-debate were arranged, LoCum’s comments at this blog would be different—or perhaps there’d be no longer any.

David Brin said...

Alan, I guess it looks like I pay attention to locum. In fact, he is SO not worth much... and I type very fast. (As you can tell from the typoes.)

Paradoctor said...

Locumranch gives us a vigorous defense of cry-bullies. (For which term, thank you, locumranch.) He failed to note that the political influence of a cry-bully is in proportion to the cry-bully's bank account.

I ask the fact-based nerds here to compute and compare the total amount stolen by those in the poorest 90% to the total amount stolen by those in the richest 0.1%. I suspect that the second amount is greater.

Locumranch, Rand, and Nietzsche complain of the perversity of compassion for losers. It is indeed contra naturam; for it is a negative feedback loop, consciously devised by smart winners to protect society from its own excesses. As such it is truly conservative, unlike the pseudo-conservatism, mislabeled conservative, now prevalent. Pseudo-conservatives like to be doubly perverse, and favor rich cry-bullies; but double perversity is like double negation; it cancels out and yields accursed normality.

The existence of cry-bullies confirms Buddha's claim that suffering is universal, and that therefore material accumulation fails to cure suffering.

Andrew said...

A question: How can America's powerful be convinced that they don't know the rest of the world well enough to make decisions and offer opinions about what others "ought" to do?

Larry Hart said...

A new Stonkettle post well worth reading.

Below is just a taste. Too much there to post even a representative sample.

https://www.stonekettle.com/2022/04/when-fascism-comes-to-america.html

...
Trump, and far too many Americans, admire Vladimir Putin because they see themselves as victims just as Russia does.

They see themselves as oppressed, put down, because the world is changing.

They feel themselves diminished because others who have been traditionally marginalized in our history are now gaining rights and privileges and an unashamed place in our society.

You have only to look to Fox News and OAN right now to see those who speak for this brutal Republican ideology, you can daily see them threatening similar violent revenge on Americans for a thousand imagined slights.
...

Larry Hart said...

I'm seeing that Elon Musk has been given a seat on Twitter's board of directors, and people on social media seem to think this means Trump will be un-banned.

Did I miss something? Is Musk a Trump supporter? Or at least a fan?

What's the connection?

David Brin said...

Sorry. But STonekettle is only 90% right and that remaining 10% is a devastatingly harmful delusion...

...that MAGA resentment is about race and gender and the powerless rising up. Sure, to an extent. But I repeat yet again. The powerful are not primarily threatened by the powerless!

Most of the oligarchs pushing the feudalist putsche arent' primarily motivated by racism or sexism... indeed, likely half of their moronic, Foxite MAGA drones aren't VERY racist. They have lots of black heroes and spunky women to point at and say "see?"

I despair that anyone, ever, will study a week of Fox and count who gets dissed more. Sure, woke-ist PC screechers get top billing. But there's very little overt or even covert racism. But hatred toward the nerdy professions who DO have some power... to thwart oligarch plans. That you see almost hourly.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Sorry. But STonekettle is only 90% right and that remaining 10% is a devastatingly harmful delusion...

...that MAGA resentment is about race and gender and the powerless rising up. Sure, to an extent. But I repeat yet again. The powerful are not primarily threatened by the powerless!


That's what you got from the Stonekettle piece? I read it quite differently. I don't see any mention of race at all, and his mention of the threat of the powerless isn't about who the puppet masters fear, but who they use to rile up their supporters. Like the recent attempts to smear judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as being pro-child porn. Or all the stuff last year about how cities were burning from BLM and Antifa rioters.

Tucker Carlson and Vladimir Putin (pardon the repetition) may fear the knowledge castes most of all, but when Tucker asks why he should be upset at Putin when the Russian has "never called me a racist," or has "never tried to get me fired for disagreeing with him"*,
he's telling his listeners that Putin is the great white Christian hope.

* Ironic, since the only reason Putin wouldn't condemn Tucker for disagreeing with him is that Tucker never disagrees with Putin. If he did, and were he in range, Putin might well have him "fired" with a bullet, a dose of polonium, or an accidental fall out of a high window.

Alan Brooks said...

Most prevalent rightist meme I’ve encountered revolves around the trope ‘Everybody’.
“If everybody owns everything, then no one will take responsibility” they say. The slippery-slope comes into play: “if everything is owned by everybody, the result will be breadlines-> re-education camps-> concentration camps.”
Yet today only hardline Communists believe everything ought to be owned by everyone. Communists don’t know, and susceptible rightists don’t know, that Communism ended three decades ago.
Some rightists merely subscribe to the politics of nostalgia: the people I know who enjoy hunting and Clint Eastwood; they admire the self-reliance of, say, sheepherders in the Yukon. But that’s fantasy.

GMT -5 8032 said...

According to some sources, Admiral Kurita turned his force away from Samar because he did not want to waste the lives of his men in a war that was already lost. If that is true, good for him. While I love to play out scenarios for possible battles, I don’t lose track of the horrible cost in human lives that would have occurred if these battles happened for real.

Regarding the Iowa and New Jersey, I think they would have stayed with Admiral Lee and TF 34. TG 38.2 with BBs Massachusetts and South Dakota were cruising 200 miles to the north; they were near the USS Princeton when it exploded. If Halsey took Iowa and New Jersey with him on the run to the north, it would have left Admiral Lee with just Washington and Alabama (and the CAs and DDs). Naval history geeks rule!

locumranch said...


It never ceases to amaze.

That so many motivated, educated, talented, intelligent & well-intentioned people can be so dense as to become the living embodiment of Swift's Laputans and Star_Trek's Cloud People.

I post here because I LIKE YOU and, like Treebeard & the Ancient Roman Auriga, it is my duty to warn & remind you to REMEMBER YOU ARE MORTAL.

I am a member of your Nerdy Caste in almost every respect, the only appreciable difference being that I have worked & dwelled among the so-called 'deplorables' long enough to discover that they are GOOD people (as moral as you & I) who just don't share your idiosyncratic subjective value judgments.

Being typically WEIRD, many of you forget that you are statistical outliers -- a vanishingly small uncommon global minority -- which represents less than 12% of the world's human population, with that percentage being more or less equally divided between the subtype 'liberal progressive', the subtype 'deplorable conservative' & the subtype 'indifferent independent'.

You liberal progressives are so vastly outnumbered, as a matter of fact, that your continued existence depends entirely on the good will (and the continued sufferance) of the very dirty deplorables whom you openly mock, diminish & despise.

Sad to say, your Marie Antoinette moment has already come & gone, so there is little reason for frequent posts on my part.

One more thought about CITOKATE and Competition:

(1) The elimination of error can only occur if & when you accept the validity of said criticism; and

(2) Competition (of the merit variety) doesn't give a shit about equity, deservingness, fairness, feelings or social progress.



Best
___

Kudos to Paradoctor (btw) for invoking the Buddha:
In order to demonstrate relevancy, all he has to do now is reconcile Buddhist anti-materialism with either the Scientific Method or Tikkun Olam, and so I wish him luck.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Alan, I am a big Spruance fan. It's a shame that Halsey got a 5th star and Spruance did not; Halsey had sme big protectors/advocates in Congress.

David Brin said...

GMT Halsey was aboard New Jersey, right? He would not have stayed behind with a mere covering force when Ozawa's carriers beckoned.

locum's back to no vitamin raving. But apparently the spew from him I approved went to another post. Just as well.

Alan Brooks said...

LoCum,
to this day I work and dwell among the ‘deplorables’, and naturally value judgments are subjective—otherwise they wouldn’t be idiosyncratic!
‘Deplorables’ aren’t as good as you think; a recurring ‘Dirty’ Harry sense of justice comes to mind. Rather than consider that some criminals can be rehabilitated, many ‘deplorables’ would, if it were legal, personally send a ‘punk’ to a rehabilitation center in the Hereafter. “Thins out the herd.”
The above is only a random example of how ill will and insufferance can discontinue an existence.
—-
Competition of the merit variety doesn’t care about deservingness/fairness?? Who told you that?
Dirty Harry? Did he also tell you that Buddhist anti-materialism can’t be reconciled with the Scientific Method?

David Brin said...

Jeepers, without vitamins his rants lose any poetical qualities and are reduced to shrill counter-factual sewage.

skimming...

The GOP actually won the full popular vote in just one election since 1990. One. They obsessively cheat becuase LARGE majorities of Americans prefer democratic policies and vote agains the traitopr cult. The rationalization that the majority are 'the mob' is insanity gtiven that the more ANYONE knows the farther from that cult they flee.

And name a turpitude that is not worse in red states (except Utah.)

(1) The elimination of error can only occur if & when you accept the validity of said criticism; and

==> ALL of your cult's media rave against ever facing rebuttal. The rebuttal rule was opposed and wrecked by Fox. You are utter cowards, waging open war against ALL fact professions. Name an exception.

(2) Competition (of the merit variety) doesn't give a shit about equity, deservingness, fairness, feelings or social progress.

==>. OMG OMG OMG. Harnessing competition was how we GOT those things, vs 6000 years of your damned, damned, damned rule by inheritance brats.

Wander off loony.

scidata said...

Been thinking a lot about the 550au gravitational mirror idea. There was a character in Harry Potter who had a separated eye, as did the three witches in Macbeth. Instead of moving the entire telescope around the surface of a 4xPix550au^2 sphere, perhaps we could just have swarms of lightweight, super fast 'eyes' (small mirrors with engines). These could be relatively quickly re-positioned while the main platform stayed in one, presumably optimal, location. Their only job would be to relay observations to the main platform. We're getting pretty good at compressing and harnessing data from many sensors. They could also be replenished and updated from Earth sort of like StarLink batches.

David Brin said...

scidata, great idea! Though maybe get a copy of EXISTENCE?

http://youtu.be/wzr-DSDMkJM

scidata said...

Gravitational lens, not mirror of course.

scidata said...

I actually have the EXISTENCE audio book, but life has intervened (weddings of both sons). Looking forward to getting back to it.

When I was a kid, I was once reading a book about how computers work. They were describing how punched cards are read, and I assembled the machine in my imagination. When I turned the page, the exact image from my mind was right there in full detail. Story of my life - a day late and a buck short.

"When you make the finding yourself – even if you’re the last person on Earth to see the light – you’ll never forget it."
- Carl Sagan

len said...

I have worked and dwelled among deplorables my entire life, and while I used to think our differences were minor quibbles over religion and politics, the last six years have taught me how my ancestors and their contemporaries could attend a lynching on Saturday and praise their own virtues on Sunday.

The word deplorable does not deserve scare quotes, it is literal. There is no absolution for these people, they are divorced from reality, their self-professed morality is a sham, their sins are known by what they project onto others, and they are still yet capable of every evil perpetrated by the Confederacy and the Nazis. All they need is someone like Trump to give them permission.

They will still ultimately lose, though, because they are just as delusional about their own strength as they are about the conspiracy theories they're always ranting about.

David Brin said...

Does anyone have skill at the Way Back machine? The George Marshall Foundation appears to have taken down my tribute to "A Quiet Adult" urging that GM be named Person of the 20th Century . Maybe a version lurks somewhere.

Le, "deplorables" was cleverly fox'd away from H Clinton's intent as a nasty WING of Republicans featured by their hates and nasty habits over to a slur against all salt-of-the-earth white folks without college degrees. WFWCD That judo maneuver succeeded and locum desperately clutches it, since that interpretation makes us seem as bigoted as the deplorables truly are.

Naw, I know many WFWCDs and most are decent folks. But they have not stood up to their nasties and many go along with foxite chants.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

They obsessively cheat becuase LARGE majorities of Americans prefer democratic policies and vote agains the traitopr cult. The rationalization that the majority are 'the mob' is insanity gtiven that the more ANYONE knows the farther from that cult they flee.


The problem is that, despite being the numerical majority, we live in more concentrated areas, whereas they live everywhere. You've seen those maps that show counties as being red or blue, and make the US look like some sparse Democratic islands in a huge Republican sea.

I can understand why many of these people feel that everyone except a few outliers share their values. Because in two dimensions, as far as the eye can see (even as far as a day's train ride), the vast majority is just like them. The fact that those concentrations of blue contain more people is a third dimension. It doesn't map to the other two. It looks as if we are a few stumbling giants, drunkenly trampling on the bulk of the country. The fact that we are "bigger" in that third dimension makes us more scary, not less.

It should be obvious from my history here that I don't agree with that sentiment, but I can understand it.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

I actually have the EXISTENCE audio book, but life has intervened (weddings of both sons). Looking forward to getting back to it.


I intentionally let a book like that marinate for weeks--sometimes months--rather than gobble it up quickly*. I like "being in" its world too much to want it to end. IIRC, I took over a year with Psychohistorical Crisis, which might be my all-time record.

Life intervening is a feature, not a bug.

* My wife is the exact opposite--she read The Postman in its entirety on a plane ride to California, whereas I took over a month.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Le, "deplorables" was cleverly fox'd away from H Clinton's intent as a nasty WING of Republicans featured by their hates and nasty habits over to a slur against all salt-of-the-earth white folks without college degrees.


Hillary was clearly making a distinction between rational Trump supporters* and "deplorables". Her entire point was that, even though we could never make common cause with the deplorables, that still left many Republicans who could be negotiated with in good faith.**

Her mistake was to put a number to the percentage. She said half of Republicans belonged to a basket of deplorables, whereas contemporary polling demonstrated that only 42% belonged in that category.*** Since then, the supposed rational Republicans who proudly stand with the deplorables and willingly own the label prove that they in fact are deplorable after all.

* , ** In 2016, it was still possible to believe both things.

*** As Homer Simpson once put it, "In case you couldn't tell, I was being sarcastic."

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

You conservative troglodytes are so vastly outclassed technologically, as a matter of fact, that your continued existence depends entirely on the good will (and the continued sufferance) of the very liberal progressives whom you openly mock, diminish & despise.


You really need to get a spell-checker. I fixed it for you again.

scidata said...

I find several links to that essay with a google search on: 'george marshall a quiet adult david brin'
I don't know if you meant the GM Foundation specifically.
https://news.slashdot.org/story/99/12/23/083256/a-quiet-adult-my-candidate-for-man-of-the-century

BTW For anyone, even plebes, who think there's nothing about them in collective world memory, the Wayback machine and Internet Archives are downright frightening. Rocks remember, especially silicon.

Tony Fisk said...

The original article for 'A Quiet Man' was last saved June 2021. It can be seen here.

Anonymous said...

I just read David's excellent essay on George Marshall. Marshall deserves acclaim because he led a mission to restore the nations that had been shattered by WW II, both allied and axis. We did not punish our enemies the way we did after WW I.

I am half-way through reading this book: Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945. I had to return it to the library. I look forward to reading the rest of it. One interesting point of that book is how the military leaders (Marshall and Brooke) were dismayed at the way the political leaders (Roosevelt and Churchill) were sharing information and attempting to make decisions based on politics, not military reality. But the politicians were not entirely wrong.

The book seemed somewhat biased towards the military point of view; I think it would have been dangerous to forget the political impacts of military decisions...the US and UK were and are constitutional representative democracies and a war cannot be fought if the public loses faith in the leaders, both civilian and military.

Larry Hart said...

You go, girl! (And yes, they actually call her "Amy COVID Barrett")

https://abovethelaw.com/2022/04/district-courts-telling-supreme-court-to-buzz-off-right-and-left/

...
This is the real cost of hijacking the Court for base politics. The cynicism of tanking Merrick Garland in contravention of the constitutional command to provide advice and consent — a phrase that at the very least means “have hearings and a vote” — only to follow it up with a beer-soaked meathead facing attempted rape allegations and mountains of mysterious debt and a slapdash rubber stamping of Amy COVID Barrett and her failure to clear the barest constitutional law hurdle managed to convince both sides of the proverbial aisle that the Court is little more than a life-tenured political proxy war. Throw in Alito and Thomas airing open contempt for established precedent and there’s little incentive to treat the rule of law as much more than vote-counting at this point.

Congratulations Chief Justice Roberts… this is your legacy!

toduro said...

Earlier in this thread:

"Marshall deserves acclaim because he led a mission to restore the nations that had been shattered by WW II, both allied and axis. We did not punish our enemies the way we did after WW I."

A small note to add to the major point, though Marshall not directly involved that time:

Retired battleship U.S.S. Missouri has numerous posters describing its history. One had something I had never heard about before I visited the ship shortly before Covid shutdowns: it said that the members of the Japanese delegation who boarded Missouri in Tokyo Bay to formally surrender expected to be executed at the end of the ceremony.

Larry Hart said...

I know the "left behind" concept has been done in fiction, but it seems to me that it's always done from the POV of believers in the Revelation scenario. Has there been any kind of speculative fiction beginning with the premise that those of us still standing after The Rapture are free to start running affairs without the interference of those annoying Christians?

It probably wouldn't sell to a tv audience, or to a marketing department terrified of right-wing blowback. But as a book series or graphic novels, I think such a series would have endless possibilities. The biggest weakness might be the complaint many had about Star Trek TNG--that it becomes too Utopian to remain interesting.

GMT -5 8032 said...

This was one of mine. For some reason my computer logged me out.

David Brin said...

LH your Left Behind scenariois like my Theorlogy seminar, in that those who want to stay on Daddy's lap, getting an eternity of hugs, are given what they want... while the rest of us who want to go to college and study Dad's creation methods get to do that, too.

Ala, it's not a simplistic pair. Most of the harm done to the enlightenment is not done by sincerely religious folks. Also, the whole fun of creation apprenticeship lies in the Great Sermon you hear every time you step outside and call for a Sign. The silence preaches: "Pretend I'm not even here. Figure it all out for yourselves."

TODURO: Thanks for that reminder. Yeah. I think a major psy ops mistake was not to portray that samurai caste as the equivalent to the Nazi Party. "everything they told you about us is a lie. Every single thing." We should have taken every debilitated Japanese POW and dropped him at some random site offshore with a rowboat full of rice. No matter how many such returned POWs the samurai executed, word would have gone out.

A.F. Rey said...

If a man is judged by his summed EFFECTS, there'd be statues to him.

Fortunately, there is one statue that commemorates Benedict Arnold. He is not forgotten. :)

https://www.nps.gov/places/boot-monument.htm

David Brin said...

Yep the boot monument is terrific!

Andrew said...

"Likewise, inheritance brats, casino moguls carbon lords and murder sheiks and wall streeters ARE the core owners of today's GOP, both by campaign donations and as the hosts of 'retreats' to which every GOP pol is summoned in lackey-obedience. BET ME ON THAT, coward." - David Brin.

I wonder if there are published (or at least, publicly available) notes that reflect what goes on at these 'retreats', and I wonder if academics and journalists ever have an opportunity to 'vet' them for truth ....

Alan Brooks said...

How about a statue of Stormy Daniels, with a plaque reading:
“She helped reveal a detail of Trump’s personality by his calling her “Horseface.”

A small thing, but yet an enlightening detail.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

How about a statue of Stormy Daniels, with a plaque reading:
“She helped reveal a detail of Trump’s personality by his calling her “Horseface.”


And yet he slept with "Horseface". So who's the more foolish?


A small thing, but yet an enlightening detail.


That also refers to a different small detail she revealed about Trump. Something resembling a mushroom?

(Now, I need a drink and a shower)

David Brin said...

https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/rationalist

!!

Alan Brooks said...

Think of Daniels as being a whistleblower, not a fool. The scandal was a tiny piece of a puzzle, but a piece nonetheless.
Not that Trump cares all that much of what people think (‘don’t care what anyone says, just spell the name right’), he has an Edifice Complex; he’ll have airports, schools, etc. named after him, won’t he? With his name in large metal letters, so the name is ever-present.
Such people have one eye focused on how after they die, they’ll be immortalized in some manner.

Jon S. said...

[i]"https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/rationalist"[/i]

One group of space wizards, the ones not acting on 100% rationality, are spending their time and power keeping the other space wizards from using precognition. Otherwise, [i]The Phantom Menace[/i] would have been over before it began.

toduro said...

"Also, the whole fun of creation apprenticeship lies in the Great Sermon you hear every time you step outside and call for a Sign. The silence preaches: 'Pretend I'm not even here. Figure it all out for yourselves.'"

A few years ago I encountered and liked a take on the two unharmonizable creation stories at the start of the book of Genesis: "OK kiddos, let's start with hey, yer gonna get different stories about stuff, even foundational stuff, and yer gonna hafta deal with it."

That starts pretty young. First time I saw my niece she ran into the room, stood in front of my sister, stuck her little arms into the air, and eagerly asked "Mama, hold you!". My little niece had not yet fully dealt but was getting there.

Seems to me that take works whether Genesis is human wisdom literature or each and every divine word writ by the finger of God.

Alfred Differ said...

Daniels already has a lot of material in the market immortalizing her.

But...

If someone were to make a 3-D printable design for that statue, I'd bet she could be convinced to license her name to it with a few word changes.

Someone should ask, though. It would be the polite thing to do.

Alfred Differ said...

Every well-designed experiment testing a falsifiable hypothesis produces a very short 'divine' response* that comes in one of two states.

1. Ambiguous.
2. No.



* I'm not a believer. For me, the silence preaches a shorter sermon. "You're on your own." Who speaks it? One of my inner voices. A reflection in my recursive definition of self. (In speaking, I prove I'm not on my own AND I am.)

Larry Hart said...

toduro:

Seems to me that take works whether Genesis is human wisdom literature or each and every divine word writ by the finger of God.


It seems to me that a problem with belief in Scripture is that it is presumed to wear many incompatible hats. Proponents of religion tend to argue (at different times, or sometimes simultaneously) that the Bible is an accurate history, a collection of parables, and an instruction manual for humankind. I contend that it is very difficult if not impossible for a single work to be all three of those things.

Larry Hart said...

"struck by a commuter train"?

Maybe it's just me, but this story sounds awfully suspicious.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/media-critic-eric-boehlert-killed-new-jersey-bike-crash-rcna23359

An avid bike rider, [Media critic Eric] Boehlert was struck by a commuter train while riding near his home in Montclair, New Jersey, on Monday night, according to journalist Soledad O’Brien, a family friend.

He specialized in exposing disinformation and holding fellow journalists and politicians accountable, said O’Brien, host of the syndicated Sunday talk show “Matter of Fact,” on Wednesday.
...
He also wrote for Salon and Billboard and was the author of the books, “Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush” and “Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press.”

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Daniels already has a lot of material in the market immortalizing her.


Anyone remember when Stormy Daniels livestreamed herself sorting her underwear as counterprogramming to some speech of Trump's? I do, because my wife and I watched the whole thing.


Every well-designed experiment testing a falsifiable hypothesis produces a very short 'divine' response* that comes in one of two states.


I'm not exactly clear on your point, but it seems to dovetail with my notion that a universe with God in it is indistinguishable--in this life, I mean--from a universe without God. If a counterargument is that the difference will be apparent after you die, well, maybe so, but until then, that's still a matter of faith in something one has no evidence for or against.

And there are different flavors of faith. Faith that your consciousness continues in some form after physical death is not identical to faith that the disposition of your consciousness after death depends on your adherence to specific rules while on this earth.

Now one way a universe with God might be distinguished from one without is if miracles regularly occurred which could not be accounted for by physical causation. I assert that the universe self-evidently is not like that. I mean, my heart goes out to the news videos of Ukrainians pleading with God to stop the war, but the obvious fact is that God doesn't do that sort of thing.

As to morality. I have never seen a good answer to this question: Is there an example of a moral dilemma where, having to choose between action A and action B, the choice depends on the existence or non-existence of God? A choice where you'd say, "If God exists, then I should do A and not B, but if God doesn't exist, then I should do B and not A"? I mean, most atheists I've heard with a moral compass believe that if there were a God, He would sanctify the moral beliefs that they themselves hold. And most religious people I know don't think that God decides morality arbitrarily, but that the sorts of things He approves of are those that are objectively good. So even in the realm of morality, God's existence does not seem either provable or falsifiable.

David Brin said...

LH. In fairness, Boehlert seems the kind to have been a thrill seeker... Still...

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Boehlert seems the kind to have been a thrill seeker..


I haven't heard any details of just how the collision occurred. Perhaps he was racing the train across the track. Other than that, I can't imagine how a bicyclist can accidentally get struck by a train.

Gator said...

LH: " Is there an example of a moral dilemma where, having to choose between action A and action B, the choice depends on the existence or non-existence of God?"

I once had a roommate tell me "If I didn't believe in Jesus, I'd love to be a weapon designer and make things that would kill lots of people."

The bible is full of stories in the Old Testament where God is telling people to do things that they certainly would not do if God wasn't there. "Build an altar, kill your son."

And if you get away from the Judeo-Christian god, why, I can imagine there are all sorts of things that were or are considered moral that I certainly wouldn't consider moral. Think of the Aztecs performing human sacrifice.

Larry Hart said...

Gator:

The bible is full of stories in the Old Testament where God is telling people to do things that they certainly would not do if God wasn't there. "Build an altar, kill your son."


I get your point, but it's not exactly what I was asking, which again was:

Is there an example of a moral dilemma where, having to choose between action A and action B, the choice depends on the existence or non-existence of God? A choice where you'd say, "If God exists, then I should do A and not B, but if God doesn't exist, then I should do B and not A"?


You've introduced a new element into the premise. "If God exists and He commands me to choose A." Assuming you can truly knows God's desire (that it's not, for example, Satan pretending to be God talking) then you could credibly argue that choosing what God commands you to do is the correct choice.

But in that situation, wouldn't God be telling you the right course of action? If God commands that you choose A and not B, wouldn't choosing A and not B be the right thing to do even if God weren't around? His presence doesn't change the morality--he's just giving you the answer.*

I acknowledge that the case of Abraham's son is tricky. The assumption here is that God is telling Abraham to do something that would be otherwise wrong, but is only right because He commands it. That's close to what I was asking for, but the command makes all the difference. It's not that God's existence transforms killing Isaac from the immoral choice to the moral one. It's His command which does it. And it really doesn't even do that, because the whole thing was a test of loyalty. God didn't really want Abraham to kill his son--just to demonstrate that he would do so if God said so. What Abraham demonstrated was that he was willing to do something immoral if God said so.

It boils down to, "If God exists, then obeying God is the correct choice." But that doesn't map onto my dilemma. Because if you accept the premise that God explicitly told you to do something, then you've already stipulated that God exists. There's no such thing as a universe in which God doesn't exist, but you do (or refuse to do) what He tells you to do. The very words are nonsensical in that order.

As to your roomie who would rather do something that he knows Jesus doesn't approve of, I don't think you are saying that "killing lots of people" would be the moral choice in a universe without God. The roomie is simply saying that if he didn't fear God's wrath, he'd go ahead and be immoral, because that's more fun. I'd say he's not really a Christian in his heart. He wants to do bad things, but is afraid enough of divine punishment not to do them. Shouldn't a true Christian want to do the things Jesus approves of, whether or not Jesus is enforcing His will?

* It's easier to think of in terms of a math or physics problem. Say you're trying to figure out what 2 to the fourth power is. If you're struggling on the exam, God might whisper "16" in your ear. But that doesn't mean the correct answer would be different if God didn't exist. It just means He helped you ace the test. That's a bit how I perceive morality. If God exists, He'd give you hints as to the answers, but He doesn't change the answers.

David Brin said...

"If God exists, then I should do A and not B, but if God doesn't exist, then I should do B and not A"?

Um trashing the planet?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Um trashing the planet?


In which universe are you asserting that trashing the planet is the correct thing to do? The universe with God, or the universe without Him?

David Brin said...

WHich god. One kind lets you off the hook for trashing. The other will be angry. Either way, if you are sureHe exists - or not - may affect your actions.

Larry Hart said...

Admittedly getting way into the weeds here...

Dr Brin:

WHich god. One kind lets you off the hook for trashing. The other will be angry.


You're saying that God might forgive your immoral actions, or that He might punish them. Neither changes the morality of the action. I presume you believe that trashing the planet is immoral. That is the case whether God forgives you or punishes you or stays mum about you or doesn't exist.


Either way, if you are sureHe exists - or not - may affect your actions.


Yes, many things other than pure morality may affect your actions. But that's not what the question was. My question was whether a choice can be moral if God exists, but immoral if there is no God (Or vice versa).

I mean in the world that you an I actually live in. The one in which we can believe God exists or not believe God exists, but either way is a matter of faith. And the point I'm trying to get across is that whether you believe or don't believe God exists, it really doesn't change what you consider to be moral.

I believe opposing bullies to be moral. That is not based upon God, but if God exists, I expect that He agrees with me on this one. Vladimir Putin has a different belief. He believes that violently crushing Russia's enemies in defense of the motherland is moral. I suspect that he either believes God agrees with him or that God doesn't factor into it. He and I inhabit completely separate world views, but neither of us would be swayed to the other side by irrefutable evidence that God exists, or by irrefutable evidence that God does not exist.

Irrefutable evidence that God exists and commands a certain thing? Ok, that might do it. But we don't have that to work with. We only have multiple, incompatible claims to that effect by sources with their own agendas. Hardly "irrefutable".

scidata said...

The laws (commandments) of a religion are the meatiest part. Especially if they're self consistent and simultaneously general and elegant. The laws of robotics are like that. Mark Twain suggested this one: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is."

BTW the three witches I referred to before were Stygian, not Macbethian.

David Brin said...

scidata noticed that about the witches/norns. Too lazy to comment but thks for correcting.

duncan cairncross said...

Larry
Re - Life after death
The "Soul Hypothesis" - there is some undying part of you that is the real you

Sounds great

But there is a problem

Brain Damage

If the Soul Hypothesis was correct then damage to the brain could not cause personality changes
Unfortunately - it can and does

Hypothesis FAIL

DP said...

Dr. Brin, I know you are not a fan of LOTR, but this quote seem perfectly applicable to Putin's invasion of Russia: "The hasty stroke goes oft astray".

If there was ever a hasty stroke it is Putin's invasion of Russia.

Similarly, Hitler started WW2 too soon. The original German time table for general war wasn't until 1942. Assuming that Britain and France would back down again like at the Rhineland, Austria and Munich, he was caught be surprise by the Allied resistance to his invasion of Poland.

Having seen the West acquiesce to his invasions of Georgia, Chechnya and Syria and subsequent slaughters of civilians, Putin thought the West would ignore it again.

DP said...

Larry, the God of Genesis could be interpreted as giving us leave to trash the planet:

“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

Star_Dragon said...

Even ignoring Divine Command Theory(which can mostly be simplified to "God DEFINES right and wrong") there's a host of horrors that would be justified by Him existing, under utilitarianism. The simplest would be killing people when you're certain they'll go to heaven, to keep them from having a chance to sin enough later to go to hell. Burning heretics(which includes people who believe in witches according to the Catholic Church and the Spanish Inquisition) to death, instead of a less painful method of execution, gives them a chance to repent their sins, which was why it was done. Many argue that Mother Teresa's brand of caring was more about gaining converts and achieving purification through suffering than actually relieving suffering. Conversions by force. Almost everything about fundamentalist Christianity and Islam, and similarly the Ultra-Orthodox.

Unknown said...

One of my Pol. Sci. professors was Jewish. He told the class that the Abraham/Isaac story was all about telling the sheepherders that it was OK to stop sacrificing their children, and nothing at all about obeying "immoral" commands from YHWH. YMMV.

reason said...

OK, I'm an atheist so I find all this discussion of God and morality purely theoretical. But one question I never see asked is "if there is a God the creator, why do we think this creator gets to decide our morality? There is no direct relationship between creating things and running them."

Dennis M Davidson said...

David: Apropos of the George C Marshall Foundation.
Seems that the folks at the Marshall Foundation are making it harder to access information in their archives. Ever since reading your Man of the Century article several years ago, I’ve been referencing the Forrest Pogue interviews of GCM for artwork about Big Picture Visual Presentations. BTW, the Pogue interviews are a goldmine for GCM’s insights on day-to-day work during the war decades.

The transcript PDFs of the audiotapes used to be easy to find. Lately not so much. Some are simply gone from the foundation’s website. Your article used to be listed under Life & Legacy/Other Essays and Speeches. I’ve done a cursory search and cannot find it anywhere on their website. Don’t know why.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Either way, if you are sureHe exists - or not - may affect your actions.


Just to quickly summarize yesterday's rants, I get that belief in God and His nature might alter one's actions. That is, I might choose A if I believe God is there, but B if I don't believe. My contention is that both kinds of belief are taken absent any actual evidence (I'm not counting allegations as evidence). That one's moral choices (which may well be affected by belief in God) don't depend on whether or not God actually exists.

* * *

scidata:

BTW the three witches I referred to before were Stygian, not Macbethian.


Neil Gaiman was the writer who made it clear to me just how often the theme of three women (mother, maiden, crone) is repeated throughout mythology. It's ubiquitous across cultures.

A.F. Rey said...

Larry,

Perhaps sacrificing your life for God--giving up your free will to God, or even physically sacrificing it--would satisfy your question.

If God does exist, He would consider it a great show of faith, and reward you and your loved ones in the afterlife, or even during this one. A moral choice, I would call it, especially if it induced Him to be kinder or more forgiving than He normally would be.

If God doesn't exist, it would be a waste of a life for nothing. An immoral choice, to waste something as precious as a human life over nothing.

I can't quite think of a specific instance where a sacrifice would be moral or immoral depending on the circumstances--perhaps keeping the meme of God alive at great personal cost?--but I think the concept is sound.

Unknown said...

Echoes of WWII - US Senate just authorized Lend-Lease to Ukraine.

Pappenheimer, driving by

Gator said...

LH: I kind of get what you're asking but we differ here:
"Is there an example of a moral dilemma where, having to choose between action A and action B, the choice depends on the existence or non-existence of God? A choice where you'd say, "If God exists, then I should do A and not B, but if God doesn't exist, then I should do B and not A"?


You've introduced a new element into the premise. "If God exists and He commands me to choose A." Assuming you can truly knows God's desire (that it's not, for example, Satan pretending to be God talking) then you could credibly argue that choosing what God commands you to do is the correct choice.


We have people on this earth that believe god exists and is telling them to do things. Do you believe based on their testimony that some god actually exists, and therefore their morality must be correct? I don't. And that goes down throughout the history of the species. Personally, I don't think it is moral to kill your kid because a voice tells you to, whether or not that voice is in your head or is coming from some external "god". You echo this in your belief that if "God" exists he would support your opposing bullies. Realize that is entirely your belief, and there are many other people who would not believe the same as you. That bully might be a Jewish settler trying to take land from a Palestinian; that bully might be a born-again Christian certain that a woman getting an abortion is damning her soul; that bully might be a Hindu offended that a mosque was built on an ancient Hindu holy site. I would argue that it is obvious that what I believe is moral is not the same as what many, many others in this world believe is moral.

AND if the ole YHWH showed up and told me to kill the men, enslave and rape the women, I still wouldn't believe that was moral. That's like living in the 1830's USA and believing slavery is moral just because it's the law.

David Brin said...

DP who said I’m not a fan of LOTR? I have enjoyed and deeply admire Tolkien’s works … while avowing that his anomie toward modernity - richly earned at the Battle of the Somme - neverhteless makes him my respected enemy. Not so that utter ingrate traitor to an enlightenment that gave him everything, George Lucas.

Hitl accelerated his war plans because his takeover of Prague alerted everyone to re-arm and Britain had better curves than Germany had. Even moreso the USSR. Tho yes, Putin did what all despots do. Slew or blew off all who would speak truth to power.

Unknown: The command “No human sacrifice!” was a major reason for Jews’ ‘stiff-necked” refusal to convert to a sacrificial cult for 2000 years.

reason: in my “16 New Theological Questions,” one is “what does the created owe to it’s creator? Are there limits?”

DMD: I sent a query to the foundation. I guess they did not single me out.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

If the Soul Hypothesis was correct then damage to the brain could not cause personality changes
Unfortunately - it can and does


I tend to agree, but for the sake of argument...

Souls could be like the "amphibians" in Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Unready to Wear". They can exist outside of a body, but when they're in a body, they're affected by hormones and such.

matthew said...

Here's a new bit of positive climate news. It looks like the hysteresis loop for climate reaction is 3-5 years instead of 30-50 years. In other words, the benefits of carbon reduction will be seen much sooner than was originally modeled. This is a big deal, truly.

https://coveringclimatenow.org/event/press-briefing-the-best-climate-science-youve-never-heard-of/

Larry Hart said...

DP:

Larry, the God of Genesis could be interpreted as giving us leave to trash the planet:

“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over..."


Dominion means it's like your house. Generally, you don't trash your own house just because no one else would stop you.

Taking this further, it is almost universally accepted that God does not condone suicide, and even that suicide is an affront against the God who gave that life to you. But if God is fine with us trashing our dominion, wouldn't He also be fine with us trashing our own selves?

Larry Hart said...

Star_Dragon:

there's a host of horrors that would be justified by Him existing, under utilitarianism. The simplest would be killing people when you're certain they'll go to heaven, to keep them from having a chance to sin enough later to go to hell.


That's probably closer to what I was asking than anyone else so far. But again, you've added a separate premise. "If God exists and He operates the afterlife the way you presume He does", then choice B (killing innocents) might be preferable to choice A (not killing innocents). But that extra piece doesn't follow from the simple existence of God, and it is something we have no direct evidence of until we die.

I'll also point out that, under that theory, religious Christians should not only be ok with abortion, but positively enthusiastic about it, since all of those babies will die without sin and go straight to Heaven.

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

Perhaps sacrificing your life for God--giving up your free will to God, or even physically sacrificing it--would satisfy your question.

If God does exist, He would consider it a great show of faith, and reward you and your loved ones in the afterlife, or even during this one.


Just as above, you are presuming not only the existence of God, but something about His nature. Who's to say that He needs devotion from us so badly that he'd condone and even reward such a sacrifice? Maybe we were created for some other purpose.

Larry Hart said...

Gator:

"You've introduced a new element into the premise. "If God exists and He commands me to choose A." Assuming you can truly knows God's desire (that it's not, for example, Satan pretending to be God talking) then you could credibly argue that choosing what God commands you to do is the correct choice."

We have people on this earth that believe god exists and is telling them to do things. Do you believe based on their testimony that some god actually exists, and therefore their morality must be correct? I don't.


I think you've lost track of what we're talking about. :)

I'm taking the side that says that your moral choices don't depend on God's existence or non-existence. That you don't need to resolve the question of whether God exists before making a choice.

Some others have introduced the premise that God not only exists, but gives you an order to do something you think is immoral. And I conceded that such an order might be sufficient to override personal morality.

I agree with you that it is virtually impossible to really know the difference between an order from God and a delusion. The only reason I made the concession was that I don't think it applies to the issue at hand. My thought experiment revolves around having to choose between distinct actions, and whether one of the considerations for that choice is "Does God exist?" Whether resolving that question one way or another affects the morality of your choice. If you absolutely know that God gave you a command (let's ignore just how we know that), then you are not in a position to wonder whether He exists or not. There's no question to resolve.

In other words, Abraham couldn't reasonably say, "If God doesn't exist, then it would be wrong to kill my son just because God told me to." The situation doesn't allow for the non-existence of God to even be a possibility. And if you're going, "Well, the command from God might be a delusion," then that could also be true even if God exists. The morality of the killing doesn't depend on whether God exists, but rather whether He really said what Abraham thought he said.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Sorry. Got buried in work related tasks.

my notion that a universe with God in it is indistinguishable--in this life,

Yah. In math-speak it goes like this…

There exists a set of beliefs for which the truth-value of the proposition "God exists" produces no observable effect from causes created to detect such.

Technically speaking, I'm an atheist in the old sense of the term. I simply don't believe. a-theist. Modern Christians often have difficulty distinguishing the variations, so my mother used 'non-theist'. It's not that she didn't know what to believe. She simply didn't… and I followed her path.

That doesn't mean I don't have beliefs, of course. It's just that I'm pretty sure my set is one of those in which the proposition produces no observable difference.

One of the things I learn from physics is when two seemingly different theories produce the same set of observables, the people making the theories are probably all wrong. Where they go wrong is in thinking something within their theory matters. When the observables are the same, the Cosmos sends one of its rarest of signals about how things work. That signal is 'NO' meaning 'irrelevant'.

"If God exists, then I should do A and not B, but if God doesn't exist, then I should do B and not A"

The only one I can think of gets a little recursive. If the voice in your head commands you to do A when you already believe B to be the ethical choice, it can matter whether you believe the proposition. If the proposition were actually true… well… B would have consequences.

My strongest argument for the harm done BY belief in the proposition is it supports some of our insane choices. It's weak support, though, because the voice in my head is likely to convince me of doing A anyway. That voice rationalizes the choice and we ALL do that to some degree.

Alfred Differ said...

A.F. Rey,

f God does exist, He would consider it a great show of faith…

Ugh. Or He might consider it an abandonment of a gift He gave us.

There is an interesting argument that early Jesuits violated this exact thing by vowing rigid obedience to the head of their order. They surrendered the gift of intelligence and reasoning for the advantages found in conformity and order.

———

'Temperance' as a virtue is about listening to the Truth as expressed by another. In a Christian sense, it means listening to their gift speak to you.

It does NOT mean self-abnegation, though. Take it that far and there is no one listening to the truth expressed by the gifts of others.

——

Anyway, I get that you are working off Larry's theme. This isn't meant to poke at whatever you happen to believe… which I don't happen to know.

A.F. Rey said...

Just as above, you are presuming not only the existence of God, but something about His nature. Who's to say that He needs devotion from us so badly that he'd condone and even reward such a sacrifice? Maybe we were created for some other purpose.

I presumed we were talking about the standard Judeo-Christian God, or something similar. If not, then you need to do one more thing:

Define "God." :D

Because right now the parameters are extremely broad. :)

A.F. Rey said...

Anyway, I get that you are working off Larry's theme. This isn't meant to poke at whatever you happen to believe… which I don't happen to know.

No worries. I have no strong faith in God or whatever. Tend more toward agnosticism. Just looking at this as an interesting philosophical exercise.

And I also agree with you: abdicating our intelligence, reasoning ability, and ability to make decisions seems abhorrently immoral to me, too.

Alan Brooks said...

Morality is defined as being systematized, thus to be moral one would have to be religious. The Ten Commandments, for example, are a consistent, codified body of ethics; whereas situational ethics aren’t consistent/codified; are not systematic—and thus not moral.
That is to say, morality is tantamount to religion and vice versa.
——
What am I missing with this?

BSM said...

I tend to agree with his three-pronged assessment of the world. Also, I tend to think that absolute pacifism will not work. History is littered with Putins who will take advantage of that idea. Lastly, it may well be another 6,000 years before we've evolved to a place where senseless violence is not acceptable. Then again, we've torched the environment so nuclear annihilation might be a moot point.

Also FYI that Bertrand Russell was a non-absolute pacifist. i.e., under narrow circumstances he thought war was justified. e.g., stopping Hitler during WW II, etc. His militant stance is best understood from that lens. Good article here:

https://mulpress.mcmaster.ca/russelljournal/article/view/1979


"Newly discovered annotations by Einstein on a 1947 Russell article are used to analyze their disagreement, while their later statements are used to illustrate their shared commitment to a type of pacifism which allowed, exceptionally, for a justified war in the special circumstance of an enemy opposed to "life as such"."

A.F. Rey said...

Morality is defined as being systematized, thus to be moral one would have to be religious. The Ten Commandments, for example, are a consistent, codified body of ethics; whereas situational ethics aren’t consistent/codified; are not systematic—and thus not moral.

Depends how you define "religion." If religion is just adherence to a philosophy, and does not require a divine being, then you've simply stated that morality requires a code of ethics that is adhered to. Which doesn't seem very controversial. Circular, perhaps, but not controversial.

Depending on how you define "morality," that is. :D

It's worms all the way down the can. :D

Larry Hart said...

A F Rey:

I presumed we were talking about the standard Judeo-Christian God, or something similar. If not, then you need to do one more thing:

Define "God." :D


For purposes of this discussion, I would say "The rightful owner of the universe."

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

Morality is defined as being systematized, thus to be moral one would have to be religious.


I don't see that. Most cultures have some sort of code of ethics. "Don't cheat" is a good simplistic one that people (and even higher animals) seem to feel in their marrow, regardless of whether a supernatural being is revealing it or enforcing it.


The Ten Commandments, for example, are a consistent, codified body of ethics; whereas situational ethics aren’t consistent/codified; are not systematic—and thus not moral.


The Ten Commandments are not meant to be the complete description of morality. It's kinda like the Bill of Rights in that rules which are not explicitly enumerated on the tablets still might be part of the moral code.

And, what does the sixth commandment mean? "Don't kill"? Obviously not, since God commands the Israelites to kill a whole bunch of times. It's usually interpreted as "Don't murder", which then depends on which sorts of killings are and are not defined as "murder". Which sounds pretty situational to me.


That is to say, morality is tantamount to religion and vice versa.
——
What am I missing with this?


I don't see that "religous" and "situational" are exhaustive of the possibilities. I tend toward something like "Time-tested ways of getting along with our neighbors so as not to be at perpetual war with them." I'm sure there are other possible categories as well.

scidata said...

I've participated in dev of a few large agent-based models. These are light-years ahead of Conway's or Farmer's cellular automata. Though nothing approaching full-on computational psychohistory - I can't afford the electricity bill. The hope of the 'Creator' is for the agents to do something interesting, novel, emergent, perhaps even astonishing. Simply having them endlessly praise and obey the Creator would be, well, boring, and certainly not worth the effort.

Gator said...

LH - "I'm taking the side that says that your moral choices don't depend on God's existence or non-existence. That you don't need to resolve the question of whether God exists before making a choice."

I think this only works if your personal morality agrees with the supposed moral views of "God".

Let's say I live in Tenochtitlin in 1500. At that time, in that society, it is considered right and moral to cut the heart from a living human as an offering to the gods. If the gods exist, this is right and moral and helps the world go round. If the gods don't exist?

Larry Hart said...

And I thought I had exhausted this topic. :)

Gator:

Let's say I live in Tenochtitlin in 1500. At that time, in that society, it is considered right and moral to cut the heart from a living human as an offering to the gods. If the gods exist, this is right and moral and helps the world go round. If the gods don't exist?


Again, you are going beyond the question of God's existence and inferring something of his nature. "If the gods exist and they require human sacrifice for their survival or well-being"? You could maybe make the case that that changes the moral nature of the action. But only in the same sense that it is not immoral to kill in self-defense or the defense of another. The question turns on more than the mere existence of God or some gods. It hinges on their particular nature and moral authority.

* * *

scidata:

The hope of the 'Creator' is for the agents to do something interesting, novel, emergent, perhaps even astonishing. Simply having them endlessly praise and obey the Creator would be, well, boring, and certainly not worth the effort.


I've used that example before. God as writer. If Gordon Kranz and General Macklin were to become aware that David Brin was their creator and spent the rest of the book praising his wonderfulness and building statues in his honor, I think our host would be mildly upset. "That's not what I made you for. Finish the story, you twits!"

* * *

I said to A.F. Rey
"Define "God." :D"

For purposes of this discussion, I would say "The rightful owner of the universe."


That probably was too flippant and tautological.

You said you thought we were discussing the Judeo/Christian God. We are, but that doesn't imply that everything in Scripture is true. I can imagine God without the Ten Commandments or the kosher laws, for instance.

So what do I mean by "God"? To be God, I would think an entity must simultaneously be omnipotent, omniscient, morally pure, and the creator of the universe. Without those criteria, we are talking about something else.

"Morally pure" is the sticking point. Does God define what is moral, or does God embody what is moral? If whatever God wants to be moral is moral by definition, then the only way for us to be moral is to be instructed by God. It's like the 1984 concept that 2 plus 2 equals whatever the party says it does. An action is moral if and only if God says it is. If this is the case, then there is no such thing as morality at all if God doesn't exist. "Without God, all is permitted", or at least, "Without God, nothing is better or worse than anything else", because God is the sole measure of morality.

OTOH, if God is moral because His character is beyond reproach, so He would never do anything immoral, then we acknowledge some sort of morality which must exist independent of God. And if that's the case, then our moral choices should not depend on whether God exists. Whatever God would approve of if He exists is what we should do, regardless of His existence.

Alan Brooks said...

Buddhism, for starters, can be both religion & philosophy. But isn’t the inference of Religion, high case ‘r’, that a given faith is more rigid than a philosophical creed or study of philosophy?
——
This is naturally v idiosyncratic: but I define ‘God’ as being that which an individual/family values most. If doily crocheting is the supreme value to someone, then someone’s God is crocheting doilies. The rightful owner of the universe would, in this scheme, be The Doily Crocheter.
Sounds ludicrous.
Yet every one of the countless religionists I’ve talked to agreed on that one point. Perhaps my judgment on these matters is as poor as theirs—or maybe there is something to it.
Aren’t values synonymous with core beliefs? At any rate, one might postulate that to a religionist, values and core beliefs are One—while to a philosopher there could be a slight disconnect between values and core beliefs. Because philosophy is less fixed, less rigid, than Religion. (Such is awfully broad albeit this topic is extremely broad.)
To the Religious, morality is formally Adhered to;
to a philosopher, ethics are adhered to or not adhered to, depending on the philosopher in question. There are no set-in-stone rules for whom I define as a true philosopher, rules to a philosopher are relative to time and place.
——
In the weeds, yes it is.

Alfred Differ said...

I find it difficult to argue against the notion that our morals are emergent behaviors that are moderately successful at (A) reproducing and (B) enabling us to work together against common adversaries.

For example, if your belief system calls for child sacrifices to a rain god, do you sacrifice your own children or those of a recently conquered enemy you've likely already taken as slaves? Imagine two human cultures picking different options. Which will be around longer?

———

The biggest argument I know FOR Western ethics is it has proven profoundly successful against the feudalism attractor. What behaviors count within the set isn't the point, though. I don't think there is a single, consistent set that can be defined as "the West's Way". It's more like a jazz composition with variations around a theme. When I think about it as a musical metaphor, I tend to hear Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

DP said...

So there is a difference between pure blooded Numenorians like Aragorn and midi-chlorian rich Jedi like Skywalker?

Tolkien and Lucas are worshipping the same kind of feudalistic society run by naturally superior people who deserve to rule the inferior peasantry.

I'd like to see a movie based on "The Last Ringbearer" where the orcs are the good guys and their city of Barad Dur is "that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilization in Middle-earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic. The shining tower of the Barad-dûr citadel rose over the plains of Mordor almost as high as Orodruin like a monument to Man – free Man who had politely but firmly declined the guardianship of the Dwellers on High and started living by his own reason. It was a challenge to the bone-headed aggressive West, which was still picking lice in its log ‘castles’ to the monotonous chanting of scalds extolling the wonders of never-existing Númenor."

David Brin said...

DP... Tolkien represents the same mythic system, yes, one I oppose with all my being! But Tolkien was a classics scholar who also watched tools of modernity mow down the flower of his generation. Moreover, from his characters' mouths we hear a weighing of tradeoffs that boil down to an almos fair argument. given what he knew.

Lucans was beneficiary of the modern enlightenment and tech etc at every level. His opposition to all that was pure betrayal.

Note though, it's almost like a WHOLLY DIFFERENT PERSON did the 1st two SW flicks and especially the brilliantly pro-enlightenment "YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES."

Alfred I think the core notions are NOT Democracy and individualism. Those are necessary tools in order to get the needful stuff:

- Competitive reciprocal criticism and delusion piercing accountability

- Stop cheating that would severely bias those outcomes... generally through relative equality of wealth and power + transparency

- Don't waste talent.

- Let facts disprove incantations.

- Watch out for the human addictions to solipsism, sanctimony, and wrath. Have a sense of humor.

- Leave other people alone unless you have cause... and you bear burden of proof that you do.

Alfred Differ said...

I see democracy as a methodology useful for making certain kinds of decisions. For many other kinds, it's not very good but likely better than most others. For a certain class of decisions related to trade, it is probably the worst.

———

As with virtues, I think excessive individualism is actually a vice.

The way I argue this with libertarian friends is to ask for them to consider a human community and then imagine dividing it. Are the two parts composed of humans? If yes, do it again. Eventually the recursive split will produce an answer of 'No'. For my libertarian friends, that happens when a single human gets split. I stop them at this point and argue that I think the answer should have been 'No' one or two splits earlier.

It's the same notion as atoms, but done socially. What does a 'social atom' look like? For individualists who take it too far (I think) they are single human beings. I argue those are subatomic with evidence coming from how quickly they pair on maturity and group at all other times. Most of us prefer to group socially and our concepts for justice come from them.

Pure, isolated individuals go insane and die relatively young compared to social ones.
Too much social encasement also drives individuals insane… or to learned helplessness.

So I argue that healthy individualism strikes a balance much like we do when defining virtues. Not too much. Not too little.

Gator said...

LH:"Again, you are going beyond the question of God's existence and inferring something of his nature. ... The question turns on more than the mere existence of God or some gods. It hinges on their particular nature and moral authority."
...
"OTOH, if God is moral because His character is beyond reproach, so He would never do anything immoral, then we acknowledge some sort of morality which must exist independent of God. And if that's the case, then our moral choices should not depend on whether God exists. Whatever God would approve of if He exists is what we should do, regardless of His existence."

Isn't that what you just said? "...if God is moral because His character is beyond reproach..." Hinges on their particular natural and moral authority. Maybe we are in violent agreement?

David Brin said...

Lively discussion!
There will be an onward, tomorrw.

gerold said...

The Abraham-Isaac sacrifice scene is a bit of an embarrassment to Western observers these days, so trying to explain from within Abrahamic monotheism requires some rhetorical gymnastics.

Pretending the meaning of this episode is that human sacrifice is obsolete is incompatible with everything else in the Bible. The message of the Old Testament is repeated over and over: virtue consists of obedience to God's will. Evil is defines as rebellion against divine command.

What would have happened to Abraham if he had refused to sacrifice his son? Two more pillars of salt?

There is nothing to suggest that God would refrain from demanding such sacrifices in the future. But the message is clear: do as you are told.

This is the basis of every totalitarian system. Obey or else. Such systems are sufficiently repugnant in the modern West that even our military has now relaxed the insistence on absolute obedience. Soldiers are trained to question illegal orders. But in much of the world the old ways persist, and true believers/slave-soldiers either do or die. Reasoning why isn't part of the deal.

gerold said...

Nice reminder on the climate question; that crisis hasn't gone away! But maybe Putin's greatest accomplishment will be hastening the conversion from fossil fuels to renewables.

This articles does a better job of explaining what has to happen when:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/theres-still-time-to-fix-climate-about-11-years/?utm_source=Scientific+American+article+&utm_campaign=SA_article

Larry Hart said...

Gator:

Isn't that what you just said? "...if God is moral because His character is beyond reproach..." Hinges on their particular natural and moral authority. Maybe we are in violent agreement?


Yes, I kinda think we are.

The original contention I was making is that when we make a moral choice between possible actions, the choice doesn't hinge on whether God does or does not exist. Maybe I should have said we don't have the luxury of knowing whether God exists or does not exist, so we make the best guesses that we can about what He'd expect of us (if we're believers) or what we should do ourselves (if we're not).

I suspect that for most people who consider themselves to have a moral code, they would ultimately end up following that same moral code whether or not God exists. Because if they are believers, they expect that their moral code comes from God, or is shared by God. And if they are non-believers, they think that only an entity who shares their moral code could possibly be God.

I admit that the closest y'all have come to a real dilemma whose choice really depends on whether God exists is one in which real sacrifices are made for God's benefit. If He doesn't really exist, then the sacrifices are in vain. If He does exist, then perhaps they are for the greater good. My own prejudice here is that God wouldn't need us to hurt ourselves or others for His sake. But YMMV.

In any case, other than hearsay, I don't think we have any way of knowing whether He exists or not at the time we have to make such choices.

Alan Brooks said...

Could be as simple as ‘God’ is the supremacist superego for the believer: probably as valid a hypothesis as any we’re going to come up with.
The key word is, indeed, sacrifice. The religionist sacrifices for God and people—at least the believer’s own people—and the reward is if not happiness, then contentment.
The ‘Book of Life’ can be reified by describing it as the religionist’s legacy; seeking ‘immortality’ (“Eternal Life”) via descendants and the legacy which descendants inherit. They sum it up with, “seek life so that you and your descendants might live.”
One might say they half-believe it.

Don Gisselbeck said...

One way an Infinite Being could stave off infinite boredom would be to bring into being very many independently acting entities. This would mean the Being would be radically non controlling. Couple that with "homo factus est", and I arrive at an ex post facto justification for remaining a Christian.

DP said...

The only statement that accounts for observable evidence (the majestic glory of an ordered universe and the inherent cruelty, pain and suffering of life) is:

God exists and He is evil.

David Brin said...

DP there is one out for Him. And that is "Individual humans aren't the important thing; it is Humanity, evolving, solving, changing, incrementally-growing, then creating."

As big as my ego is, I have to admit, that's the one that makes sense and allows for a Creator who is not necessarily a villain.

Only now...

onward

onward