Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mercedes Sosa - Al Jardín de la República


The Decadence of Physics And Cosmology Is a Product of Materialism and Fundamentalist Atheism

I have kept close to the point of view of natural science throughout the book.  Every natural science assumes certain data uncritically, and declines to challenge the elements between which its own 'laws' obtain, and from which its own deductions are carried on. Psychology, the science of finite individual minds, assumes as its data (1) thoughts and feelings, and (2) a physical world in time and space with which they coexist and which (3) they know.  Of course these data themselves are discussable; but the discussion of them (as of other elements) is called metaphysics and falls outside the province of this book.  This book, assuming that thoughts and feelings exist and are vehicles of knowledge, thereupon contends that psychology when she has ascertained the empirical correlation of the various sorts of thought or feeling with definite conditions of the brain, can go no farther -- can go no farther, that is, as a, natural science. If she goes farther she becomes metaphysical.  All attempts to explain our phenomenally given thoughts  as  products of deeper-lying entities (whether the latter be named 'Soul,' 'Transcendental Ego,' 'Ideas,' or 'Elementary Units of Consciousness') are metaphysical.  This book consequently rejects both the associationist and the spiritualist theories; and in this strictly positivistic point of view consists the only feature of it for which I feel tempted to claim originality.  Of course this point of view is anything but ultimate.  Men must keep thinking; and the data assumed by psychology, just like those assumed by physics and the other natural sciences, must some time be overhauled.   The effort to overhaul them clearly and thoroughly is metaphysics; but metaphysics can only perform her task well when distinctly conscious of its great extent.  Metaphysics fragmentary, irresponsible, and half-awake, and unconscious that she is metaphysical, spoils two good things when she injects herself into a natural science.  And it seems to me that the theories both of a spiritual agent and of associated 'ideas' are, as they figure in the psychology-books, just such metaphysics as this.  Even if their results be true, it would be as well to keep them, as thus presented, out of psychology as it is to keep the results of idealism out of physics.

William James, The Principles of Psychology [1890]

William James's extreme caution in conditioning his treatment of human minds with the methods and presumptions of natural science in 1890 is admirable if not question begging in the extreme.  Later treatments, from then up to today, would take his presumptions without the enormous range of governors and breaking systems that James clearly knew were essential to keep psychology from veering wildly this way and that.  If people engaged in the study of the mind would forget and ignore those cautions almost immediately,  those who took assumptions from that study but who were engaged in studying non-thinking objects would prove to, most often, go totally overboard.

Why psychologists at the beginning of the formal study of psychology would begin with the assumption that minds, thinking, consciousness, etc. were the kind of "thing" that the methods of natural science was invented to study is an interesting one.  There was no reason to believe that minds, invisible, unobservable, incredibly variable and obviously immaterial are subject to the same kinds of physical forces, conditions and mathematical analysis that objects are.  James could be forgiven for his naive faith in the power of scientific methods to divine such occult entities in 1890, he hadn't seen the subsequent history of Freudianism, Behaviorism, various "Humanistic" and other psychological systems, as they rose, in some cases dominated, gained political and, so, legal power, wreaked havoc in lives and nurtured insane societal delusions and, eventually, teetered and crashed into the bone yard of discontinued science, filling an enormous section of that seldom visited cemetery.  If, as I heard a biologist say recently, nutrition isn't the most uniformly successful of the sciences, psychology certainly is less successful.

It wouldn't be surprising if a lot of the earliest assertion of the scientific nature of the new field of psychology was due to university politics, using the prestige of science to gain support for including it into the curriculum.  There was certainly little to no evidence to support that designation at the time.

I no longer believe that human minds are entities like physical objects that are susceptible to scientific and mathematical analysis of the kind which constitutes natural science.  I am entirely skeptical of that presumption based on the failure of the effort and the fact that enormous amounts of human thinking, human perception, the reports of  people of the experiences of which those people are the only possible source of information that have to be set aside in order to make some alleged scientific claims about them even cohere as a story.  I think psychology is an enormous effort at regularizing the file drawer effect into a science.  I think other behavioral sciences also practice that, collecting confirming confirmation, discounting or debunking anything that is inconvenient for the researcher or scribbler.  Ignoring the enormous range of possible problems with the effort that no less a figure than William James warned of at the very beginning of the "science".

I've read that James gradually diminished his involvement with psychology, I wouldn't be surprised that as he saw it develop he saw some of these problems with it.

In reading about the truly bizarre, largely atheist generated, idea of Boltzmann Brains, I've come to believe that they are an artifact of the materialistic and scientistic faith in the power of, not only scientific method, but of the power of the mathematics of probability and statistics.  The idea that these disembodied cosmic brains, remarkably anthropomorphic as considered in everything I've read, could come about by the power of probability is an extraordinary act of faith, not far removed from the power of the Creator to create human minds which the atheists among these physicists, cosmologists, etc. ridicule.  Considering the place that mention of that Creator, the desire to debunk God, plays in the talk surrounding this stuff, it's clearly relevant to the consideration.  As with the cult of the universe creators, they set up physics and, now it is obvious, mathematics as competing creators, coming up with their own competing creation mythology and, now, the equivalent of the invention of orders of archangels, gods, demons, etc.  After all, if probability creates thinking entities so much like us, then probability, operating in enormous time spans, even into effective infinity, must generate all kinds of minds, those which we can understand as more like animal minds, perhaps units of volition or taxis comparable to those of bacteria, and an infinite number of conscious entities we can't even conceive of.   If anything, the accounts of creation deriving from the Jewish tradition is parsimonious in the extreme by comparison.  As an aside, this stuff is such a basic violation and refutation of Occam's Razor that no one who makes recourse to it should ever be able to wield that weapon against the ideas of anyone else.

Given the growing range of supreme entities that contemporary atheism is generating, various quantum vacuums, other alleged originators of the universe, random fluctuations, probabilities,.... and the mania for aggressive, hegemonic atheism in the culture of science, and so in wider academic life in 2013, things will only get worse.  Some physicists and cosmologists have been on this quest to use science to destroy religion for a couple of centuries, the literature of that attempt is not an inconsiderable part of the wider literature of and about science.   These days that effort is bigger than it ever has been, more public, more aggressive, more conceited and more arrogant.   Of course, the effort to destroy God was never supposed to fall within the study of the physical universe as it can be subjected to the observation and analysis the comprises science.  It is decidedly extra-curricular, an extension of scientific methods beyond anywhere they can competently be applied.  To deny that is to erase the limits of those methods, without which science ceases to exist as a definable entity.  Now that physicists and cosmologists and others are delving into a consideration of invisible, disembodied minds created from probabilistic fluctuations as part of the effort that decadence has reached an extraordinary range.  Those guys, the self declared champions of science and mathematical logic, who would make those the substitute for God in human culture, have turned that effort in on itself and it has imploded into an ever deeper and darker spiral of metaphysical fantasy.  Turning probability into God carries the added irony that probability is as much a human conception as anything found in Genesis or any other attempt at explaining creation.

There is no evidence at all that human minds obey or operate within laws of probability.  There is no evidence that minds of any kind are created out of some kind of probabilistic fluctuations.  The validation of probability is found in the physical universe of non-living objects.   The most that probability seems to be able to do is to come up with a range of chances that a universe capable of bodies capable of hosting consciousness exist.  There is no evidence, whatsoever, of the power of probability to create disembodied brains.  That these "brain only" types discuss such stuff seriously should show the world how hypocritical and silly they can be.   In the end probability is a rough human attempt to impose order on the observable universe, it isn't a force within itself.  It is a net that can catch what it can, anything that escapes it would be imperceptible to probabilistic analysis.  The same is true for any such method.  None of them are supreme, in the end.

Update:  Thinking about it, I'll give you the next paragraph in William James's text.

I have therefore treated our passing thoughts as integers, and regarded the mere laws of their coexistence with brain-states as the ultimate laws for our science.   The reader will in vain seek for any closed system in the book. It is mainly a mess of descriptive details, running out into queries which only a metaphysics alive to the weight of her task can hope successfully to deal with.  That will perhaps be centuries hence; and meanwhile the best mark of health that a science can show is this unfinished-seeming front.

The treatment of thoughts as integers is a pretty drastic reduction and conflation of what were unobservable, intangible, immaterial experiences, not known in anyone else but by secondhand report of unknowable though presumably variable accuracy and honesty was an extremely bold, if not wild, if not obviously audacious, leap of assumption.  The extremely tenuous attempt to impose order and make reliable predictions about thoughts and, withi its own cargo of assumptions and prejudices, behavior, should have been shown James how far out on a limb he was climbing.  Perhaps his brother and his colleagues in producing fiction could have advised him of doing that with entirely made up people.

The next clause about their "coexistence with brain-states" is both audacious and, obviously, an essential warning to the attempt.  Assuming coexistence assumes that the thoughts are as real as the brain-states and as valid.  James rejected the attempt to turn those assumptions into a "closed system".  Almost immediately his fellow psychologists and those who began to use the new science would start constructing closed systems.  That lead within a decade of James's death the rise of Watsonian Behaviorsm and onward to the denial that thoughts were much of anything but mistaken physical processes.  The metaphysics that James considered essential for any kind of successful treatment of his "descriptive details" would seem to be unlikely to come from the science that psychology that aspires, eternally and unsuccessfully, to be.   Now that the materialists as physicists and cosmologists are imposing their biases on the problems of studying thoughts, minds, even entirely fictitious "brains," things will only get worse.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ah, Donc Je Comprends

Someone mentioned to me that "Ste. Jean-Bap'st" is coming up on the 24th, so French Canadian music has been going through my head.  Though my family is Irish Catholic, there was no Irish parish in my town so we went to a French Canadian church.  I'm old enough to remember when the feast day of St. John the Baptist was really celebrated among some French Canadians in some towns in New England, especially among those whose origins passed through Quebec.   That was in the generation when a mixed marriage where I come from meant an English speaking Catholic marrying  a Yankee protestant, and when it was a French speaking Catholic marrying a Yankee, well, in some circles, it was about as welcome as gay marriage was about twenty years ago.

I'm also just old enough to remember some old folks listening to 78s of La Bolduc,  I had no idea who it was they were playing but I remember the music.  The younger folks listening to Edith Piaf and Yves Montand, there was actually French language commercial radio programming around here back then.  La Bolduc went through a bit of a re-birth when a collection of her complete recordings was issued in the 1990s  which was when I first had a name to put with the music.

Chez Ma Tante Gervais

Je M'En Vais au Marché

Les Femmes 

Quand J'étais chez Mon Père

Jean-Baptiste Beaufouette

Another site with lots of information about La Bolduc is at Collections Canada.  The mp3s are from the Virtual Gramophone which has about her entire discography, oddly enough, cataloged under Bolduc, Édouard.

Materialism In The News: Flying Teapots (which no one believes in) Are Superstition, Bolzmann Brains Are Just Groovy

Getting used to the new, evidence free, physics and its even more up and coming twin, physics and, presumably, other physical science freed of both logic and its subject matter, the knowable physical universe, gets some getting used to.  But while trying to get used to the breezy science surrounding jillions of universes and the myriad of contradicting declarations about those that are made, there are always things you've, somehow, never stumbled over.  I have to admit that Bolzmann Brains are new to me.  That could be because, as this article says,  "It could be the weirdest and most embarrassing prediction in the history of cosmology, if not science."   That embarrassment might account for the dearth of pop-sci shows about them and short-of-breath descriptions of them elsewhere in the media. At least nothing like that has come my way, though I don't watch the Sy channel or Discover.  And I pretty much stopped watching Nova when it turned into adds for military contractors and string theory-materialist ideology.

In the short amount of time I've had to look into the idea, it's hard to get a single, clear description of these free-floating, disembodied, cosmically cosmopolitan gigabrains that come about because of predictions made on a now unfashionable steady-state universe but which, apparently, nonetheless, are taken seriously by some actual scientists who haven't been subjected to the same anathema as Rupert Sheldrake, Brian Josephson and the widely vilified Pons and Fleischman who were, after all, noted for their work in actual experimental and verifiable science before they were declared as banned and shunned.

It seems kind of unfair to me to blame Ludwig Bolzmann an extension of whose theories are used to generate either a limited number or these accidental brains as presenting the same kind of trouble that the tribbles posed for the velour* clad residents of The Enterprise.  These, perhaps, hair-brained brains would seem to be a modern invention, one serious enough that sci-guys and math-sluths publish papers about them. A recent  news story reassures us that the worry that they must eventually overpopulate the universe is probably due to insufficient mathematical analysis.  Since they seem to have been born within the limits of present day mathematical analysis and speculation, perhaps that is the way to make them disappear.  Or at least whittling them down to size.   I'm not making this up, you know, here

Hyper-Intelligent Superbrains Floating In Deep Space Probably Don't Outnumber Humanity, Say Physicists

Physicists say there is now good evidence that a legion of floating space brains are not spontaneously bursting into existence throughout the universe.

For about a decade there has been a theory (really a thought experiment) that so-called Boltzmann brains - self-aware conscious entities with no external physical presence - might exist in space.

The idea roughly goes - and we'd suggest further reading - that given a suitably dramatic timescale, energy and matter, it's possible that a consciousness could form into a working mind, of its own accord, in space.

Consciousness is commonly thought by scientists to be essentially an illusion, created by the interaction of a vast number of simple 'actors'. In the human brain these are neurons, of which we each have about 86 billion.

Yeah, accidental cosmic brains of ginormous proportion are possible, the human consciousness with which those are imagined is an illusion.  Though the statement that "consciousness is commonly thought by scientists to be essentially an illusion,"  is something I doubt.  I would guess that other than those whose motive seems to be far less discovering reliable information about the observable universe, it is primarily those who are based in theory motivated by materialism, naturalism, physicalism, who account for the denial of the one and only thing which we have direct access to, the experience of our own consciousness**.   I would imagine many of those conducting this "thought experiment" into disembodied "brains" are exactly the "brain only" types in other contexts, imagining and writing papers about imaginary minds without brains while denying the possibility that the very real phenomenon of human consciousness - I'd include animals but that's a different post - could exist apart from the brain.

Unless these guys can come up with the first bit of evidence that Bolzmann Brains, alternate universes, and a number of other crack-pot seeming inventions growing out of the desire to kill God once and for all, they should be considered as evidence of only one thing, that decadence I proposed has settled into contemporary physics.   From its traditional position as the emperor of science, the ultimate and ruling force of them all, physics is seeming less impressive an interpretation of physical reality than chemistry, these days.  But, then, I've been watching the Periodic Table of Videos over the past couple of months.

That little "thought experiment" passage in the quote above seems to me to be covering the theory at the other end, where some might expect Bolzmann Brains really originated.

* Had to look it up, I originally guessed orlon but didn't want the trekkies on my back as well as the sci-rangers.

**  I hope to post more on that later.

Update:  I forgot, I intended to include this somewhat related comment at a recent story in The Guardian, from "Ubermench 1"

"Do you have evidence that physicists believe this, or is this merely conjecture from a misunderstanding of the way theorists go about their work?"

I object to the attempt to be patronising. What makes you think I ( who have had scientific papers published ) am not a 'theorist' ?
Physicists who support the multiverse hypothesis do so on the basis that even though the 'laws of physics' may vary between universes, the laws of maths don't. That is precisely how the same mathematical string theory can come up with 10 ^ 500 'possible' types of universe.
It's a seemingly very reasonable assumption, because whilst one can imagine physical constants and properties varying, it is incredibly hard to imagine the laws of maths having any alternatives.
However, the argument that physics supervenes upon maths rather than maths upon physics is is not an argument for crazy universes in which 2 + 2 = 3. It is essentially an argument that there is actually only one possible type of universe.
It's worth pointing out that in 'eternal inflation' nobody really explains WHY bubble universes that pop up should have laws different from the meta laws of the background expanding space.
Physicists may be able to 'imagine' 10 ^ 500 universe types ( actually they can't as all the atoms in our universe could not contain a brain capable of imagining that many universes )...but I can also imagine unicorns.

I have no idea if "Ubermench" is a physicist who knows what he's talking about, as he claims, but his comment makes an enormous amount of sense to me.  I especially like his idea that, assuming the "brain only" hypothesis that there aren't enough atoms in the universe to make up enough brains to imagine the jillions of universes that are so breezily created by those who hate the idea of a Creator.  It forces the fact that when they start talking about these imaginary universes they're not really talking about universes, they're talking about numbers and wild conjectures, made in this one universe we can observe, within the minds of one peculiar kind of life on one little tiny planet in that enormous universe.  These multi-universe creators are vastly more arrogant and inconsistent than the religious folks they clearly disdain and despise.   They make the wildest speculations about the dimensions of God dreamed up in Jewish mysticism, the vastness of Brahma in some schools of Indian speculation and all other religious statements of that sort (many of which are clearly metaphorical, at least in their origins) modest and humble by comparison.

There is no way for them to hold the possibility of disembodied minds and the brain-only dogma and claim to be rationally consistent.  If there are other universes, there is no basis for assuming that human mathematics or physics or metaphysics apply there.  As I've pointed out, those systems which propose one and two dimensional universes would, through imposing human geometry on them, obliterate the basic assumptions of materialism, that the only real reality is that containing matter and physical forces acting on matter.  That takes more than two dimensions, by their own definition.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Maine's Governor is a Crude Foulmouthed Vulgarian

and a tantrum throwing brat.  

I'm Not Going To Draw Anyone A Roadmap To The Pedophile Porn

When I wrote the post about what are obviously photographs and film clips of children being raped by adult men available on one of the biggest and most profitable - and therefore most respected - social media venues, the question of how easy I was going to make it for a reader to find that was inescapable.  Providing links would make me not much better than Tumblr, so would providing names of websites and dates when the images were posted.  So those are things I wouldn't do.  Anyone who has an interest in exposing and suppressing it, getting Tumblr to exercise sufficient control of its property to not be in the business of distributing those images can find it easily.   I originally went looking for clear examples of exploitation of adults, for pornography that advertised itself as being without condoms, depictions of rape, of sadism, of intentional domination and degradation, of misogynistic and gay hating content - it's remarkably there in gay porn of that kind, not to mention ubiquitous in straight porn - and came across those images mixed in with that.   Most of what I saw was on the disturbingly incest-themed  sites, those which sell images themed on "daddies" having sex with "sons", where those images are, unsurprisingly, found among those which convincingly do feature "models" who are believably over the age of 18.  Some customers as well as peddlers want the real and not merely simulated thing, eventually.   I would guess that the child prostitution industry is more than willing to go into that as a side line, not to mention "amateurs".

I have been at this long enough so I've heard every venue of denial by those who have more regard for the bromides of the free speech industry than they do the welfare of children raped and used and destroyed by the porn industry, not to mention adults who are coerced into being exposed to sexual violence and life threatening sex with men who have had many paid and unprotected sexual encounters with those within the porn industry.  I've heard every single smug, self-satisfied, even invertedly self-righteous declaration of the free speech absolutists recited to the benefit of the tranquility of those who are in no danger of being used and destroyed in such a manner and whose loved ones have little chance of being so used.  It's so easy to declare your fealty to the Bill of Rights when it costs someone else.  Such free speech absolutists are as responsible for that destruction of human beings as a mob lawyer who gets off serial killers to kill again are.  I have nothing but contempt for them.

We aren't talking about some dirty book made of nothing but ink on paper, we're talking about an industry that destroys real people, children, women, gay men and straight men, animals, in some cases.  Pretending that is not as clear a distinction as possible is, in this case, as irresponsible a lie as those lies the enablers of slavery told, on which its perpetuation depended.  The law, judges, make less obvious, less consequential distinctions with total confidence every single day.  Only when the issues surrounding the rape, abuse and destruction of people, even obviously minor children, can be framed in "free speech" everyone involved plays stupid, often to their profit.  That free speech is used in this case as obviously in the exact same manner as free association was used to support racial discrimination and segregation is also obvious.  The Bill of Rights is a sword that can be wielded by those with money and power to oppress those without it when those kinds of lying fudges are allowed, even without bothering to wink.   One of the means that is done by these days is to cite the "agency" of those who are coerced if not enslaved into the "work" that damages and destroys them.   That coal miners who get black lung and die from gas buildup, explosions or cave-ins "choose" to work in the mines is no less an act of agency than an adult who is destroyed by the porn industry.  Only, over time and with sufficient propaganda, that was seen by liberals as not being the same kind of "agency" as is now asserted for the destructive use of even minor children by the porn industry.   When you mix sex and the dishonestly deployed language of freedom into the mix, pseudo-liberals go all stupid and hypocritical over it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tumblr Carries Actual Child Porn But Even That Doesn't Make It Officially Disreputable.

I just heard an NPR piece blithely talking about how enormously rich internet companies are peddling the attention span of children by "offering" them increased access to attractive programming.  Having recently noticed the number of young children who were grossly obese, something that would have been extremely rare as recently as fifty years ago,  that effort should be seen as a national security threat.  More Americans are dying from obesity related diseases and disorders than have been killed by every terror attack we have ever suffered.

One of the media companies breezily mentioned as having attracted the attention of children before adults even noticed it was Tumblr.   I would be counted among those adults who didn't notice Tumblr much until I revived my researches into the predominant media presentation of gay men, pornography. One of the things I noticed almost immediately is that in both straight and gay porn on Tumblr photographs and film clips of clearly adult men raping clearly underage children is rampant, free and fully available.   And by children I don't mean eighteen-year-olds who look fifteen, children though those are, I mean children who appear far younger than that.  And there are graphic images, drawings, anime style crap which depicts the rape of even younger children than are raped for the camera.  Quite often violently and sadistically raped.  I've blocked Tumblr from my computer.  If I accidentally click on one of its websites, the message "Shouldn't you be working" comes up.  So don't bother with the rote response that "if you don't like it you don't have to look at it."   Children who are raped to produce child porn don't have such an easy out.

Where's the Dateline sting operation?   The research to find this stuff is as easy as putting in a few relatively innocuous seeming search terms and clicking a few keys.  It is free and easily available, the disclaimer that the person putting the images on Tumblr that they "believe" the "models" are all over the age of 18 is a clear lie, it's obvious many of them are beneath any age of consent in any American state, today.  Many of them clearly from Eastern Europe or the third-world

Last month I wrote about the practice of child sacrifice, pointing out that it wasn't something left behind in Pagan pre-Russia or the Inca Empire.   Tumblr's tacit permission to disseminate photographs of children being raped by men is a return to Roman Paganism, when it wasn't uncommon for slave owners to hire out slave children, of both genders, to temple brothels, to be raped by men who would pay for the permission to do that.  Children who survived that either went on to adult slavery or adult prostitution though it is almost certain many of them didn't survive it.  I have no doubt many of the children being raped for the benefit of the internet trade in their images results in many of them dying or having shortened, blighted lives.  Instead of a corrupt theocratic Pagan temple benefiting or a desperate effort to placate gods to provide adequate food, today's child sacrifice is to the cult of "free speech" and "free press", though behind it is the massive theocratic rule of the worshipers of Mammon.

Before Going Back To Political Campaigning: 2014 Edition

The ways that smart people think that get them into trouble has always been interesting to me.  Being politically on the far left of the scale, the political aspects of that have been the major focus of my writing.  It’s not the ideals or even much of the analysis of the left that are wrong. All you have to do is see where the policies of the right get us, as in the recent austerity mania, the imperial foreign policy and the environmental recklessness - which may well kill us all, to see that. Real life confirms much of the policy of the genuine left*  So the failure to convince an effective majority of the population isn't due to just being wrong. Our agenda is democratic, egalitarian, promotes the common good and saves the biological basis of life.  That of our political opponents does the opposite.

It being essential to save our species and almost certainly life on our planet, our political success, the left, actually taking power and making laws and policy and CHANGING the ways we defeat ourselves, is the most important issue there is.  A good part of our problem is that pretending is often easier and more pleasant than facing the unpleasant truth. But the truth will out in the end. We are at the time of reckoning in every way.  Taking your own advice is a way to foster confidence that you might be on to something. So the left should face the facts of its past failure too.


It was through trying to figure out the problem that the inadequacy of how we look at the world came to assume a greater importance.  A faith in the efficaciousness of the behavioral and social sciences and the melding of those with genetics is endemic to the left. I’d guess that those have largely replaced liberal religion, Marxist theory, and even basic liberal civics in a large part of how leftists back up their ideas. George Lakoff's present influence is symptomatic of that faith. Looking at it in as generous a light as possible shows mixed or inconclusive results. The scientifically vetted and clearly meat-headed “General Betryaus” idea was no rip roaring success. I don’t think the results flowing from that sector have been very useful politically. They haven’t led to our having a better chance of winning elections.

The latter day successors of social Darwinism not only do that, they knock the legs out from under the basic agenda of the left. We can’t be right about even the possibility of democracy and equality if any form of biological determinism is true. When you look at their absurd research methods and the amount of myth you have to swallow whole to believe they’re right tends to leaving them behind and wading into life without the leaden life preserver of their dogmas. I've tried to bring up instances when determinism has been politically important to what happens and the inevitable disasters that result. Democratic politics is all about results, making things better. Nothing that doesn't have that result is politically valid.

The predictable responses of the fans of Dawkins et al has been that they are politically liberal. I’m not at all sold on their liberalism but, as I've said about some leftists, they can just as easily be our own worst enemies. Quite frankly, I don’t feel very good about someone who opposes a return of sodomy laws if they undermine the very concepts of equality and freedom that led to their being abandoned in real life. There is a reason that these guys are popular with Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks.

Having rejected the methods used in the social sciences you get left with those most unscientific but probably more successful political methods, noticing things and consulting the hard lessons of experience. Those unfashionable methods, I am fully convinced, are as good as we are ever going to have.

I very strongly suspect that the mania for free markets in the society at large got its biggest boost with Milton Friedman’s load of garbage shown on PBS** a number of years ago. Those possessing a certificate of higher education in the United States depend a lot on what is shown on TV for its common received wisdom outside of their specialty. We’re not as far removed from the plebs as we like to think. And, as a group, we aren't notably more industrious about continuing education. Once an idea is lodged in our collection of bromides and aphorisms, replacing them for others isn't very easy.

With the series of disasters following the path Friedman and his allies have brought us, why that isn’t seen as the equivalent of economic Lysenkoism is an interesting question. I’m at a loss to understand why anyone would have kept their faith after the crisis of the 90s, never mind having the same ideology that led to that being the predominant one persist to cause the disaster we are in today. Harry and Louise seem to have needed more than one jolt of experience to wise up. I think part of that is the same kind of faith in anything with the trappings of science. You have to remember that in a lot of universities that economics is taken as one of the social sciences. It’s been pointed out by others here that a lot of economists seem to believe themselves to be biological scientists these days.


We The People are a motley and scruffy lot. Democratic politics can’t attempt a basic scrubbing of the necks and ears of the electorate. You can’t attempt to completely eradicate and “correct” basic beliefs that you don’t like, certainly not in the time frame that we've got to work with in an election cycle. The attempt carries a guarantee to produce a self-defeating backlash. You are not going to “end faith” in God, the wearing of synthetics or even an addiction to forms of entertainment you find annoying. Leftists need to grow up and face that the electorate as it is now is what we have to work with. Our politicians are their servants as much as they are ours.  Our politicians, not the phony ones who run the eternal series of campaigns that never win and never expect to win, the real ones who get elected, face that basic fact every single day, they have to or they get out of politics. Leftist political impotence has in no small part been due to the insistence of many of the loudest that facing this most basic fact of democracy, is a form of selling out.

Another of the big problems of the left is the instance that our politicians be, if anything, even more correct than we would like the electorate to be. Having just pointed out that it is the far from surgically clean electorate that gets to choose who is a real politician, instead of a pretend politician, expecting this of our elected officials is about the stupidest attitude we maintain.

There is no politician in our history who did more of what the left wanted than Lyndon Johnson during his presidency. He also did quite a bit which was among the worst a president has done.

As an aside, I think if he hadn't listened to some of the product of our most prestigious universities, he might have avoided a lot of the worst. He would have probably been re-elected in 1968.  Instead the more liberal - and Northern - Hubert Humphrey was attacked by the left and lost to Richard Nixon.  Nixon's campaign and presidency made use of the excesses of those who had pushed the real left to the side and made themselves the public face of "the left".   Anyone looking back at that period would have to conclude that Nixon better read the electorate and saw the possible avenues to grabbing and holding power than the left did.  That was certainly what he did.  He certainly didn't do it through personal attractiveness and a devotion to high ideals and democratic policies.  Meanwhile, the left preened in its purity, its higher educational level and a number of other things, which may have been technically true in the abstract but which didn't produce political effectiveness.

Lyndon Johnson was a rude, crude, bigoted, sexist, unscrupulous and ruthless and rather conservative politician. Perhaps most unforgivable of all to many on the left, he had a humble formal education as opposed to being the graduate of an elite university.  But, as Hillary Clinton pointed out during the 2008 campaign, he also delivered those laws that are the highest achievement of our democracy to date. His legacy is that which has been under constant attack for the past forty years. If he had gotten us out of the Vietnam War he might have been able to count on the left supporting him. We’ll never know. Someone like him, today, couldn't get elected with the support of the left.

Nancy Pelosi was the actual high water mark for the left in out entire history to date. Her record as Speaker and as the leader of the Democratic caucus has had to deal with the real effective limits on what she can do. She didn't have the power to keep the Republicans and conservative Democrats from blocking the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic Party. The majority she has to work with is small and often unstable. I believe she was doing as much as she possibly can under the real limits of her power. That she had and has to watch out for attacks from the left is a problem but she’s got larger problems she has to deal with.

One of the responses to one of these posts the posts has been “ .... how do we push the Dems leftward? And how do we punish them when they move right?"    Well, the left has tried to inflict punishment on Democrats. The abandonment of Democrats in 1968 for Eugene McCarthy (no relation worth mentioning), clean Gene in countless other presidential farces, Barry Commoner’s candidacy in 1980 (still got my pin), Nader in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 and the disaster of 2010.   Lord knows how many others in between and in races for lower office, all of those have been attempts to “punish Democrats” for not doing what we want. It is an idea that has been given the test of time and has failed, failed absolutely and in the worst possible way.

Unfortunately, the attempt to punish Democrats in that way has, more often than not, led to Republicans taking office and doing a hell of a lot worse than what Democrats were guilty of. And it has led to the marginalization of the left within the Democratic Party. Republicans have used the power they got from those elections to free broadcast media of fairness and equal time provisions, silencing the left, allowing the rise of right-wing hate talk radio and TV and the further marginalization of the left in the general culture. And they have had the full and complete cooperation with the pseudo-left, which is actually libertarian, not interested in equality and economic justice.  Anyone who doesn't see that the deregulation of the electronic media as a political liability, in the face of its corporate ownership, is too stupid to listen to and too little concerned with the common good, mistaking secondary aspects of utility as more important than self-government which those must serve to be valid.  When you look at the record and find that much failure an idea should also join the Lysenko list of political futility.

The part of the left that has taken that most the superficially gratifying road of getting even isn't large enough to make the threat effective. We’d have to be able to prove our ability to decisively deliver electoral victory, in the first place, to do that.

Our future depends on making effective coalitions, with those we like and with those we don’t especially like. That’s the only way that the left is going to exercise any kind of political influence for the foreseeable future. The road of leftist puritanism leads to nowhere. The other road might be “ahead but much too slow” but at least it leads somewhere worth trying. Maybe I’ll see you there.

*  Since writing the first version of this I have come to realize that the genuine left is not the pseudo-left which I would probably have included in the left.  That form of materialist pragmatism is far closer to the materialist right than it is to the genuine left which is transcendent and so not materialist.

** I seem to recall PBS put it on in “response” to the series by Galbraith on the history of economics. For anyone who missed the Galbraith, it paralleled his wonderfully entertaining book “Money”.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Sorry I forgot to post it from the point after the annoying introduction.  The performance is too good to not tolerate that.

Oh, oh. Looks Like Coyne, Carroll and PZ Need To Get Lee Somlin Fired Too

In following up the links in this post at Peter Woit's blog - most of which I don't understand any more than I understand proto-ugric - there was this book review, which contained many interesting ideas.  One of which was this:

In one of my favourite passages of Time Reborn, Smolin sits in a cafe and dreams up a truly outre idea (that fundamental particles follow a principle of precedent rather than timeless laws) and then sees where the idea takes him. In creative minds, such conjecture injects vitality into science. The basic problem – that the institutional, professional and social structures of science can inflate such dreams into entire faddish disciplines before asking if nature agrees with them – is one that Baggott doesn't quite get to.

"Precedent rather than timeless law,"  reminds me nothing so much as an idea that the widely despised and derided scientist, Rupert Sheldrake,  proposed three decades ago, only instead of "precedent" he used the word "habit". The book he raised that idea in, A New Science of Life, was condemned by no less a personage in the scientific establishment than John Maddox, the editor of Nature Magazine who advocated that the book be burned.  Ever since, Sheldrake and his work have been on the atheist-materialist Index Prohibitorum.

And the Sheldrakian heresy held by Smolin it doesn't end there.  He is also reported to think:

This view is a logical and metaphysical dead end, says Smolin. Even if there was a theory of everything (which looks unlikely), we'd be left asking: "Why this theory?" Or equivalently, why this universe, and not one of the infinite others that seem possible? Most of all, why one in which life can exist? A favourite trick of cosmologists is to invite the question by arguing that it only gets asked in universes where life is possible – the so-called anthropic principle. Smolin will have none of that. He argues that because life-supporting universes are generally also ones in which black holes can form, and because black holes can spawn new universes, a form of cosmic natural selection can make a succession of universes evolve towards ones like ours.

In this scenario, not only is time real, but the laws of physics must themselves change over time. So there's constant novelty and no future until it becomes the present. The possible price you pay is that then space, not time, becomes illusory. That might seem an empty bargain, but Smolin asserts that not only could it solve many problems in fundamental physics and cosmology, but that it is also more amenable to testing than current "timeless" theories.

"But the laws of physics must themselves change over time"  Or rather


Readers of this blog will remember the posts about  Jerry Coyne, Sean Carroll and PZ Myers issuing a fatwa and calling their hoards of sci-ranger-avengers against Sheldrake over his far, far less extensive heresy of merely noting that the reported values of the speed of light and the gravitational constant has shown variation over time and that it is possibly an indication that those weren't constant.  As I pointed out, the same month that the fatwa was issued, papers saying that the speed of light might well not be constant were announced as forthcoming.  By that time TED had caved to the pressure of them and their anonymous "scientific advisory board," removing Sheldrake's talk and issuing a dishonest act of contrition for having violated the materialist orthodox ban on anything they deem unacceptable.  Only I suspect we won't see them go after Smolin because he's not on the list of banned persons as Sheldrake is.

Consider the last part of that first excerpt above, " In creative minds, such conjecture injects vitality into science,"  Which was what Sheldrake said his primary motive for writing the book that got the latest fatwa against him issued by the high priesthood of scientistic materialism.   I strongly suspect that the past century or more, or at least the post-WWII period, will be seen as an age in which the establishment of science became increasingly damaged by a materialistic orthodoxy of which the three . mentioned in the last paragraph function as clergy.

So, how come these guys don't pay any price for their intellectual suppression, their double standards, their hypocrisy, their misrepresentations?   Apparently being an atheist means never having to answer for those kinds of things.  Just to repeat that last sentence in the last paragraph.

George Walker: Lyric for Strings

George Walker is a very fine composer who was little talked about until he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his composition Lilacs .  He is an excellent pianist among his other accomplishments,  I'd known him from several of his powerful, interesting and very difficult piano sonatas before that.  The Lyric for Strings is a movement from his First String Quartet.  Like Barber's famous Adagio it was also adapted for string orchestra.  Unlike Barber's piece, Walker's is vastly underplayed.

From the Never To Be Finished "Field Guide To Total Jerks"

People over the age of 12 who make “Kids on the short bus,” “jokes” are being total jerks. “Adults” who say those kinds of things are bigger jerks than teen jerks who might grow up someday.

The smug 30 something guy who said it yesterday within the hearing of a disabled child came about as close to getting my fist in his mouth as anyone has in forty years.

I wrote that seven years ago and could still punch that guy in the mouth.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lou Harrison: Rapunzel

The great soprano Leontyne Price sang the role of Rapunzel early in her career, or at least part of it,  and it impressed people in Italy so much that it won a prize.  This recording isn't of that performance.

Patrice Maggins, soprano; Lynne McMurtry, mezzosoprano; John Duykers, baritono --- Ensemble Parallèle diretto da Nicole Paiement

Before doing a little research for this post,  I hadn't known of a connection between Harrison's opera and Ben Weber, the composer I posted about here last week.

Stooping For A Dime And Finding A Dollar

This is a piece I wrote several years ago.  I've removed a few of the contemporary references that have quickly become dated.  One which might have, to the fascist chic FOX program 24, I'm sorry to say seems to be newly relevant as I read in the paper this morning that the torture porn is being revived. 

Hearing that you should endeavor to broaden your experience as you age in order to keep the brain healthy, I picked up my first real hard-boiled, tough guy novel about this time last summer. Rescued from the pulp bin, it was a 1952 paperback of crumbling, acidified paper. The cover says “Kiss My Fist The saga of a racket big shot who lived, loved and died the hard way!”. The cover* illustrates this with a hard looking, if believably proportioned, man socking a woman, unbelievably decolee, on the chin. It was not these endearing charms that kept me from putting the book down and washing my hands, however, it was the name of the author, James Hadley Chase. How could that name find its way onto Kiss My Fist? A tough guy with three last names? In researching this post I discovered that Chase was not the flower of the Eastern establishment I’d expected to write about, but a Brit who had a weakness for American tough guy fiction and who quite brilliantly relied on a dictionary of American slang to refine his dialogue. His adoption of such a respectable sounding name was certainly a career move, his birth name being Rene Brabazon Raymond. I can’t see the English language, tough-guy audience going for Rene Barbazon Raymond. My research said that “Kiss” wasn't the original name of the novel, which entered 1939 England as “The Dead Stay Dumb”. I’m not sure what sociological significance there might be to the name change. Maybe they already had the cover art here and, given it’s undoubted qualities, they required an excuse to use it. [Note: in doing some, uh, research this morning, I found you can see a different cover with the same theme under the original name.  Though I don't know what intellectual value it is, though I'm sure some academic in the brain dead regions of some humanities department can pile up something to bring down our academic field and tick off their publications requirement.]

Looking at the notes I made last year maybe another reason for not putting it down was that this was the first thing I read in it:

Clem Gibson was someone in the town. He ran the bank, he owned a car, and he changed his shirt twice a week. 

Though it made me smile for the next two days, this side-of-the-mouth passage is the best thing in the book. If you’re afraid this post will be a plot spoiler you can breathe easy. Ruining the book would be an act of supererogation, the author having saved anyone the trouble. It’s not the kind of book you so much read as skim in morbid fascination. An example, it is not to be regretted that I can’t give you the entire fight scene between Myra and Fanquist (called a “two-timin’ floozie”, though in the context of the book you wonder what makes either quality worth mentioning). It’s about the longest scene in the book covering more than two pages and in my copy it appears by far the most thumbed part of the book. Make of that what you will. I haven’t had such a bad time since I began some research into violent porn for a post I've shelved indefinitely.

Recently, while looking at something else, I happened on a masterpiece of book review by George Orwell of another of Chase’s books from that era, "No Orchids For Miss Blandish ." The plot summary given in the review makes it sound as if “No Orchids” was an even less gratifying, if more widely read book. Orwell pointed out that Chase found enormous popularity during The War by the glorification of violence. Though the plot is largely accomplished through overtly sexual violence (rape) both the review and “Kiss” make me wonder if the all of the violence among all gender combinations didn't achieve some kind of general gratification through horror and exercise of power. Orwell contrasted the lack of moral values in “No Orchids” with the minimal morality of the hero in the novel "Raffles".  The contrast between the older kind of villain and the heroes of Chase’s books would seem to be that there wasn't even the pretense of morality in the modern age. He quite rightly calls the results fascistic. Fascism through generalized violence is the result of life without moral restraints, all activities have the exercise of power as their only motivation.

It is worth pointing out that Orwell was talking about print in the review. TV, the movies and the web have had the effect of speeding up the delivery system of these drugs, something that Orwell anticipated in his other writings. You wonder what he would have made of 24 and the successor tough-guy genre in which the amoral thugs are no longer crime figures but a policy branch of governments. How did this tough guy genera relate to its cousin, hard-boiled secret agents climbing over a pile of bodies in service to the corporate state? Maybe we should yearn for, an assumption that the murderous thugs were outlaws instead of on the government payroll. Maybe we should also remember with fondness a time when the consumers of tough guy junk could master a sentence of more than six words. Read Orwell’s review, he says a lot more than I can, though I think he was a bit too hard on American pop culture as compared to Britain's.

It would be most useful to know who would have kept Chase in business, he published dozens of pulp volumes right up into the 80s. A heck of a lot of stuff was published and made into movies. Someone was buying it. I can’t imagine his readership consisted of women. It must have been written with a male audience in mind. Would they have been Roosevelt Democrats? Supporters of Churchill? Would they have been the type who were about to fight Hitler? How would they vote after the war? Somehow I can’t picture them as enthusiastic supporters of civil rights or equality nor can I picture them as supporting women’s rights. I can imagine fans of Harvey Mansfield reading it for enjoyment though it might give Victor Davis Hanson nightmares. There is a surprising amount of J. H. Chase presence on the web, apparently he is very popular with a particular kind of audience. Wiki says he’s very popular in Africa, Asia, France, Italy and the last days of the Soviet Union.

* You can judge for yourself. If you look find it notice that the cover carries the plain lie that it isn’t recycled material, though, I suppose, they might mean it’s printed on virgin paper. I had seen the original cover on line last year but can’t find the link anymore. There is this alternative modern cover of special interest to readers of this blog. I agree completely with this description given at that site.

Reading The Dead Stay Dumb by James Hadley Chase. The Finnish translation has one of the most awful covers I've ever seen - I'll post it here later. It's an early Chase, from 1939, and while it's pretty wild, it's also somewhat moronic. There's no real plot, no real characters - all the killings and counterfeits just happen almost out of nowhere. Maybe it's surrealism. (I know that the French are enthusiastic for Chase.)

Surrealism? No. Sous-realism would be a better word for it.

Update:  Here is a pretty seamy misture of racism, sexism, and violence sold as "A virile mixture of hard men, soft women and shameless violence."  Such is what sustains a good part of pop culture even into this millennium.  I think I'm going to go purge me with hyssop, so to speak.

Update:  Since someone went to the trouble of finding an image of it, this is the cover I wrote about.

Favoring Life Over Money

We still have hemlock trees here, though it’s probably just a matter of time before the woolly adelgids kill them off. I can't imagine New England without hemlock trees, I don't know if I want to experience it.

The destruction of native species by invasive organisms isn't much talked about, it’s just let to happen, treated like a minor matter in the religions of free trade and market economics. But even in the most pious activities of those faiths, the analysis of costs and figuring of monetary value, the losses are a major factor. The losses to the world in other terms hardly figure at all in the considerations of our corporate state which seems hell bent on reducing everything to a depressing half-life based on commerce and mind-killing entertainment.

You get the feeling that the reason they don’t talk about these kinds of things more is because people presented with enough information might come to the conclusion that giving up a huge amount of the biosphere for the enrichment of a tiny minority of the mega-rich isn't worth it? Isn't that fight, to save the living diversity we have now, worth more than the one over the analysis of dead fossils? Isn't at least as important as the hundreds of thousands of words wasted over deploring the museum of superstition in Kentucky? The best way to fight that would be to turn it into a joke, and the people in charge of it seem to be doing their best to make that job easier.

Some of my friends in the life sciences resent the attention and resources that cosmologists and some of physics can command. More than one of them has talked derisively about “The Lords of Creation” in relation to the glamour attached to the search for the earliest particle of time in the universe while their research into living beings struggles for money. Maybe more emphasis should be placed on the living than on the dead and the inert. Without life the rest of it doesn't matter.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kate and Anna Mcgarrigle - Complainte pour Ste Catherine

Every once in a while I need to hear this song.