Friday, January 10, 2014

Carla Bley and Steve Swallow: Remember

Answer to an Old and Rejected Comment

Apparently someone has found evidence that my many posts dealing with the relationship of Darwin with eugenics in England, North America and Germany have been used by people pushing creationism.   They ask me if I am not thoroughly ashamed to have given them information that they then use to attack science.   The question is based on several false assumptions.

First, I didn't give them any information that wasn't available and already known to them, or, at least, not much of it.  There were several points I didn't find in other places, but those were mostly conclusions I drew from reading what Darwin, his sons, and the other key figures in the early and later history of eugenics and natural selection had said.  Most of what I presented was information that is freely available in the public domain, has been available for the past century and longer and which, indeed has been cited in arguments about these issues beginning in the 1870s.   Only someone profoundly ignorant of the literature of this discussion, as, indeed, just about every one of the champions of Darwin I've encountered are, could think I'd "given creationists arguments" that they can then use for their ideological purposes.   The Darwins, Charles, Leonard, Francis, George,  their cousin Francis Galton, their friend Ernst Haeckel and many others are the ones who provided them with the material with which to make their pitch to the public. Before the Second World War mainstream Darwinists had no shame in crowing about what their heirs are now so eager to cover up.  Only that information is out there and it cannot be covered up now that it is available from reputable online sources, in fact much of the material I used is published by pro-Darwin sources.

Secondly, I am under no obligations as an educated person to lie about that record. If anything, having bought the post-war mythologized St. Darwin,  having, in the past,  asserted the historical lies of that cult, I am under an obligation to reveal the truth about it now.  That the truth is inconvenient to one side in an ideological war does nothing to change that truth.

To assert that evolution happened is to give the most common, general scientific interpretation of what the mute and inarticulate geological record and genetic evidence indicate.  It is to assert an indirect meaning for that record.  I am so convinced by that evidence that it is my position that evolution, itself, is a fact.   To assert that Charles Darwin was the inspiration of and the most important early supporter of eugenics is to point out what he and his cousin Francis Galton, the inventor of eugenics, said in no uncertain terms.  You don't have to go out on any limb to repeat what they said, WHAT THEY PRESENTED AS HAVING THE ENHANCED RELIABILITY OF SCIENCE, in order to state the truth of that matter.  There is no comparison as to which is the more certain assertion of historical truth, the documentary record removes any rational ambiguity as to what these two men of science said about the matter.  If you want to impeach Darwin as an unreliable reporter of his own ideas and thoughts in the matter of eugenics, you cannot be allowed to then present his far more attenuated presentation of natural selection to be more reliable.

In my researches into the allegedly scientific assertion of atheism I have come to the conclusion that science, per se, has been hijacked and turned to an ideological campaign.  In no branch of science has that been more the case or the motives of those involved more explicitly stated than in the matter of evolution.  Beginning with the earliest readers of On the Origin of Species, indeed, even preceding that far from original assertion of evolution, its usefulness to an assertion of atheism was announced to the world.  Galton, Haeckel, Huxley, etc. are the ones who opened up the Darwinist front in a war that had been ongoing for more than a generation.

And, it has to be remembered, those men weren't only the generals in an ideological war, they were the ones writing and determining the direction that evolutionary biology was taking.  Given the nature of that early science, given the clearly announced ideological, political and economic motives of those involved, given that they constituted the winning party in the body of scientists who would provide the acceptance of further ideas in the matter, is it not a reasonable thing to believe that their ideology was not crucially influential in determining the intellectual culture of the field but influential in what was alleged to be objective science?  As Marx pointed out,  Darwin, himself, gave an eccentric twist to Malthus, whose entire premise was based on the dissimilarity between human society and nature, in that human society was effective in keeping poor and disadvantaged members of the society alive in numbers that nature couldn't sustain.  Darwin, on the other hand, asserted that the British class system was the very basis of the natural order in which the "favoured" crushed the less "favoured" and the survivors were biologically superior to those that didn't survive.  And also those among the living who Darwin asserted, AS A MATTER OF SCIENCE, constituted less "favored" individuals and groups.    The sainted Darwin put a scientific hit on named ethnic and economic groups, as anyone who has read his second major book, his other writings and his letters to his scientific colleagues could not possibly deny.  He advocated, in somewhat sanitized language, the deaths of individual members of those groups and, in no uncertain terms, entire ethnic groups.   That he said it in English instead of Haeckel's German, doesn't make that, somehow, nicer.

That the men who determined the course of evolutionary biology either came from the elite class of Britains and other nation or they aspired to join that class is certainly relevant to why that particular breed of biologists were "favoured" in the academic struggle for dominance.  Darwinism was the good news, the gospel, that the economic elite had longed for, that due to their superiority, familial, national, racial, etc. they were the rightful winners in economic and all other struggles and the system of laws that their ancestors had set up to take the labor and property of the less "favoured" as their own, were a human expression of laws of nature, what the self-appointed modern men asserted in lieu of the biblical law which was no where near as convenient to their self-regard and contented affluence.  I think that the present day assertion of latter day Darwinism over the disdainfully mocked underclass of creationists is not uninfluenced by that cultural baggage.

That, these days, in the United States, at least, an even more unscrupulous group of oligarchs make use of those who reject Darwin, is a rather curious situation.  The economic elite has no fixed use for something as ultimately esoteric as evolutionary biology, their interest is primarily in the system of laws permitting them to steal the property of those whose labor produces all wealth.  However, it is also an interesting situation that, as it suits their purpose, they will make neo-Darwinian arguments to support their superiority to poor people,  members of other ethnic groups and women.   The lapse of integrity in this ideological struggle is not confined to any group.   Or maybe it is that the terms of the argument have lost so much of their meaning as they cease to be about anything except as indicators of group loyalty.  There is entirely more of that in this argument, from the creationists BUT ALSO from the side which pretends that it's all about what the evidence shows for them.  Anyone who had looked at the most articulate, the most conclusive evidence relevant to this intellectual brawl would not be able to support the Darwin fan club just as those who look at the non-ideologically interpreted geological and genetic evidence would see a convincing, though far more indirect case supporting evolution.   I'm not ashamed to present any relevant evidence.  What other people do with that isn't my responsibility.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Young Tradition

Lyke Wake Dirge

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Art is long, a soprano recorder is short."

My friend "X" came by to try to cheer me up, he brought a funky little recorder that he's used when he had a disabled student that has all of the holes on separate sections that can be moved around to accommodate hands that aren't in the best of shape.  He also brought me some pretty amazing exercises he's worked out for it.   Maybe there's room for some musical adventure so long as I don't have another accident.  He's done some incredible stuff for the thing.

Update:  It's this model of Aulos recorder.   My fingers all work, it's just awkward holding it with a cast on.
Scene On the 13th Day of Christmas 

X:  So, Christmas is gone by again.
Y : Yeah.
X:  Kind of sad in a way.
Y: Yeah, not like my Aunt's place, it's like Christmas every day where she is.
X: Oh come on, every day?
Y:  Yeah, every day of the year. 
X:  Always festive and jolly? 
Y:  No, not especially.
X:  She's really generous and giving?
Y:  No,  To tell you the truth she's kind of stingy.
X:  (getting a little annoyed)  Well, what's so Christmasy about her place then?
Y:  She lives in town.
X:  She lives in town? 
Y:  Yeah, she's got town water.
X: What's that got to do with it?
Y:  Well, duh!  No Well!  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

True Confession: I'm a Rocket Stove Porn Addict

While other people are watching other stuff, I'm addicted to watching YouTubes of low-tech stuff.  And of all the many stove videos I've watched Pekka Leskela's are the best, most practical and most most pleasant to watch of all.  I will be making this one and am thinking of incorporating a larger version in a summer kitchen in my shed.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Oh, Great

Well, I fell down on the ice and broke my arm in two places this evening I could kill my brother for not sanding, though I'll have to wait for about six to eight weeks.  I thought my bad year was over.   I don't know when I'll be writing again.   On the other hand (ha,ha) whatever I manage to write is going to be short. Maybe an exorcism is in order.

Song of the Magi: Russian Orthodox

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Every Model Is A Lie But Some Models Explain More Than Others

So just to clarify, right, one of the grand goals of modern physics is to build a theory of everything at all. Not a very beautiful name. But a theory of everything that would in principle explain all that we can observe in nature in terms of a single force, so to speak. And it's a very beautiful idea. It's very Platonist in its essence, you know, that the essence of nature is mathematical. There is one big symmetry out there and that symmetry is beautiful and beauty is truth. And hence, you know, there has to be that sort of idea in nature as well. And a lot of people, including Einstein — Einstein spent 20 years of his life looking for this theory of everything, this unifying theory, and of course he didn't find it.

In today's program of On Being, with Krista Tippett, Marcelo Gleiser said something that was very interesting to me.

Ms. Tippett: Hmm. So in your recent writing, each of you is driven from different directions by an observation that we have been working, thinking, acting on outdated models of reality, a limited conception of humanity and of the universe and even of science. I mean, Marcelo, you talk about growing up as you became interested in science, fascinated with this idea of unification, which was an idea of Einstein. And you talk about going to grad school, following this intellectual Holy Grail.

Dr. Gleiser: Mm-hmm.

Ms. Tippett: But you don't quite see it that way anymore.

Dr. Gleiser: Right. So just to clarify, right, I went to grad school trying to find it too, right, and after many years doing this and talking to lots of my colleagues I came to the conclusion that that's impossible. That the theory of everything is an impossibility as a matter of principle. And the problem is this: that the way we understand the world — and interrupt me if I go on for too long.

Ms. Tippett: No, no. It's good. We're all — we're with you.

Dr. Gleiser: The way we understand the world is very much based on what we can see of the world, right? Science is based on measurements and observations. And the notion that we can actually come up and have a theory that explains everything assumes that we can know everything, right? That we can go out and measure everything there is to measure about nature and come up with this beautiful theory of everything. And since we cannot measure all there is to measure, since our tools have limitations, we are definitely limited in how much we can know of the world.

So you can even build a theory that would explain everything that we know now. But then two weeks from now, someone else will come and find something new that does not fit in your theory. And that's not a theory of everything anymore because it doesn't include everything that can be included.

Which is about as obvious a series of points as I can imagine, yet it has captured the minds of many scientists as obsessively and the popularization of science so cluelessly as the far more innocently believed in quest to turn base metal into gold that the alchemists were engaged in.   They had the excuse that they didn't understand the nature of gold and other metals, that they were, for all human purposes, immutable elements, that people couldn't change one to another, for all their ability to change the forms of other metals through them with other elements by chemical action.   I suspect that something Marilynne Robinson and Marcello Gleiser said later in the same conversation points to why those who cleverly and, less often, brilliantly can address very narrow aspects of physical reality are so basically clueless about the futility of this race after the impossible to have.  And it is in those engaged in another Cerveantean quest to turn our conscious minds into comprehensible molecular actions that a clue to their cluelessness is found.

Ms. Tippett: Here's a line of Reverend Ames in Gilead [one of M.R.'s novels]: "This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it." Just before we finish, let's talk a little bit about mind, which takes us a little bit outside the realm of physics, but very much into your writing, Marilynne.

Ms. Robinson: Mm-hmm.

Ms. Tippett: And somehow, the primacy, the centrality of our minds, the power of them, even in all of this discerning of distant galaxies.

Ms. Robinson: Well, it's I think one of the things that is fascinating is that we don't know who we are. Human beings in acting out history describe themselves and every new epic is a new description of what human beings are. Every life is a new description of what human beings are. Every work of science, every object of art is new information. And it is inconceivable at this point that we could say anything final about what the human mind is, because it is demonstrating, you know, in beautiful ways and terrifying ways, that it will surprise us over and over and over again. You know?

And if I read something that seems to me — I mean, we have mind in two senses, or of several senses, but one of them is this sort of the individual striving mind: I want to come up to the mark. I want to follow my passion. I want to let myself think about something that seems beautiful to me. There's that mind. And then there is the larger collective mind that somehow or other seems to sort of magnify impulses and so on that occur among us individually.

You know, when you think how even the most brilliant people living, you know, in the first century would see how we know and what we know now and so on, which is basically a pure elaboration of what they'd already started, nevertheless they would be completely astonished, they would say, that human beings could've done such a thing. You know? We know things about our minds because we have seen them reaching and reaching and unfolding in this uncanny way that they do.

And I just think that undervaluing mind, it distorts what we're capable of. You know? I don't know. That's what I think. I think the mind is fantastically competent and beautiful and in a very large degree unexplored.

Ms. Tippett: Marcelo, is this new frontier of mind and consciousness, is it challenging for physics? Or where does it fit into your way of seeing the world?

Dr. Gleiser: It's very challenging, because the way physics traditionally has worked is through this reductionistic method, right? You look at a complicated problem, you break it down into small parts, you understand how these small parts work and then try to make sense of the whole. And this extrapolation works beautifully when you talk about stars and galaxies, but it really fails miserably when you're talking about the mind or the brain. Right?

So as I said earlier on, you can't understand the brain by understanding how a neuron works. And so it poses a tremendous difficulty for physics because we can't model the brain. Right? And physicists, that's what we do for a living. We make models. We test our hypothesis. And we need a different kind of explanatory, descriptive tool.

[Laughter from audience]

Dr. Gleiser: Because the way we have dealt with things just won't work for the brain. So what would that be now, right? So there is this whole new notion that comes from complexity theory that the mind is an emergent phenomenon that we can't quite explain that has to do with the concatenation of many different groups of neurons at the same time. So the interesting thing about that is that, if that is true, then new laws will emerge at different levels of complexity. And you can't go from one level to the other level directly. You really need a completely different kind of explanation. And we're not there yet, but it's just an alternative way of thinking about how the brain works. And to me, given the complexity, even if we go there and we gain some level of understanding above what we know now, it's always going to be incomplete, just like Marilynne said.

Ms. Tippett: But I think that part is exciting for you, the fact that it will be incomplete, the fact that there will always be more to learn.

Dr. Gleiser: Yes. When I was saying this, I was thinking can we ever build a machine that thinks? Right? That's really the question, right? Because if you could build a clock that thinks, right, then you'd really say, yes, we mechanized the brain and we understand exactly how it works and what are the rules that make it all make sense. But I am a skeptic when it comes to that. I really am, at least for the foreseeable future. I don't see how even increasing the power of computers we'll be able to do that.

What we will be able to do is what the Internet is already doing, which is creating an enormous databank of information that will almost look intelligent, but you will always be asking the questions. You know, it's the asking of the question that is the mystery, not so much how you find the ways to answer it.

Needless to say, I'm recommending you listen to the program or the entire recorded conversation and read the transcript.

My point is that it is one of the most commonly found conceits of many phyicists today, Sean Carroll, Lawrence Krauss, ... that they can merely ignore the fact that everything they are creating, everything they have based their ideas on is a peculiarly human idea, that it is bounded and limited by human limits which, much as they must hate the idea, they share with those other benighted human beings who they so often disdain.  That physics can't escape its origins and the limits of those origins, their minds, the minds of their brilliant teachers and the most famous men in the history of physics and science.

Their frequent resort, to consult the materialistic priesthoods claiming the even more absurd, that they can come up with the equivalent of physics to dispose of those bounds and limits by coming up with even more clueless claims about the invisible, inaccessible, ineffable minds whose limits are even more relevant to the claims of psychology and its modern sects of neurology and consciousness studies.   Perhaps that they grasp onto those pictures that the entirely artificial imaging of brains gives further insight into their refusal to acknowledge the limits and bounds that contains all of human culture. In their faith, consulting their modern day shamans and priests, they continue to ignore that those are the product of very human choices in sampling, what to include, what to leave out, how to analyze the magnetic shadows those produce. And, most telling of all, they refuse to take into account that all of the reports linking the flashy, colorful images to consciousness is utterly and inevitably dependent on the reports of those whose brains were thus imaged.  What happens in their experience is entirely inaccessible to would-be science except by their anecdotal reports of entirely subjective experience.

Materialism, or its modern labels, naturalism, physicalism,.... are all models of reality and they are all based in a sort of meta-lie, a refusal by these people to face the inescapable fact of all of human culture, all of human thought, that it is not the direct reproduction of anything but a peculiarly human product that carries all of the collective limits of our thinking, it's that no matter how much of the individual peculiarities of thought can be wrung out by the common consensus of scientists, none of whom can escape the limits of their own minds and thoughts and their own experience.   Just as there isn't a single object in the universe that science has described comprehensively and exhaustively, there is no mind that has exceeded the limits it exists in.  Collective agreement, which is what science is, might help to some extent, and that is the faith that democracy is based in, but it can't do what it can't do.