Saturday, October 18, 2014

Informed People Can Disagree

I could claim to not have expected to get push back from that short Index of Prohibited Ideas which I published the other day but such a clearly disingenuous statement would impeach my credibility.   I knew it would cause the kind of swivet it did and in which venues those could be expected to appear.

Who I would call "my arch enemy" if he were competent enough or witty enough to generate the adjective and his BBF have apparently been snarking over me pointing out that bringing up "The Shakespeare Question" was forbidden even among the alleged and self-designated "Free Thinkers".  Among those results I expected.  Though I could point out that in my post I just said bringing up the question even without giving an opinion on it would get many knees to respond in a predictable way I can point out that doubting the old Bard of Avon legends was done by some rather eminent persons.  Here's a list from one website of Bard skeptics

In the annals of world literature, William Shakespeare is an icon of towering greatness. But who was he? The following are among the many outstanding writers, thinkers, actors, directors and statesmen of the past who have expressed doubt that Mr. “Shakspere” wrote the works of William Shakespeare:

Mark Twain, Henry James, Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Orson Welles, Leslie Howard. Tyrone Guthrie
Charlie Chaplin. Sir John Gielgud, William James, Sigmund Freud
Clifton Fadiman, John Galsworthy, Mortimer J. Adler, Paul H. Nitze
Lord Palmerston, William Y. Elliott, Harry A. Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell, jr. 

Which, while a mixed bunch includes some people whose opinion on the topic is hardly negligible.   I'd go with the list of authors among those, along with such experts in drama as Leslie Howard, Tyrone Guthrie and Charlie Chaplin as being people who would have the most credible view of the question.   And those are just people in the past who questioned the orthodox view of it, there are hundreds more informed people who differ with it and have publicly stated so, many at least as if not more qualified than those who push the orthodox POV on the issue.

Mark Twain's short essay on the topic had a decisive influence on my thinking on the question.    Though it was the incredible paucity of evidence supporting W.S.'s authorship, starting with the two actors claiming ownership of the work through what would appear to be a rather dodgy amendment to a document that may well have been forged,  the failure to document education, book ownership or handwritten documents by the guy and, I'll add, how he failed to assure the education of his own daughters and his treatment of his wife - as opposed to the unusually woman positive nature of many of his female characters led me to the position I take on the issue.  I didn't even care about the issue until I read about it - though it's not exactly a major issue for me and I wouldn't, necessarily lose respect for someone who could come up with real reasons against my position, based on actual evidence instead of the huge body of myth and conjecture that,  uh,  "supports" the buyers of The Bard.

Reasonable people can differ on many questions, this being one of them and there are people who differ with me on this insignificant issue who I respect.  But whether or not the position a person has is based on more than the adoption of a conventional POV out of ignorance is certainly an important consideration.  I would suspect most people who hold any position on this issue, as in most others, take it as the common position of some some academic tribe, or social group or class clique.  Which strikes me as being no way to run a life of the mind, certainly not among people who represent themselves as having superior intelligence and a devotion to evidenced reason.

A New Low Water Mark For Supreme Court Hypocrisy

The hypocrisy of the champions of free speech often hinges on them being enthusiastic about free speech when it's other people who have to pay a price.  In such instances as the ruling allowing the disruption of funerals by the Westborough cult, their alleged right to "speech" violates a right that any civilized person would recognize, the right to bury your dead unmolested by those unconnected to you.  And in the more recent case allowing harassment of those who work in and use womens health clinics, even a right to not be in danger of attack and murder is a price deemed acceptable for them to pay for the "free speech" of their potential attackers and killers.

Yet the free speech industry, the lawyers and legal organizations, the celebrities and academics, judges and, lest we leave them out, the corporate scribblers and babblers who couldn't have a more vested interest generally find those womens' rights a fitting price to pay on as much as a daily basis because, you know The First Amendment says "shall make no laws".   It's always so easy to assign someone else the cost of some other parties' "rights" in such cases, and something obviously hypocritical in those whose money is gained through selling words and images.

And that hypocrisy goes all the way to the top as this story from On The Media proves.   The Supreme Court not overturned a ban on protests on the plaza of the court, under a 1949 law, protecting itself from the speech of those who disagree with their decisions as alleged public servants, protecting them in a way that they refused to when it was a question of women seeking health care at clinics which have been the target of armed attack leading to deaths.   And they are doing it again, the Supreme Court, bringing a case to overturn a lower court ruling which would open the plaza to protests, a case which they not only bring but will hear. As Bob Garfield notes, the hypocrisy of the Supreme Court justices goes much farther than that and, in the anticipated refusal of the most interested court members to recurse themselves in hearing their own appeal of the case against a student holding a sign on their sacred plaza, that hypocrisy in their free speech absolutist rulings couldn't be more obvious.

One of the worst habits taught by the elite to their young is the sense of entitlement in which their interests and rights are granted an exemption from consistency and integrity and in the Supreme Court members, all of them trained in those institutions that formalize and inculcate that privilege as an official virtue, the inherent hypocrisy of that reaches both its most dangerous form and also the form which exposes the oligarchic charade emblematic of a late stage and decadent empire.

The extent to which Supreme Court justices were supposed to be governed by a sense of civic morality and a sense of honor was naively optimistic to start with. Almost from the beginning the members of the court displayed why that was the case.  Today that same naivety is inexcusable.   In the present day court's lack of honor and civic morality mixed with bald-faced favoring of the wealthy and privileged of their own class has become intolerable.  And they are even allowed to silence those who disapprove of what they do from reaching their sacred notice using the excuse that it might influence them.  Apparently seeing a sign which disagrees with them is more of a dangerous influence on their thinking that paling around with the corporate oligarchs whose cases come before their courts and the lawyers who bring those cases.   And, perhaps from their point of view, they are right.  In some improbable and rare instance they might see things from a vantage point which wouldn't favor their class and their intimate friends and associates.  They might lose a place in the hunting party next season.

The Congress is often accused of being the most corrupt of all the institutions of the federal government, jokes about that go back at least as far as Mark Twain designating them as our indigenous criminal class.  The present day Republican majority in the Congress would certainly earn them the title.   But I think it is actually those bodies which are more removed from the direct election by The People  who have been the source of far more corruption.   And there has not been a worse institution for that then The Supreme Court, the one which is entirely unelected and which has the privilege of exempting itself from the very laws it bends or creates for the rest of the country.  While I think the history of elected state courts proves that direct election of the highest court wouldn't likely improve things, making it illegal for them to exempt themselves from the laws and rules they force on the rest of us, with all of their included dangers and inconveniences, is necessary.  At the very least real laws governing mandatory recusal should be tried.  There are at least two or three sitting on the court who would have likely been forced out of office through their  most outrageous refusal to recuse themselves when there has been the most blatant and obvious conflict of interest.  Way too few of the justices have been removed for their actual and obvious malfeasance for anyone to have any confidence in the legitimacy of the body as it is now.

Friday, October 17, 2014

I Wish I Were Stephen Drury

In the days since I first listened to that Youtube of the astonishingly good pianist and all-round musician, Stephen Drury,  playing  Ives Second Sonata posted here the other day, I've been exploring more Youtubes on his Callithumpian Consort channel, all of it great very little of it music by composers I was familiar with or had heard of.   One of the biggest and most wonderful surprises were the pieces by Rand Steiger conducted by Stephen Drury (he's a really fine AND CLEAR conductor).   One of those is especially moving and troubling while being incredibly beautiful,  A Meancing Plume for a small chamber orchestra and electronics.  I would advise not listening with earphones because the resonance of the piece is rather incredible even on a compressed sound file.  Reading more about Rand Steiger, whose music I'd never heard before, I found these liner notes for a disc with that piece and the other Steiger piece Stephen Drury conducted, Resonateur.   The menacing plume is that which spewed forth from the Deepwater Horizon disaster that BP and lax regulation of the oil industry produced, endangering if not destroying an enormous and important ecosystem.  By the time the electronics take over for a long and chilling wail, relieved after what seems like like hours by the strings, the piece was one of the most compelling ones composed in a long time.

I will be posting other recordings from that channel in the coming week. some old music by composers I'd heard of but wasn't really familiar with, some by composers I'd never heard of before.

It used to be something I'd say that if I could choose someone else to be I might like to be Gunther Schuller, the distinguished composer, conductor, player, educator, scholar, authority on many topics in both modern classical music and jazz.   He was in the generation before me.  If I had to do it today, I sure wish I could be as good a musician as Stephen Drury or, at least, be good enough to be in his group. I haven't been this excited about music in a long time and I tend to get kind of excited about music.

Illiteracy In "The Reality Community"

Ah, you know, if you want to refute my point about what gets the mid-brow college grad into an angry swivet it's probably not your best strategy to get into an angry swivet because I mentioned those things.  And, really, proving you have reading issues (or perhaps it's just truth issues)  as you mischaracterize what was said is not particularly impressive either.

And, you know, my point wasn't that Melville should have put more women in his over-long and too lightly edited novel,


Second Amendment Attacks On Free Speech Are An Ultimate Product of The Free Speech and Media Deregulation Industry

Ann Coulter is famous because she's a smart person without morals who will say anything to make money from those who market racism, sexism, hatred of LGBT folk, who trade in the promotion of paranoia, fear and ignorance for power and profit.  If she were good her moderate intelligence wouldn't have made her rich and famous, a fixture on cabloid TV and other venues of unregulated hate, ignorance and parnoia.   The only thing that is really interesting about her is as a specimen of what the foulest end of free speech absolutism and media deregulation produces, she is the hazardous waste product of those who market those ideas over the common good and The Peoples' right to the truth.   But, vile as she is,  she is just an insignificant side show of the larger, right-wing use of "The First Amendment", ultimately hardly the most dangerous

The seeds that the free speech industry sowed, nurtured by the ACLU and, upon seeing the opportunity it presented to demagogues and oligarchic crooks, Republican Supreme Court justices are coming to maturity, all round us.  And, irony is one of them.  In the recent case of feminists being threatened into silence, the Second Amendment absolutism, sold though First Amendment absolutism, now has the power to silence people, threatening to use what a million cabloid and hate talk radio voices promoted to kill them if they don't shut up. 

The situation in which open carry laws are insanely passed and permitted to stand by right-wing judges is a direct result of media deregulation and a permission for industries, such as the gun industry, to promote their products through saturating the public conversation with lies, paranoia and a false elevation of one right over all others.  Well, as we are finding with that "right" when you make one supreme, ignoring that they exist in human society in tension with other rights of equal if not greater importance, that is a problem.  That it was the power of the pen which led to the power of the semi-automatic proves that the simple, attractive and even elegant formulations of assertions of "The First Amendment" have real life consequences in which the power of the gun, ultimately, wins out. 

If you want to assign ultimate blame for the dangerous mess we're in, you can do worse than looking at the "free speech - free press" advocates of the past half-century, the corners they cut and the inconvenient truths they suppressed. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quick Post: Some Forbidden Thoughts Which Will Reliably Send An English Speaking "Free Thought" Advocate Into An Angry Swivet

- Advocating spelling reform (one of the things that got me among the most angry responses in my brief life as a public writer)

- Coming out as an Esperanto speaker  (Especially sends English speaking monoglots who couldn't reliably order coffee or take directions in another language into a rage.)

- Being religious, of course

- Rejecting the idea that Moby Dick is The Great American Novel (I'm going to be reading Lila, the third of Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" novels,  next week and will review it.  I would say that the first two in the series are far superior to Melville's book.  To start with, unlike that more commonly cited "GAN", it actually has women in it instead of excluding half of The American People.)  To a lesser extent (another book also rather lacking in female characters) Huckleberry Finn.  

-  Doubting the demonstrably illiterate Bard of Avon wrote the plays and poems that constitute the greatest body of work in the English language.

- Taking the self-imposed limits of what science is for, what it can and what it can't do seriously.

- Criticizing modernism, including pointing out some of the horrifically bad things so many icons of modernism have said and done and not pretending that they didn't mean it.

Among the things that going online and reading the unedited thoughts of thousands of "free thinking", educated, moderny types for the past dozen or so years shows me is that many of their most basic ideas about the good and acceptable are no more than mere conventions they learned as a sort of requirement of a sort of club membership.  Not to be questioned and not to be looked at too carefully

Robert Reich Joins The War On The Ivies

If the polls are right, my state may be saddled four more years with what is objectively the worst governor of Maine in living memory, taking that distinction from the formerly worst governor of my state, Jock Mckernan, husband of Olympia Snowe and present president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.   The reason the truly awful Paul LePage was elected, to start with, is the reason he may well be relected with a minority vote,  the independent campaign of Eliot Cutler, a man who has never held elected office but who is a multi-millionaire.   Since this is a continuation of my war against the Ivies, I bring him up to note that his educational CV is Harvard University, Harvard College and Georgetown University Law Center.

I notice that three days after I called for a land-grant grad revolt against the ivy leaguers last week,  one of their own, Robert Reich sort of declared war on the institutions, as well.  In a really eye-opening blog post he started:

Imagine a system of college education supported by high and growing government spending on elite private universities that mainly educate children of the wealthy and upper-middle class, and low and declining government spending on public universities that educate large numbers of children from the working class and the poor.

You can stop imagining. That’s the American system right now.

Government subsidies to elite private universities take the form of tax deductions for people who make charitable contributions to them. In economic terms a tax deduction is the same as government spending. It has to be made up by other taxpayers.

These tax subsidies are on the rise because in recent years a relatively few very rich people have had far more money than they can possibly spend or even give away to their children. So they’re donating it to causes they believe in, such as the elite private universities that educated them or that they want their children to attend.

Private university endowments are now around $550 billion, centered in a handful of prestigious institutions. Harvard’s endowment is over $32 billion, followed by Yale at $20.8 billion, Stanford at $18.6 billion, and Princeton at $18.2 billion.

Each of these endowments increased last year by more than $1 billion, and these universities are actively seeking additional support. Last year Harvard launched a capital campaign for another $6.5 billion.

Because of the charitable tax deduction, the amount of government subsidy to these institutions in the form of tax deductions is about one out of every three dollars contributed.

I wish I had the time to go through various proposals for laws dealing with the establishment and enrichment of these endowments and study those which originated in either the graduates of the Ivies and their equivalent in private universities or from their faculty, in other words, the institutions bending the law in their favor and in the favor of the class they serve.  And they do serve the elite with a handful of plebs thrown in for show and, I'm sure, a means of padding their typical legacy student body with the cream of the lower classes.   Reich goes into quite a bit of detail on that as well, as you can read in his article.

What this means for most of the people who don't go to the ivies and their equivalent is that government policies, clearly set up to favor those elite institutions, amounts to an attack on the public universities and colleges which most of us and our children and loved ones could possibly attend.  And through that attack on the primary vehicle of maintaining and furthering social advancement of working class and poor people, the elite make war on us.  The primary means the elite uses to attack the public universities even as they plunder the public treasury is tax law.

Divide by the relatively small number of students attending these institutions, and the amount of subsidy per student is huge.

The annual government subsidy to Princeton University, for example, is about $54,000 per student, according to an estimate by economist Richard Vedder. Other elite privates aren’t far behind. 

Public universities, by contrast, have little or no endowment income. They get almost all their funding from state governments. But these subsidies have been shrinking.

State and local financing for public higher education came to about $76 billion last year, nearly 10 percent less than a decade before.

Since more students attend public universities now than ten years ago, that decline represents a 30 percent drop per student.  

That means the average annual government subsidy per student at a public university comes to less than $4,000, about one-tenth the per student government subsidy at the elite privates. 

This is an entirely outrageous situation that has certainly had a corrupting effect on our country, exacerbated the rampant, third-world style inequality which has increased in the past half a century since that public school graduate, Lyndon Johnson, launched his abortive War on Poverty.  In passing I will note, yet again, that war was doomed to failure, as no less a figure than The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. pointed out, through the massive spending on the U.S. war in Vietnam which was largely the product of advocacy by men educated in the very elite universities under discussion.  

The Ivy league class has had an unjustifiably large influence on public policy in The United States from before the beginning of the country,  the all too brief period after the G. I. Bill of Rights, perhaps, being a short and partial lessening of that effect of allowing them to privilege themselves and the institutions that service and perpetuate them in power.  They have, mostly, done a terrible job. What they learn in those universities is a sense of entitlement among the rich and means of bending both the ideas promulgated by education and in the media to their advantage, but, worst of all, corrupting the law, making our government one of the rich, for the rich and certainly by the rich.   The role those institutions, enormously subsidized by the working class, the middle class and, yes, even the poor, has been a major corrupting influence in American life. 

Franklin Roosevelt, my nominee, with  Abraham Lincoln as the greatest presidents we have had was a product of the same elite and its universities but one who was proud to claim the title of "class traitor" for his advocacy of economic justice and equality through strengthening public institutions.  Robert Reich would seem to be following a similar path of being a champion of  The People over the Patrician class.   I certainly hope that more will join it, from the ivy class, if they will, but primarily from the far more of us who were educated in the public universities which are under attack just as the public schools are.  I truly believe that one of our own could have prevented this and was on his way to doing so when he was stopped.   Had he rejected the Harvard boys and not gotten mired in Vietnam, I have no doubt but that Lyndon Johnson would have been the hands-down winner of the title he missed out on by listening to the Best and the Brightest. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One of The Best Quotes I've Ever Read On A Blog

One of the best of the early bloggers who wrote with such subtle wit and grace was also one of the early ones to pack it in, whoever it was who wrote  Sully Watch blog. I was thinking of this quote by him, one of the most perfect and succinct formulations of a political ideology that I've read, thinking of including it in a post I'm working on. I finally went and looked it up, taking the, for the most part, pleasure of reading some old posts at his/her blog and remembering those innocent early days, as many as eleven years ago when some of us believed the internet was going to change things for the better.

[Andrew] Sullivan's attitude is emblematic of our definition of a libertarian: One who opposes the infringement of liberties by the government on the grounds that the private sector can do it more efficiently.

Sex Moral And Immoral. And Why Religion Has An Obligation To Address It Realistically

People are gaping in wonder at the recent statements out of the Vatican about welcoming sexually active gay folk into the Catholic church, even as the rules still deem even faithful, loving relationships among gay folk sinful.  Included in the welcoming attitude are groups such as those who married after an unannulled marriage, a group which no less a figure than Jesus noted were committing adultery, he was silent on same-sex sex so far as we know.  

That it is those groups whose unapproved activity is consensual sex between adults were selected for such unwelcoming treatment in the past is a bit of a scandal, in itself.

Considering the other statements of Jesus, love each other, love others as you love yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and consider the activities that have been commonly accepted by the hierarchy which are obviously and inevitably disobedient of those statements.  I'm not only talking about the obvious ones, war, enslavement, discrimination but such things as capitalism, ecnonomic exploitation..... right down to the football teams at Notre Dame "killing" their opponents on the field or the hockey team at Boston College being exhorted by the faithful to do the same.  At the same time bishops and priests were banning politicians from speaking on campus because they supported the right of women to choose legal abortion, something else which Jesus never spoke to and, if I'm not mistaken, is not banned anywhere in the bible, the same bishops, priests, etc. were glorying in the violent sports teams in their Catholic colleges and universities.

Either you really believe what Jesus said is true and you take it more seriously than social convention, or you don't.  And if you don't, also according to his words, you are not one of his followers.  You have to take the ban on doing harm to others more seriously than you do the conventional permission to do ritualized violence, to practice discrimination, unillegalized theft and routine negligence of the poor that is generally accepted in human societies.

It is far easier to come up with sayings of Jesus and the apostles which would make playing violent sports impossible, were they followed, than it is to come up with a reason that a Catholic married to someone who has been divorced should not receive communion and the sacraments.  Jesus shared the first Eucharist with Peter who was about to deny him, the rest of the apostles who would, likewise abandon him and, very possibly, Judas who he knew had betrayed him.   If Jesus had no problem sharing the first Eucharist with them who has the authority to ban anyone who sincerely asks for it?


There are people who were shocked that a gay man who supports full marriage equality could talk about sex the way I do, especially straight folk.  Sex is one of the most problematic and troublesome parts of human life, open to all kinds of temptations because it, as a means of escaping the wrappings of ego,  is also one of the greatest fulfillment and pleasures of life. Sex is an activity that is fraught with both the ability to be a selfless and so sacred act but it has enormous potential to be the occasion of great evil.  Not all sex is good, much of it is sheer evil.  

The most obvious problem is in pregnancy when a child is not wanted or rejected or if a pregnancy is dangerous for the mother or if the parents cannot provide for a child and have no reliable person to provide for a child.  Bringing a child into the world under those conditions is morally problematic in the extreme.   That the Vatican has, up till now, not understood that since people are going to have sex that it is morally responsible to regulate conception is hard proof that there is something very wrong with the traditional view of sexual morality.

And even when conception is prevented, sex is open to being one of the most dangerous of human activities.  The real danger of contracting and passing on sexually transmitted diseases is a very serious moral issue, it always has been.  The horrific death that comes with syphilis and other diseases, the debilitation of those diseases, the terrible potential of passing them on to children born to those with the diseases makes that another venue for sex to be immoral.  And, I will remind people, even with treatment of one STD becomes available, new strains of old ones that resist treatment and entirely new diseases come up.  It is one of the most appalling things about popular culture today,  how that hard lesson, learned through many scores of thousands of deaths and millions of those whose infection blights their lives, is breezily brushed aside in a pursuit of cool, transgressive sexiness and a desire by hack magazine writers to write something that will get buzz and clicks.

Then there is the promotion of sex as a venue of the assertion of power and dominance by a stronger, more manipulative, less morally restrained person, almost always a man, over those who are weaker or who can be made weaker by drugs or physical restraints or economic pressure.  Not to mention through the infliction of violence.  As I will never stop pointing out, you can find that all over the internet, in the case of gay porn, it is the largest expression of hatred of gay men to be found anywhere, entirely secular, championed by the free speech industry and considered to be hotly kewl by even many heterosexuals.  And what you say about men in porn, you can say about women, children and animals.

I will say again that the internalized hatred in gay men is an especially pernicious thing, the most effective means by which the hatred of gay men is perpetuated among ourselves, making us do far worse to ourselves through our agency than straight gay haters do and all in the name of sexual arousal.  Anyone who looks at the language of gay porn, the images of it, the messages of domination and use, abuse, enslavement, objectification and destruction will see exactly what I mean.  In the face of that the alleged purification of "consent" is hardly an adequate means of addressing it.  I could add the sexist imaging and stereotyping, seen by many as an extravagant flower of gay pride but which makes me cringe at the annual "gay pride" parades which make me ashamed to be associated with them, in any way.

It used to be the correct thing to say that rape was not a sexual act but a violent act, which ignores the absolute fact that it is both at once. Rape is another venue for sex to be immoral, it is about sex as it is also about violence, hatred and domination, about the use of a person like an object, the disregard of their rights and dignity on the basis of unequal power, and, in many cases, the permanent damage, disabling and murder of the person who is raped.

I could go on and on as to how human beings use one of the strongest and most pleasurable acts of human experience to do evil but I think the case is clear.

Religion has no choice but to address the evil that is done through sex but it will be prevented from doing that if it mistakes the good that sex can be.  It has been one of the sins of religious authorities that they both condemn the good that sex can be while turning a blind eye to the evil that it can be put to.  That is the substance of the Catholic hierarchies handling of the rape and molestation of children by clergy by the last two popes.  It would seem that Francis has a real opportunity to change that, first and foremost, by acknowledging there is a real difference in different sexual activities and that some are good and some are evil. Discerning that difference makes all the difference.  Now, if only the secular left would do the same.

Live By Monism Die By Monism It's Not My Fault Atheists Have Painted Themselves Into A Corner

Oh, good, someone didn't like me questioning the reality of the first and second dimension under the definitions and rules of materialism and by the recent assertions of atheists in cosmology.   They seem to think that those two dimensions, an intrinsic aspect of mathematics and science as done by human beings, are too insignificant to really give materialism, scientism and so the most common form of atheism that is based in materialism and scientism, any real trouble.  Apparently, denying anything but a materialist monist universe,  using science, and so, also, mathematics, to make their claims, they have some odd belief that mathematics can, nonetheless,  be suspended when found inconvenient.

Well, materialism is a monist system, asserting the ultimate reality of only one essential entity, matter-energy, including the forces and laws that govern their interactions in line with causality.   I don't want to have to simplify it to the Carl Sagan slogan about The Cosmos again, but under materialism that's all there is, was or will be.  Nothing that is not material is to be believed in because it is, by materialist definition, not real.

Unmentioned in that formulation is that what materialists really hold to be the only reality are matter-energy in the only way in which people can talk about those, as they appear to human minds.  It is to be held that the images and what we create in our imagination, the only means we have of thinking about things, is to be held as an absolutely objective view of nature.  They insist on ignoring that reality out of self-serving convenience.  If you don't insist on ignoring that reality, it brings another entity into the mix, consciousness and the various vicissitudes imposed by the actions and the necessities of minds integrating experience.   Which, already, is fatally problematic for materialism.

An aspect of that last problem is that the very science materialism relies on for whatever intellectual support it has is intrinsically reliant on mathematics, which is absolutely and inevitably reliant on assertions containing the concepts of the first and second dimensions, as well as other dimensions necessary for matter-energy and the physical forces and laws which are demonstrable only in the context of moving objects.  You can't decide that you can dump those parts of mathematics without bringing the entire system into question, certainly as it is applied to an understanding of space and objects in space, of movement and force which is measurable only in space in three dimensions.

Without at least three dimensions objects can't exist and the energy and forces which are the substance of materialist reality can't exist, they couldn't be real. [Note, in a quantum view of the universe time must enter into it.  The view of particles as waves requires that there be time for a wave to wave, as one witty scientist once put it.]   In a one or two dimension universe, none of those things could exist, in those universes they would be imaginary objects, only, since there is no reason to believe that conscious beings could exist in those universes, there would be no one to imagine them.  Well, not unless consciousness and imagination are not material.

They can't have it both ways.  They can't assert materialism, no, not even if they rename it "naturalism" or "physicalism" and still have the first and second dimensions being real.  Materialism is, mostly, in the business of declaring things to not exist, in general culture that would seem to be the entire purpose of materialism and it is certainly its motive when it invades science.  They don't get to draw a line and forbid people from crossing it, banning the raising of these questions merely because they are massively inconvenient and embarrassing to them.

The problems of materialist monism are self-imposed by the radical reduction of what is called real under its rigid ideology.   I'm not to blame for a situation they set up and I'm not responsible for the fact that an honest consideration of its implications will often show up fatal problems with it.

If you can tell me what was wrong with my questions or the conclusions I drew about it for atheism, scientism and materialism, I'll listen to it, but I won't stop talking about it in the absence of a successful explanation or refutation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Charles Ives The Unanswered Question

Michael Tilson Thomas
Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Note:  While Youtube is a great resource for trying out new music, such as public radio in the United States is no longer, the sound isn't comparable to what you'll get on a well-produced CD.  I use it mostly to find out what I should buy on disc or, even better, try to get to hear, live and in person.  That's especially true with performances as fine a the one by Stephen Drury I posted yesterday. While envy is a deadly sin, I can't help envying the people who were there to hear it live.

Your Provocative Idea For Tuesday Are the First and Second Dimensions Real And Why That Is A Problem For Atheism

What someone who writes things for public consumption thinks are their best ideas and what other people think about it isn't necessarily the same.  I had a comment on an old post I did which I thought had a rather good argument demonstrating a problem with many of the assertions of "the multi-verse" and the materialism which that "multi-verse" was invented to protect against the non-scientific but rather persuasive argument from fine-tuning for the existence of God, The Creator.   I don't have any arguments against the argument, though I have qualms about making up your mind about whether God is The Creator of the universe based on a belief in the products of cosmology and physics  at any given time.   The constancy of physics and, especially, cosmology isn't the rock that they are presented as being.  But that will get me into the observation of Rupert Sheldrake that the measurement of some of the constants of physics, when subjected to actual observation instead of dogmatic assertion prove to be rather inconstant and even fluctuating over the years.

The argument I made against the materialists assertion that there were jillions of universes and that a number of those installed in their multi-universe ensemble, perhaps jillions of them, were one and two dimensional universes.  It never occured to me before I wrote the piece to look at the possibility of there being a first and second dimension if the material cosmos was all there was and all there will ever be.  While their existence in this 3+ dimensional universe is problematic, so long as you insist on the form of materialism most often encountered* it becomes even more problematic of you are going to insist that entire universes are one and two-dimensional.  I think the insistence on those dimensionally challenged universes leads to far more problems for materialism than the argument from fine tuning does for religion.  I don't see any way out of it for materialists which doesn't risk the entire mathematical basis for the assumption that science gives an objective view of the universe instead of one which has limited power to allow humans to cope with their experience of it.

Anyway, I liked this piece and I'm going to repost it in the hope that at least the commentator who addressed the question while admitting to not reading the post will take the time to read it.

Do the 1st and 2nd Dimensions Really Exist?  Materialist Ideology as a Pollution Source of Science:  Now With Fun Ideas

The anti-religious motivations of many well known materialists within science are seldom far from the surface of their theories.   These days, as the debates I've recommended this week have featured, one such theory that is that of "the" mulitverse, explicitly, proposed to deny the possibility of a Creator of the universe.   You don't have to take that on my authority,  here's what the hero of so many new atheist-"skeptics", the late Martin Gardner said:

The MWI should not be confused with a more recent concept of a multiverse proposed by Andrei Linde, a Russian physicist now at Stanford University, as well as by a few other cosmologists such as England’s Martin Rees. This multiverse is essentially a response to the anthropic argument that there must be a Creator because our universe has so many basic physical constants so finely tuned that, if any one deviated by a tiny fraction, stars and planets could not form-let alone life appear on a planet. The implication is that such fine tuning implies an intelligent tuner.

The pure vessel of science is supposed to be filled with evidence and logic,  not ideological spin.   Or so the PR of science has it.   What these scientists are doing, inserting their materialist ideology into science, is supposed to be forbidden, a prohibition that I fully endorse.     And  it would be forbidden if it wasn't the preferred ideology of atheists that is so inserted.   And in that,  one of the biggest pillars in the public image of science as it is supposed to be is contradicted by science as it really is.   Atheists are the foremost polluters of science these days,  they have been at it pretty much non-stop for the last couple of centuries.   Whether eugenics, abiogenesis, evo-psy,  "exo-biology", and even theoretical physics, the anti-religious motivation is, over and over, explicitly stated by atheists within science.   As seen in the debates I've been recommending, they explicitly present science as an attack on religious belief*.   That much of the science surrounding these ideologically motivated ideas eventually turns out to be as durable as Young Earth Creationism never seems to register in the attention of even the specialists of the history of science.  By the time such science is demoted to "science" and denied, it gets taught in schools, built upon and promulgated in the wider culture.  Even as scientists decide that such shenanigans are not to be remembered,   the public remembers and the reputation of science suffers.   Not a little of the disrepute that science finds itself in is due to that kind of ideological bait and switch.**

When a scientist spills the beans as to their ideological motivation  you would think it would caution extra care in reviewing their work, but that is never done when the ideology is atheistic, or, generally,  materialistic.  Why that ideological insertion in science is ignored even as covert religious fundamentalist infiltration  is wildly asserted in the absence of evidence and the certainty that any attempt would be immediately discovered and the guilty thrown out in infamy,  is a clue as to some of the weaker aspects of science as a cultural and intellectual phenomenon.

One of the things I've heard said about the jillions of muliti-universes that are proposed to keep us safe from God is that many, perhaps an infinite number of those universes are one or two-dimensional universes.   I had heard that said for a long time before I started thinking of what that idea implies.   The assertion of the reality of the first and second dimensions raises some curious questions for materialists.

If only matter and energy are real then do the first and second dimensions really exist?   I mean even in our universe, never mind in imagined ones where those are the only dimensions.  Neither could contain matter as matter is known in materialism, which is three dimensional.  I'd ask what physical properties such universes could have, only without the necessary space and matter how can there be physical properties?    And what about time?   Is there some special dispensation given to negate what is believed about time coming into existence with matter and space?   How would anything that could possibly be said on the basis of our physics be known to hold as true in one or two dimensions?   How can physics be relevant to such universes?

I'd wondered about whether or not one or two dimensions could really exist in the curved space that I was taught we really exist in from when I was in high school, though not enough to see if physics had any answers to that question.  If space is curved by mass in the universe then what is the relevance for our physics to universes that can contain no mass?  I say "answers" in the plural because, over time, I've come to expect that science will have more than one answer to questions like those.

Isn't it most likely that the first and second dimensions are merely inventions of human imagination, means we use to impose order on the universe of our perceptions and manipulate intentionally with our mathematics just as we invent units of measure?   And if that's true, what conclusions does that force about the absolute reality of all of the mathematics and science that uses those concepts.   And just about all of science does make reference to those dimensions.   And if they are real, what does that do to the foundational definition of materialism?  Could it be that the useful concept of dimensionality is an artificial reduction of a complete reality that isn't wholly known?   Does referring to it produce a biased view of nature that is merely conventional?  OK, I'll stop posing these fun, though serious,  questions with that one.  For now.

The atheist extraordinaire of my youth,  Bertrand Russell,  in his Autobiography, recounts how his older brother proposed to teach him geometry and began in the common way by giving him the propositions and axioms of Euclid.   His brother told him that those couldn't be proved and had to be accepted.  The seedling iconoclast asked him why he should accept them.  The answer was that they couldn't go on unless he did.   It's hardly ever mentioned that the entire edifice of  mathematics and science are based on things that just have to be believed and, as you learn when you take physics in high school, that some of those things are not really the way that the universe works.   Though the discrepancy between plane geometry and its mathematical derivations and modern physics were never filled in anywhere in most peoples' educations.  I'll bet not one in a thousand of the big mouthed, enormously egoed blog atheists could even conceive of these issues, never mind cope with an explanation if one was proffered.   I'm absolutely confident that most of the big names in organized "skepticism"-atheism couldn't do more than mock them in an attempt to make them go away.

I think that's the same thing that the scientists who invent multi-universe theory are doing on a more detailed level.  Or, at least, I wonder if that's what they're doing.   And you can ask the same question about one assertion after another made by scientists, very often atheists and materialists, very often in theoretical science with little to no evidence available,  very often with their explicit declarations of their anti-religious intentions.  Very often doing what they accuse the religious of doing, inserting their ideological beliefs into science, on the basis of their authority***.


I can guarantee you that the response to his would be to point out the use of cosmological and scientific ideas within religion,  exactly what William Lane Craig was doing in those debates.  BUT THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT IT ISN'T AGAINST ANY RULE OF RELIGION TO DO THAT.  There is nothing in religion to prevent the use of any and even every idea that science holds and proposes.   That isn't a two way door.  Science can only deal with those parts of the material universe that are susceptible to its methodology, it can't import ideology into science without violating its rules.  Or, rather, that's supposed to be one of the things that preserves the reliability of the product of science.   The use of mental Venn diagrams to produce an analysis such as Gould's NOMA is, actually deceptive.   Science is far, far more restricted than most other activities that human beings engage in but those other activities, including religion, aren't  restricted in consulting science in the same way.

People who believe in a Creator of the universe believe that that Creator made everything as it is, in all of its detail, in every way.  No matter what people know about the way the universe is at any point in time,  such a belief includes everything in the universe, even what is unknown, or misunderstood.   So most religious people actually accept the reality of  the things science studies.   The universe belongs to religion as much as it does to science.

In fact, since religion can include aspects of the universe that science can't process, including many human experiences of it, religion can claim more of the universe than science can.  So can history, so can philosophy, so can any other discipline that is so constituted.   The arrogant assertion of  scientific hegemony over the entire universe extending far, far past where science can actually go, such is made by so many scientists today and, even more so, by the ignorant fan boys of science is a symptom of ignorance as to the most basic realities of what science is, what it was invented to do.  The fact is that its essential methods don't allow it to exceed those bounds without producing damaged, unreliable goods.   As disappointments mount, as those products fail, as the massive ideological and professional corruption of science and scientists becomes more apparent,  the public understanding of what science has become will not be to the liking of scientists.

Tragically, the resulting disrepute leaves some of the most essential science surrounding topics such as climate change vulnerable to corporate attack.   Of course, the scientists who work for the oil and gas industries,  seen shilling for global warming on TV 24 hours a day will make out.   For the time being.   Their colleagues will be too professionally polite to condemn them for that, in contrast to the massive ridicule and condemnation of religious scientists that is all the fashion these days.

* I won't write natural selection in the list because Charles Darwin, himself, said that his theory was not incompatible with religion,  though his followers, beginning with Francis Galton and Thomas Huxley and down to today have used it as a weapon against religious belief.   Alfred Russell Wallace, who very likely came up with the idea before Darwin did (and there's a hornets nest to kick over in that story) certainly didn't see it as disallowing belief in the supernatural.    The misuse of science  in atheist polemics by scientists is hardly ever considered to be a problem for the public acceptance and understanding of science, though it is one of the clearest violation of the alleged control mechanisms of science and makes trouble for the political existence of science.   The ideological motives of such materialists should be considered far more problematic because the history of science shows that such ideological distortion has been a problem.

**  As to assertions without adequate evidence, the literature of science is filled with them, especially the literature of popular science writing. Carl Sagan's list of the "best contemporary science-popularizers" includes E.O. Wilson, Lewis Thomas, and Richard Dawkins, each of whom has put unsubstantiated assertions or counterfactual claims at the very center of the stories they have retailed in the market. Wilson's Sociobiology and On Human Nature5 rest on the surface of a quaking marsh of unsupported claims about the genetic determination of everything from altruism to xenophobia. Dawkins's vulgarizations of Darwinism speak of nothing in evolution but an inexorable ascendancy of genes that are selectively superior, while the entire body of technical advance in experimental and theoretical evolutionary genetics of the last fifty years has moved in the direction of emphasizing non-selective forces in evolution. Thomas, in various essays, propagandized for the success of modern scientific medicine in eliminating death from disease, while the unchallenged statistical compilations on mortality show that in Europe and North America infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and diphtheria, had ceased to be major causes of mortality by the first decades of the twentieth century, and that at age seventy the expected further lifetime for a white male has gone up only two years since 1950. Even The Demon-Haunted World itself sometimes takes suspect claims as true when they serve a rhetorical purpose as, for example, statistics on child abuse, or a story about the evolution of a child's fear of the dark. 

Richard Lewontin:  Billions and Billions of Demons 

*** An especially interesting interesting case is the attack made on the Big Bang theory by John Maddox, the prominent and openly ideological editor of Nature,  one of the most prestigious scientific magazines in the world.   The rejection of ideas within science can be based in their being problematical for materialism and atheism as well.   Maddox used his position in the culture of science to attack ideas that he believed were insufficiently materialistic.

Maddox, J.: 1989, 'Down with the Big Bang,' Nature 340

*  Actually, in my experience they are problematic in ALL expressions of materialism-"physicalism"-"naturalism" that I've ever encountered.  I'm merely covering my nether regions because no one can possibly know all of the remarkably varied and most certainly not identical forms of materialism that are articulated.  If that poly-materialism isn't the same alleged fatal problem for materialism that poly-theism is asserted to be for religion, I'd like to know why not.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Charles Ives The Concord Sonata Stephen Drury

Stephen Drury, piano; Jessi Rosinski, flute

There are sonatas in the piano repertoire which even very fine pianists don't play in public or even get around to studying.  I wouldn't include myself as anywhere near those ranks but I have my regrets in that area.  The Dukas sonata is one I'd love to learn but which is so huge that the expenditure of time was impossible for me.   Even within the common standard repertoire, you can add the late Beethoven Sonatas to that list.  Even some of the earlier ones.  Someone once asked me if I'd ever played "The Appassionata"  which has been played so often by so many greater musicians that I don't see much use in me trying*.  Luckily, Beethoven supplied lots of sonatas that don't get nearly enough exposure so we mere workmen can avoid extensive comparison to our loss.

During my time at the university, I once spent a couple of months during summer with Ives' great Concord Sonata even as I knew I wouldn't be performing it.  Of all the piano players I've known, many better than I ever was, only one attempted to play the piece and did a credible job with it.   I will never perform it but I've decided to take up the next year studying it, again.  I learned an enormous amount about music and life from it the last time.  And for the non-musician it has so much to offer, all you have to do is listen to it, find what you can hear and be swept along with Ives' great and fantastic mind.  Every time I hear someone new playing it, every time I hear the same recordings I've been listening to for decades, I hear things I never heard before.   Mahler was said to have wanted to make music so big that the entire universe was contained in it.  While that idea of the universe is absurdly inadequate, Charles Ives included so much more than Mahler ever even imagined.

* It's like when someone approached me about forming a community chorus.  After thinking over what I'd like to do with one I got back to her and her response was, "But I thought you'd,  you know, sing show tunes".   Why anyone would want to sing or hear songs sung to death by professionals when they could learn something new is something I will never get.  I hope.  And, no, I'm living proof that not all gay men love show tunes, I HATE THEM, HATE THEM, HATE THEM!    Needless to say. that project didn't come off.

Update:  On reading the comments at Youtube:  It's one of the funniest things how people who make such asses of themselves hatin' on "modern music" which they hate believe they are being clever by doing, so repetitively and predictably, even as they prove they are too stupid to avoid something they hate.

A smart person who hates "modern music" doesn't listen to it, they don't merely parrot such previous idiots who said the same things they do to display their non-erudition.  

Update 2:   OK, I've been unable to put this down and have listened to it three times today.  This is the best performance of this piece I've heard.  This is great music making of the highest quality.

Answers To Unpublished Comments

The main point of the article I posted Saturday is that in almost all cases in North America and in the English language media in general, when we talk about the position of women, LGBT folk, religious and other minority groups in "Muslim countries", the real welfare of those people is almost never the real motive of the discussion or even the focus of it.   Those are, effectively, never discussed in a way that would make the lives of people living there better, in the real climate in which the exercise of their rights and the observation of their dignity will really exist.

We always and arrogantly ignore the reality of what is possible in those places, pretending, with no justification in history or current events, that we can imagine them into some western context.   Real women in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere will continue to live in the places they live, with the people they live with.  They won't be magically transported into little bubbles of Paris or New York or London which will float through their cities and countries safe from being impinged on by the ambient culture.   What is possible in reality is the limit under which any improvements can happen in those places AND THAT IS NOT IN OUR HANDS TO DETERMINE.  The people living there have their own ideas based in their own experiences in their own commuities, countries and culture.  They've continued on just as long as we in the west have and they have a long history of bad treatment by westerners bad enough so they're really not that into us and really not into what negative ideas we think of them*.

That those self-denominated champions of realism present their Never-land scenarios in the context they make their claims in, such as the American and British entertainment industries,  should be the beginning of realizing they aren't really interested in the lives of those women or gay folk.   No, their song and dance on this issue uses them as a tool in their entirely western war against religion for an American and western audience who also don't really care about the rights of women, etc. in the real context in which what possible progress that can REALLY be made could be made.

The hate campaign of the Mahers, the Harrisses, etc. are certainly counterproductive in a REAL attempt to improve those peoples' lives.  Anything associated with those haters will be counterproductive. certainly the Brit-American style atheism that has made hating Muslims one of its mainstays will be far worse than merely counterproductive, it incites backlash with its every word and publicity stunt.

The stupid campaign of drawing offensive pictures of Muhammad is a good example.  It had nothing to do with improving the conditions under which people live in Islamic countries, it was a bratty "we'll show you" demonstration that in the west even the most irresponsible and ignorant "speech" is allowed, even as it has the potential to get lots of people in Islamic countries and elsewhere killed.  It had nothing, whatsoever to do with making the lives of anyone better except, the lives and careers of the ignorant, publicity seeking eternally adolescent jerks who started the thing.  And they were too ignorant, uniformed and stupid to realize that the fire they were lighting could burn them when they jumped up and down saying,  "Look at me, look what I can do!"

That was my point and it was a lot more serious than whether or not Maher is an asshole because lives are at stake.  Those who will be killed quickly, those who languish in quiet desperation not on American cabloid TV.

*  The complete dishonesty and disingenuousness of the cable TV atheist jerks can be seen in how, even as they launch their intellectual war on Islam - not to mention those such as Hitchens and Harris who advocated actual wars and nuclear obliteration - so many of the same jerks make the rote recitation of "The Crusades" in their short litany of crimes of Christianity and religion in general.  It's as if they don't really care that that crime -  a violation and negation of the gospel of Jesus I will insert - was actually waged against the ancestors of today's Muslims, who held the same religion which was the motive for the original Crusades they pretend to care about.   That their modern version of it enjoys atomic weapons, modern conventional weapons and communications and planning provided by the object of their worship, science, means that if they get their way the body count of the original Crusades will be dwarfed.

Note:  As Maher's goal of getting himself and his atheist buds attention seems to have worked, I suspect more will be said about this.

UPDATE:  Of course all of this current hatin' on the Muslims when it's Maher who's leading the hate will turn on a dime when it's some officially right winger, some FOX fixture of some self-appointed Reverend who is doing the hatin' and the same people who support Maher and Harrises hate talk will suddenly become lovers of Muslims.  Just to reinforce the fact that those guys don't care about what happens in Muslim countries and are all about what happens here and which side HERE they are on in the "saw tooth" flow of the zeitgeist, to reference one of Richard Dawkins' more asinine analyses.