Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sojourner Truth Will Tell Us More About How To Make Progress than Sam Harris

In the paper by Thomas Lessl which I recommended the other day, he has amply demonstrated that even some of the most renowned and respected scientists have foisted a frequently false, absurdly reductionist view of the famous trial of Galileo for clearly ideological purposes.

One of the most striking things about that is how little the actual man, Galileo Galilei, is part of their morality play. He, as much as the other people and events of those accounts, is entirely distorted and made to serve purposes that the real man, as found in his own words, would have rejected.   He was a firmly committed religious believer, a Christian, a Catholic who would certainly not have welcomed being turned into a tool of modern atheists in their attacks on Christianity and the scriptures which he obviously had read and taken seriously. Anyone who has done what almost no scientist has, read Galileo on the topic of religion, could never mistake him as an atheist.

Copernicus, who is presented in even more crude a fashion would certainly have rejected the role he's cast in by modern atheists considering that he was at least a minor cleric in real life (some say he was ordained but I haven't been able to confirm that) and that his scientific work was encouraged by, sponsored by and in some cases commissioned by the Catholic Church.  Anyone who read Copernicus's De Revolutionibus would know better than that as he dedicated it to Pope Paul III and mentioned the encouragement he had had from cardinals and bishops, including a letter of encouragement from Nicholas Schönberg, Cardinal of Capua.

As mentioned, the religious, neo-pagan mystic, Giordano Bruno is transformed into a modern scientist instead of the guy who used his own version of Copernicus to support his heretical ideas, the thing he was actually burned at the stake for, there being no Church position on the Copernican system until a number of years after he died.

The extent to which the habits of scientists to reduce, extract, abstract and characterize specimens from human experience and real life are at work in this man handling of people and history is worth considering.  The very habits of science lead to finding very generalized truths about very simple things and there is nothing simple in history, human lives of specific human beings and their actions in societies and institutions and in time.  The extent to which scientists can confidently assert their totally distorted and stereotyped characters and scenarios tell us anything about reality is quite shocking when you read the paper and other accounts from scientists about the Galileo trial, holding it up against the actual evidence we have for that.  And the role that the arrogance into which scientists are acculturated plays a role in that, as well.

As is so often the case, even eminent scientists demonstrate their disrespect for history, historical accuracy, the certain evidence of the primary documentary material relevant to the case, including that WRITTEN BY THE VERY GALILEO AND COPERNICUS in order that other people understand what they believe, who they use as heroes in their myths.  Which is odd, considering that scientists are held up as heroes in a mythological quest for truth and respect for evidence.  Only, as the history of science shows, they're, if anything, as if not more fast and loose with that when they figure they can get away with outside of their professional publication and as it serves the ideology they share with their colleagues and admirers.  That they are ready to lie about those things is troubling.   Their disrespect for historical accuracy is especially troubling, considering the power of the things they manipulate and the absurd and unquestioning reverence even many of them expect to be shown to them.  It is one of the most dangerous of all modern delusions that could end up getting us all killed.


Lessl ends his paper by saying:

To expect the scientific culture to offer a more balanced view of these events might be reasonable, but it would be unrealistic.  Those who promulgate scientific folklore are not only naive historians but also partisan political actors who are little motivated to alter longstanding narrative conventions which serve to uphold their interests.  Moreover, the values that are championed in the Galileo legend are shared with the broader culture of modernism.  Modernity looks to the scientific culture as a kind of moral exemplar which upholds in some ideal fashion its values of rationalism, liberalism, and individualism.  The more general culture of modernism is similarly unlikely to protest such aberrations of historical consciousness because it shares with science a belief in binary oppositions between reason and faith, knowledge and authority, and between Scripture and the light of nature.

Being a political blogger the extent to which science upholds liberalism and even individualism have turned out to be important to what I write about.  And I don't think it is reliably helpful in either case.  I have come to see that through Darwinism but, more generally, through materialism both the view of human beings as free thinking individuals having a status as a locus of rights and moral responsibilities has been damaged by science.  And even more so, the political liberalism that is a moral necessity of that status held by people is undermined by the assumption that people as thinking beings, their minds, their lives can become the subjects of science.  The history of psychology, sociology, anthropology, when falsely granted the status of science, gives no one any reason for confidence on that count.

I think the role of science and modernism in necessarily leading to liberalism is amply disproved by the actual history of both of them.  Modernism was compatible with the most oppressive political movements of the 20th century, even that one most generally given as the greatest example of right wing dictatorships, Nazism and fascism, and the ones mistaken as being nearer to liberalism on the imaginary line of political identity, Stalinism, Maoism and other forms of Marxism.   Science was certainly compatible with all of those and anything which scientists will work for.   Nazi science was no less science than science done under the Roosevelt administration, the science done for Stalin was, as well, totally acceptable as science.  Science gave Stalin The Bomb, and to Mao and whatever regime governs Pakistan, secular or, perhaps sooner than we'd like to think of, an Islamic fundamentalist government.  Science sold that ability to the Kim regime in North Korea.

Science is morally fungible, independent of the moral character of the regime, corporation or individual who gets hold of it.  It has no moral character and can take on whatever one it is associated with.  Scientists have not proven to be of any higher moral character than anyone else and even the most morally admirable of them will publish and make their science available to the most morally reprehensible person who ever lived.  To endow it and its professionals with the halo of morality is insanely unrealistic.

The association of liberalism with science and with modernism is not supported by looking hard at the common received wisdom that it is the product of those things.  You have to be willing to look at the original source materials of the case, virtually all of the secondary academic writing on that buys into an ideological distortion of that history and the tertiary level junk that is derived from that, what informs the popular level of atheism today, is totally false rubbish.  I think this is what led to liberalism being hollowed out and turned into the plaything of idiotic ideologues instead of a means of gaining office and changing laws.  And the results have been the disaster of the past half century, as the materialists took over from the Reverends and those whose political activism were informed by the Prophets and the Gospels.   It was the story of the children of Israel escaping bondage from the Egyptians, the greatest technological and political center of the time, which fueled the great civil rights struggles. Sojourner Truth can be profitably compared to Thomas Huxley on that count. Nevermind Richard Dawkins and others undermining the very basis of liberalism through destroying the possibility of believing in  individualism.

More to come.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Money Jungle

Duke Ellington, piano
Charles Mingus, bass
Max Roach, drums

The power and genius of those three together is right up to the edge of too intense.

Update:  Wig Wise

Halsey Stevens - Trumpet Sonata

Chad Winkler, trumpet
Rebecca Wilt, piano

Here's another performace, if you want to read the music as you listen.

Allegro moderato

II  Adagio tenero

III  Allegro

Wynton Marsalis,  trumpet
Judith Lynn Stillman, piano

I can't say that I don't prefer the first one, though it's always good to be reminded of what a great classical trumpet player Wynton Marsalis is.   Stillman obviously had the piano mic set more advantageously, too.  Rebecca Wilt did an excellent job.  It's not easy to accompany a trumpet.

Triumph Of The Shills

Update:   I can't get the idea out of my head, those marine snipers decorating their club room with Nazi images, clearly identifying with them.  My father was a marine in the Second World War, he was wounded in action fighting the very people that marines today are identifying with as heroes.  Something in that is seriously screwed up, as well as a country that could allow something that would be illegal in Germany, today. 

That post I did the other day about the fact that the "American Sniper", Chris Kyle was proven in a court of law to have been a liar and was likely a massive liar in several other tall tales he told all involving him killing lots of people, illegally, even Americans on American soil, got a bit of flack.   I was challenged on not having seen the movie, though nothing I wrote about would have required having seen the movie, my topics being 1. that Kyle was a liar, which is not open to question, it being a fact as found in a court of law and 2. that Clint Eastwood was a total and dangerous crackpot and that he'd been a crackpot for decades, his film career encouraging the spread of his style of macho-violent, I would say openly fascistic, insanity.

Well, now we have Michael Moore confirming the story that Eastwood openly and, apparently, unprovoked threatened to kill him in front of an audience.

“Michael Moore and I actually have a lot in common,” Eastwood said from the stage. “We both appreciate living in a country where there’s free expression. But, Michael, if you ever show up at my front door with a camera, I’ll kill you.”

Moore corroborated the Examiner‘s story, saying that he laughed nervously along with the rest of the audience, thinking Eastwood was making a joke.

“Having just experienced a half-dozen assaults in the previous year from crazies upset at Fahrenheit 9/11 and my anti-war Oscar speech, plus the attempt by a right wing extremist to blow up my house (he was caught in time and went to prison), I was a bit stunned to hear Eastwood, out of the blue, make such a violent statement,” Moore wrote.

However, he stated, the audience’s mood changed when Eastwood repeated the threat, saying, “I mean it. I’ll shoot you.”

Moore compared Eastwood’s remarks to not only statements made by conservative commentators like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, but the torrent of criticism he has received since referring to snipers as “cowards” in response to Eastwood’s most recent movie, American Sniper.

“This past week or so of hysterical attacks on me only proves that the American lovers of violence and the issuers of fatwas in OUR society haven’t gone away,” Moore wrote. “They are our American Isis – ‘Criticize or mock those whom we deify, like our sainted sniper, and we will harm you most assuredly.’”

On top of that I listened to this statement by Noam Chomsky about the media treatment of the movie, glowing reviews in the New York Time and The New Yorker, etc.

That the NYT review which he read from began by slamming "coastal intelligensia"  AS IT WAS PUBLISHED IN NEW YORK CITY  shows that they don't even try to make it cohere anymore, they just push buttons.

For media of the stature of the New York Times and The New Yorker to push the heroism of a massive liar and fascist, who, if he were not lying murdered people in the dozens if not more, pushing fascist propaganda is stunning even for those of us who don't really expect much more from the fraudulently sold upper end of the corporate media.   The New York Times sold the invasion of Iraq with lies, after all, they are up to their expensive hair cuts in blood.

Chomsky's noting that there is a clear cult of Nazism within the military sniper "community" is especially disturbing.   If that is known and the president doesn't make an attempt to de-Nazify the military, we are in a lot more trouble than I thought before.

Hollywood is leading us into the abyss,  Hollywood and the free press who have been given a license to lie.  They're using it to lead this country to fascism as certainly as those members of the German, Italian and Japanese elites and intelligentsias who led those countries into fascism beginning just about ninety four years ago in promotion of nationalism and the deification of their respective military cults.

That Snow Shoveling Did Me In I'll Post Something New Later

In the mean time, here's a piece I wrote a long time ago, which I had occasion to go look for.  It didn't get a lot of notice, it only dealing with people getting killed due to shoddy public works projects instead of the sexploits of some Hollywood figure or whatever it is that's buzzing today.   I think it stands up disturbingly well, I mean we've had a Democratic president talking about infrastructure for the past six years, not that anything's getting much done with the "divided government" that the stupid media occasionally still goes on in praise of.  I believe I reposted it after the I-35 bridge disaster in Minnesota.  We really learned from that one, didn't we.

 I was going to write a followup to this piece in light of this weeks bridge disaster and the soon to be laid aside interest in bridge inspection and repair. However, that wasn't possible. The reason the matter, clearly a matter of saving lives this week, will be laid aside is due to the collusion of conservative politicians and the media which supports them. It is the "tax and spend" chanters who have brought us to this. While it is profitable for their campaign supporters to build an enormous and complex infrastructure, it costs money to do do it right in the first place and to maintain and eventually replace a superannuated structure. That's when the howls of the right wing begin and responsible voices are silenced.

Irresponsible Corporate Media Makes Responsible Government Impossible

The Boston Globe had a column by David Luberoff last year which clearly explains the origins of the emerging Big Dig disaster. He points out that the project, originally funded through the federal highway system, lost a lot of its federal support half-way through. Instead of facing that reality, the politicians in Massachusetts didn't make up the difference with state and local taxes and tolls. One of the truest things in life is that while you often don't get what you pay for, you never get what you don't pay for. You know that's true when you are dealing with a large corporation like Bechtel with armies of bean counters making sure that they get maximum profits from their projects.

What went wrong in the face of warnings by people who knew what they were talking about - Massachusetts has probably the highest percentage of those on the continent- is just beginning to be studied. While they are looking at that I hope someone will look into the more general political atmosphere that led to the bad decisions. I don't only mean the steady stream of Republican governors during most of the Big Dig.

Given their refusal to monitor themselves for accuracy and responsibility, we won't get the media's role in promoting gross irresponsibility in politicians. At least not from them. But it really does largely fall on the media. Through call-in shows, wise-guy on-air personalities, connected owners and those who have created today's media sewer, anyone who steps up and tells the truth, "You want this done, you are going to have to pay for it," gets their head handed to them. They make lying and dereliction of duty requirements for retaining a political office or civil service job. Reporting with enough time or column space to really explain an issue costs more while the truths uncovered are insufficiently entertaining to maximize profits. And some of those truths might be most unwelcome at the club.

The Republican Party, who used to pride themselves on responsibility, now specialize in this kind of winning through lying. With the media fully in support they tell lies designed to win elections. Most people have a weakness for believing what they want to hear. The busy public, without the technical knowledge or time to look at the details buys the lies until reality strikes and they can't ignore it any longer. How else do you think Bush I lost to Bill Clinton despite the insane press adulation following Bush War I and the war they waged against Clinton as soon as it was clear he had a chance to win?

But if you want good government, safe and effective civil engineering projects, the rest of the benefits that only government can deliver, then we can't wait for the disaster to deliver the real news. The cost in lives, time and remedial action are multiplied many times by the lies and propaganda spread by the media.

The often repeated line, "Good, fast or cheap. Pick two." sums up the current political climate that this irresponsibility has produced. But as the Big Dig is beginning to prove, good is the only way to get faster and cheaper. Maybe the same applies to news media getting it right. But getting it right isn't what today's profit-driven and cynically self-interested media is all about.

The Globe had an article in which Michael Dukakis defends his administration's role in the Big Dig. Having read about the project from its beginning, he makes a good case. But Dukakis is just a boring detail guy the press rejected two decades ago

I Was Hoping For That

My friend, RMJ, has written a very good blog post on the paper by Thomas Lessl I linked to yesterday.  It makes some very good points.  I'll have something to say about the paper myself but am still thinking about it. 

One of my motives in blogging isn't to just say things for people to agree with, if they already think the same things I do, of course that is gratifying but it's not worth asking people to just read things they already think.  I'm hoping we can find a better way to go to change things for the better, something we haven't found yet.  I've come to conclude that when that's happened in the past it was not through what's currently considered liberal of left, which is so often a betrayal of the legitimate goals of liberalism, the continuation of life with a just distribution of goods and the good of life on an equal basis.  Anything that leads in that direction is good, that is the discussion and action I hope to be a part of. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gerald Clayton - Dusk Baby

If I didn't convince you to buy Gerald Clayton's Life Forum album last night, maybe this sweet, sad song can convince you.   He's a fine composer, arranger and player and the performances on this album are all great.

Leo Sowerby - Toccata

Philip Amalong, piano

Listening to that piece by Staeps, I remembered that back in December in the Magnificat series, I'd said I was going to post more music by Leo Sowerby.  This is one of the pieces I meant.

Hans Ulirch Staeps - Sonata

Laurice Shen - recorders
Ding-Heng Wu - piano

I love these young players playing a piece by a composer I don't know much about.   German neo-classical style isn't my favorite style of music but I like this.

Reports of Me Breaking My Neck Might Not Follow

I have got a ton of snow to move from a roof today and I won't have any time to write.  I've been reading and re-reading this excellent article, The Galileo Legend As Scientific Folklore by Thomas M. Lessl and recommend it over anything I'd write on the topic.   Especially interesting, to me, were his analysis of Fred Hoyle's and Bertrand Russell's use of what scientists and others turned the history of Galileo's problems with Pope Urban VIII, Giordano Bruno and the rest of it into.   Lessl analyzed dozens of accounts by scientists. science writers and found in science textbooks and found that all of them botched the history and botched it for clearly ideological purposes, imposing false assumptions about the state of astronomical knowledge at the time, frames of reference and expectation that wouldn't be invented for several centuries, etc.

It was one of the most annoying things about the Seth MacFarlane-Neil Degrasse Tyson "Cosmos" event last year that when historical inaccuracies contained in it were brought out, Tyson seemed to think that as the mere presenter he didn't have responsibility for the non-truth of what he told an international audience, certainly not about something as unimportant as history.   That attitude is common among all too many scientists who clearly believe they have a right to misrepresent the past.  Considering how many of them will have a hissy fit when creationists misrepresent a far more remote and less documented past about which our knowledge can't achieve anything like a certainty that the lives and trials of Bruno and Galileo can, that arrogance is even more marked.   It is a bit of a strange coincidence that the article ends with Richard Lewontin on a general point not related to the Galileo legend, directly,  Lewontin is one of the few prominent materialist scientists and science writers who does, actually, have respect for history and its honest and accurate telling.

Anyway, do read the Lessl article, it is thoroughly enjoyable and I can't imagine anyone having written a better article on the topic of the folklore that so many even real scientists believe is gospel truth.   Not to mention the sci-rangers and wannabees.  Well, not to the extent that they'd learn the requisite math.

Update:   All done, for this storm, at least.  That was a lot easier to do twenty years ago.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gerald Clayton 
From one of the best albums of the year.  
Update:  I don't know if this means that the piece became an instant classic (it deserves to be) but here's a student group,  Sibelius Academy Jazz Department Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, playing it.

Toomas Keski-Säntti piano
Joonas Tuuri bass
VIlle Luukkonen drums
Antonio Silva guitar
Lisa Stick trombone
Selma Savolainen vocals

Ilmari Rönkä alto sax

Signs from the 1963 March on Washington

Here's my answer to your comment.

Hate Mail File -- You Can't Debunk Minds Without Also Debunking The Mind You're Using To Debunk MInds

One of the most seriously discrediting things about materialism is that materialists have to depend on them and their ideology having an exemption from the very materialism they are asserting.   That was the issue I had with Richard Seymour when he made an absurdly tortured argument for the material nature of ideologies, one which he got rather heated about when I raised it.

Materialism, like Biblical fundamentalism, is a monist system, a system in which it is declared that nothing exists which is not included in and accounted for by their ideological frame.   Materialists assert that there is nothing but the material universe, complete with the forces and physical laws that govern the movements of objects.   In some more sophisticated assertions of it, "naturalism" "physicalism", the definition of what that comprises is more up to date with current physics but the monist nature of it and its insistence on the same things make those really no different.

Everything in a materialist universe is governed by the same physical causation that they use to analyze the origins and behaviors of physical objects, nothing exists outside of that web of causation, anything proposed which could escape it is declared, by force of their original assertions, non-existent.  And, like all ideologies, those are a program of faith to be believed in, to be convinced of, held on to through, at bottom, an emotional choice to believe them.

That is why our minds are such a big problem for materialists to get rid of.  Our experience of consciousness doesn't fit into their ideological framing and most people, I would assert even the most rigid of materialists, don't really believe that is what their minds are like.  Which is a huge area of discussion but it's not the one I'll go into.

For a materialist, their real goal is almost always to get rid of God and any things that anybody can possibly believe imply the existence of God.  I have never, once, encountered an ideological atheist whose major area of focus is not trying to convince other people and, perhaps, themselves, that there is no God.   It is an emotional thing with them, beneath all of their pretenses.  That is the reason they are willing to go to such absurd lengths to make claims aimed at destroying anything that implies that God is real and that we are more than merely physical objects that, when applied to them, it impeaches the validity of their ideological framing and, as well, the minds with which they think up these ideas.  

I have been through this before, as recently as earlier this week.   If our ideas are the product of physical causation working on the chemicals and structures in our brains then any idea we have is merely the working out of that pre-existing chemistry and physics to its inevitable end.  That it produces strychnine  swallowing Pentecostalism in one mind is as inevitable and right as it producing the thinking of Stephen Hawking or Jerry Coyne or Richard Seymour.   There is no way to say that the one is wrong and the other is right, they are merely the results of the peculiar chemical precursors that led to the ideas that those produce.  AND IT IS IMPOSSIBLE THAT ANY IDEA CAN TRANSCEND THAT MOST BANAL AND ENTIRELY VULGAR CHARACTER.  I say "vulgar" because that character is one that would be truly universal, it would apply to every idea anyone has about everything.   For a strict materialist, the thinking that produced a British mass murderer, committing genocide on the inhabitants of Tasmania has exactly the same character as the thinking that produced the acts of the most benevolent missionary, the reason that the Tasmanian and other genocides could be discussed so dispassionately in 19th century science, in the same books which ridiculed the missionaries' work.   I noted that last week, as well.

Ah, but, you may say, science objectively consults the physical universe, holding up scientific ideas against that*  and so achieves objective reality.   But materialism is a universal faith, you can't pick and choose which ideas get to be a foundation, not conditioned by the same physical forces.  Those acts of the mind that comprise the practices of science don't get to escape the sealed maze you've insisted on any more than the ideas you don't like.  All acts of perception, analysis, measurement, review, are as stuck in the mire of physical causality, all of them are the mere result of the peculiar chemistry and physical action which produced them.  Logic, itself, is a mere product of material causation in the materialist system, that two people arrive at the same result and another person arrives at a different one is merely the result of chance presence of chemicals and physical forces.  None of that can escape their peculiar pre-conditions to achieve objectivity.  Given that no two brains will ever be exactly alike, I think materialism provides a better argument against two scientists ever having exactly the same idea or even one person retaining an idea for more than a split second before it changes into something else than it is that something residing in a human brain called "objectivity" is real.

And all of those virtues of science, the quest for truth, would have to be fantasies as well.   Truth, truths, would also have no status above being the mere, inevitable results of the peculiar chemistry and physical conditions that produced those ideas.   "Truth" would have to transcend that to achieve the status of virtue, something which materialism has no room for.

This could go on and on, including whether or not the necessary reactions and physical adjustments of chemicals and physical structures happen fast enough to account for our real-time experience of thinking and having ideas and continually modifying those ideas, yet still being able, in all of that, for those ideas to retain a cohesive identity in our minds, but I don't have the time right now.  I've got a hell of a lot of snow to move today.

My guess is that, by now, you're feeling pretty angry at me looking at just some of the logical necessities of your own ideology, atheist materialism.   My guess is that it's an experience you share with a really rigid Biblical fundamentalist when confronted with the fact of evolution and its associated facts of geology.  That is, if you're wrong and something like a "fact" can exist independent of the brains that have those ideas.   I don't know if, perhaps, you can learn from that experience.  Maybe your brain doesn't contain the correct molecules to construct those ideas from.

* I'll point out for at least the dozenth time that Stephen Hawking has called for that rule of science to be junked and that the ideas of science be judged on their internal coherence, alone.  Something which he's not alone in doing, it has been an idea popular with scientists, all of those I'm aware of dedicated materialists and atheists, for well over a century.  Freud, abiogenesis, the "exobiology" invented by "The Cosmos is all there is" guy himself.

Update:  And, about that footnote, those very dedicated materialists who "do science" divorced from even the possibility of holding up their equations and claims against real things in the real universe are, ironically, proposing to bring science back to the late, medieval scholastic practice that Galileo confronted.  His greatest opponents weren't cardinals and even popes, many of whom had supported him, even some of the members of the Inquisition, even the nephew of The Pope, who arranged for his protection and sheltering after the sentence was passed.  I'd always been told that it was the Cardinals who refused to look through his telescope but I've recently read that it was actually the faculty members specializing in natural philosophy (what science was called back then) who were, almost all devoted to the scholastic tradition.   In one of the funniest and most telling of all things about current ignorance of the background of what they turned into the Galileo myth, many of those who championed empiricism were, in fact, members of the Catholic clergy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Comparing Google Searches

On the search terms,  death toll riots charlie hebdo
About 251,000 results (0.22 seconds) 

On the search terms, patriots football deflation
About 8,950,000 results (0.53 seconds) 

Just to show you what "the information age" has turned out to be. 

Mahalia Jackson - I'm Going To Live The Life I Sing About In My Song

I was thinking of starting on Ash Wednesday but why wait?

You know, listening to her, it's remarkable how economical she was with using the embellishments that have come to define "gospel" since she died.  Most of the notes are hit close on to spot on.

What Do You Know, We've Still Got Power

You still get a controversial idea, well, a borrowed one.  

One of one of my brothers' favorite form of humor is reading the wacky stuff on right-wing websites, especially from the paranoid-wack-job kind of right wing sites.  It's not to my taste but he gets a real kick out of seeing how totally nuts they are.   My closest thing to that is looking at pseudo-skeptics and the such and finding how totally uninterested in reality they are.   The other day I saw one where they claimed Molly Ivins for the atheists, which I suspect might have been a surprise to her.  I used to read Molly Ivins every chance I could get and I remembered this column which ends 

I sometimes think we've gotten ourselves into a pointless argument in this country, as we rather often do, by exaggerating the extremes.

We are not faced with a choice between imposing some Christian version of Sharia law on the one hand, or "driving religion out of the public square" altogether on the other.
Two hundred years of not terribly rigid separation of church and state has given us one precious gift. As a quote attributed to James Madison (never been able to find the correct citation on it) put it, "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries." Religious strife is still soaking the soil with blood, isn't it, in Kosovo and elsewhere.

To the extent that politics should be based on moral and ethical considerations, of course it has religious foundations. But dragging God into partisan politics is, in my view, a sin.

Is it Christian to cut money for Head Start? Is it Christian to cut poor children off health care? Is it Christian to cut old people off Medicare? Is it Christian to write memos justifying torture? Is it Christian to cut after-school, nutrition and AIDS programs so multimillionaires can have bigger tax cuts?

Historically, the Bible has been used to justify some stupefying crimes, including slavery and genocide. I see no indication we are any better at divining the Lord's intent now than we ever were.

As regular readers know, I call upon the Lord rather frequently myself, often for patience in dealing with those who presume to speak in His name. To whatever extent each of us is affected by religion, I suppose we inevitably bring that into the public sphere. But I seriously question the wisdom of doing so in any organized or deliberate fashion. Drag God into politics, and you'll ruin His reputation in no time.

I won't compete with Molly Ivins as a writer, not on my best day, not with the best luck, so you might want to read her column.  

I do wish she'd given us her fully informed thoughts on the new atheists, the flip side of the coin she was talking about in that column.  I think she might have found quite a bit of material in them if she'd had the time or inclination to look at them and their aspirations.  I'm sure she would have been able to discern the difference between the right to run for an office and the right to the votes of people you look down on and insult.   Not to mention the sheer idiocy of thinking you could get the votes or had a right to the votes of the very people her populism championed as you held yourself up as smarter and better than them and insulted everything about them.    Such genius level thinking is as endemic in the new atheism as any of the nuttery and hypocrisy of the guys she did get around to addressing.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nelson Veras - Francisca by Toninho Horta .

The comment by Pedro Dias says
"Ivan Huol (drums, recording) and Pedro Dias (yours truly - bass)."
Transcribed in 2003 by Julio Herrlein .


Carla Bley - Two Banana

Paolo Fresu: trumpet, flugelhorn
Andy Sheppard: soprano and tenor saxophones
Carla Bley: piano
Steve Swallow: bass
Billy Drummond: drums.

Storm Warning

I posted the piece I was going to post as the Tuesday controversy today as well as the piece about Eleanor Roosevelt's My Day because we're expecting a big winter storm here and we've been losing our electricity during most of those.  I probably won't post tomorrow if that happens.

Why Materialism and Atheism Are Compatible With The Interests of the 1% And Entirely Incompatible With Liberalism

The universal acid of atheism that Steve Weinberg poured on the entire literature of atheist as well as religious assertion of morality is best observed by listening to the entire discussion at Sean Carroll's atheist confab.

Here is my imperfect attempt to transcribe what I think is the most telling part of the "bad religion" guy's destruction of even the most general of moral principles, as he is, in the atheists' own terms, destroying their materialistic explanations of why that is right.

... There are competing things which are all good like happiness and truth.  For example, we sacrifice some happiness when we accept the truth that we're not going to have life after death.  Should we tell other people that they're not going to live after they die?   It probably will reduce their happiness on the other hand truth has a value of its own how do you balance truth and happiness there isn't any algorithm for balancing that.   I think you just have to accept that there is  no postulate that allows you to judge how much happiness you're willing to give up for how much truth. 

Even people who accept all this will say, all right we're not going to agree on what is the good but at least we can agree on the fundamental principle of morality that something like Rawls original condition [I think he meant "Original Position"]  that we should not treat other people worse than we treat ourselves. Rebecca [Goldstein] was saying something like this that everyone equally deserves whatever is good, happiness or whatever it is.  That's not the way I feel either.   And I think it's probably not the way most of you feel if you think about it because. I could probably increase the total amount of happiness by making my family live on rice and beans and live in a one room apartment and just barely keep enough money to keep us alive and healthy and send all of the rest of the money to poor parts of the world where it would do to me.  I'm not going to do that I'm not going to ....  and I well, I'm not confessing immorality.  I'm saying that my moral feelings tell me I should be loyal to my family.

Similarly when my university tries to recruit a bright young star in physics I suppose I could calculate,  well,  he could do more good for some other university and the greater good would imply we shouldn't go after him let some other university go after him. I don't care, I care about my university I'm loyal to my university similarly.  So there loyalty is a value it's not an absolute value I wouldn't cause, like Edward the Third,  I wouldn't cause the hundred years war to advance the interests of my family.  But it is one of these things where we have no algorithm for balancing loyalty against distributive justice.

And I think we have to live with that.  I think we have to live with the fact that although we can reason and try to uncover what our moral feelings are.   And if we get into that I think a very good example would be arguing about abortion ...  maybe I'll come back to that in the discussion.  

We can reason, the reasoning uncovers how we feel morally and perhaps allows us to identify areas of agreement so we can cooperate with each other and bring about what we want. 

I think in the end we have to live with not having a moral philosophy that really works in a decisive way.  I think we have to live the unexamined life.  I think this is part of the tragedy of the human condition just like we have no absolute way of determining that Mozart is better than Led Zeppelin we feel it but it's not something that we can argue,  we can rationally show.  We have to live with the fact that...  this came up yesterday.... when we discover the fundamental laws of physics from which all in some sense follows, that all other principles follow,  we won't know why they're true.  This is something that we have to accept, that the position of human beings is tragic and part of the tragedy,  that there  is no way of deciding moral issues on the basis of - well there is no way of deciding moral postulates which should govern our actions.  And in fact we don't have moral postulates that govern our actions when we behave morally. 

I'll start by pointing out that it is the moral deficiency of Weinberg's ideology, materialistic atheism, that is at the base of his program of destruction.  It is, as Rebecca Goldstein points out later, unrealistic and rather useless in dealing with the problem of how people behave, though I think her natural selection based attempt is totally unsuccessful, as well.  It doesn't stand up to Weinberg's attack based on their shared framing.  When Weinberg said, "we have to live with not having a moral philosophy that really works in a decisive way," he was, I believe unwittingly, pointing out why we can't possibly live with his intellectual pose in real life, because it will never work to produce moral behavior and prevent the horrible disasters that his preferred framing of familial and professional loyalty bring about, continually.

As in my update in my post  the other day, you should compare Weinberg's statements to those of Jesus and think seriously as to which ones would produce the worst of family based plutocracies, oligarchies, crime families, and other aristocracies,  corrupt institutions, unequal distribution of goods,  material inequality and the political, legal and societal inequalities that are necessary for that.   And you should ask which is actually compatible and incompatible with politically effective liberalism.

Weinberg's substitute for morality is far more supportive of the worst of Republican policy than anything Jesus said on the subject*, it is a secularized formulation of what Jesus said which Weinberg is arguing against, using the pose of a lack of absolute postulates for those things he throws his acid on while refusing to do the same with those he favors, physics, even as he grants they also lack the same thing he calls absolute knowledge.  His "competing goods" of loyalty, truth, etc. are no more founded in his ideological framing than do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That universal acid of insisting on the artificial creation of algorithms and postulates such as those in mathematics and physics before you won't tell lies beneficial to yourself or to betray even those closest to you works on those quite nicely.  I have not noted that scientists are especially loyal to their spouses and children of first marriages, such as Carl Sagan, though I suspect that if you could do a quantitative analysis,  professional self-interest to your university department makes that stand up a bit better.

That Weinberg reassures us that his refusal to accept any kind of moral absolutes wouldn't lead him to start a Hundred-Years-War only shows that he's a conventional senior faculty member at an American university.   They are mostly rather a contented lot who don't aspire to make war, except when their meal ticket is threatened.  Though, again considering the role that the often asserted atheist-majority of physicists played in producing nuclear, atomic and massively destructive "conventional" armaments during his lifetime, you don't want to rely too heavily on them being uniformly otiose and even mostly harmless.  That there is nothing in what's left of his program of destruction of morality to keep a more ambitious, modern day Macbeth in science from killing hundreds of millions is certainly more relevant than his personal lack of desire to do so.   Sam Harris, as I'll remind you, has called for that as a rational consideration and in a similar kind of calculation as something that might substitute for "the good", which would last a day and not a hundred years.

A liberal who thinks hard about this won't find anything in materialism to support their liberalism, if their liberalism is a matter of the moral obligation to do justice in the world, real equality, material, social, political and legal, and the preservation and advancement of rights.   When someone chooses the ideological position of atheism, materialism, scientism, there isn't even anything that could make the entire destruction of the biosphere and the eventual extinction of human and all other life on the planet an absolute act of immorality if an atheist, so able,  choose temporary self-interest over the continuation of life, itself.  You need to exit the framework that is materialist atheism to assert why they shouldn't.

*  For example, from Matthew, the continual insistence of Jesus that you had a moral obligation to act morally outside of your family and inner circle, that even the gentiles and tax collectors and such were nice to their family and friends. The elite 1% are the relevant modern day equivalent.   Weinberg is saying there is no reason for people such as those at Carroll's discussion group to act any better than they do and he, from an atheist, materialist and scientistic viewpoint, successfully destroys all of their attempts to make natural selection come up with a reason for him to not do just what he wants to.  And he's considered something of an expert on such things among pop atheists, frequently presented as such, one who is constantly being thrown in other peoples' faces on these issues.

What We Need Is More Eleanor Roosevelt

A long time ago I gave my mother a three volume collection of her great hero, Eleanor Roosevelt's "My Day" columns.   I picked up one of them the other day, the last volume and opened it to the last column in the book, from September 14, 1962, one of the last she wrote.   It was about the need for the United States and the Soviet Union to get along better, encouraging the United States to learn from the Soviets and to practice social and economic development in poor countries instead of supplying them with weapons.

I remember the fall of 1962, the world Mrs. Roosevelt was addressing in that column, though I didn't realize until I looked up the date that the column was exactly a month before Kennedy and Khrushchev almost set off a nuclear war that would, certainly, have been the greatest catastrophe in the history of the human species through the products of science and technology.

That column is, like many of her other ones, online through the My Day Project.  It is wonderful to read because it is a perfect example of the road that liberalism could have taken instead of the one I've pointed out was such a disaster in the years and decades after that.  Here are two passages.

-  I often wonder, as I note how nervous we seem to be about Communist build-up in our world, why our country does not use new initiative to think out fresh approaches to the uncommitted people all over the world.

It has always seemed to me that we never present our case to the smaller nations in either a persuasive or interesting way. I think most people will acknowledge, for instance, that we have given far more military aid to these nations than economic aid. It is not very pleasant to palm off this military equipment on people who really are not looking for it. The fiction is that they are being given military aid so that they will be better able to cope with any Communist attack. But all the nations where we do this know quite well that it is pure fiction and nothing else. Practically none of them could withstand a really determined Soviet attack.

In view of this, why don't we offer them something they really want? For one thing, most of them would like food. Many of them, as they watch the development of the bigger nations, want to establish the beginnings of industry. But they know that wider training of their people is essential before they can make industrial advances, and hence a primary need is aid to their educational system.

-  It might be profitable to us if we would study what is really good in Soviet education and in their way of life. We can't have a premium on all the good things. We know that there are fundamental differences. We are a Christian nation; they do not believe in God. We are anxious that people should learn to think for themselves and not simply accept what somebody else has told them. But there are good things in the Soviet world and we should give them credit for these. Then, on our own initiative, we should develop a program that we believe will be of greater advantage to the newly developing nations of the world.

Similarly, we might profit by the study of other cultures of the world. The nations of Asia have some of the most ancient civilizations and philosophies, yet rarely does it occur to us that we might learn from them—or that they might offer to the newly developed nations ways of thought that would be far superior to anything we could suggest. In the same way, we might learn from the West African tribes described in Allard K. Lowenstein's "Brutal Mandate." These people are Christians and they have said over and over again that they have no use for Communism. But we still persist in thinking of them as bush savages who have nothing to contribute to the rest of the developed world.

I have every confidence that if someone wrote something like that today, what passes as a liberal blogosphere would jump down her throat for the clause, "We are a Christian nation," and entirely ignore everything else she said.    That is exactly the kind of side-show that started making liberalism an ineffective and losing force in politics within the next six years.   I think it is somewhat interesting that she would cite Allard Lowenstein, but she couldn't have known he would mount the disastrous "Dump Johnson" campaign that did so much to put Richard Nixon in office.   I wish she'd been around long enough to comment on the frequently foolish and self-destructive course that liberalism took in the coming years.  Something we still haven't learned from, something which we won't recover from unless we see how and why things went so wrong.

And, yes, she, the very embodiment of American liberalism, said "We are a Christian nation,"  and said it just that most blatant of ways in 1962 and, oddly enough, the next several years were the high mark of liberal political action in our history.   Just as her husband, Johnson's only rival in political progress said, "I am a Christian and a Democrat, that's all," without any catastrophic results for civil rights.

And consider that we're still making the same mistakes in the third-world as China, with considerably less altruistic intentions, are, nevertheless, running rings around a United States government which is the vassal of corporations and the armaments industry, not to mention the pervasive racism of so many of our elite class.   Only, now, the same policies are being, again, foisted on the middle and lowest classes here, as well.   No one in government today would propose such radical programs as she advocated, though they'd have turned the United States into an example to follow instead of an oppressor to fight.

Many of Eleanor Roosevelt's columns are fresh today as ever since the problems they dealt with and the inadequacy of our response to them is not much different. Here is an especially good one on racism and police misconduct in the North, even as northerners were so confident that they were so far superior to Southerners in that regard.   She pointed out that Northerners didn't have a lot to be proud of.

Only the fact that the grand jury refused to indict the boy saved his life, and one cannot help wondering if that confession was not rather strongly suggested, together with the enactment of the crime, by the police themselves. These are strong-arm methods which, used in the South against such groups as the Freedom Riders, arouse strong criticism outside. Yet we should be equally critical when we find such methods used in the North. To have sent one innocent boy to his death would have been a crime which the later apprehension of the killer would hardly have wiped out. Our pride in the police's great achievement must therefore be somewhat muted in the hope that they will not forget their mistakes along with their success.

In the same way, we must realize that however slow the progress of school integration in the South, analogous situations exist over and over again in the Northern states. There the problem of school desegregation is closely tied to desegregation of housing, and certainly we are not doing any kind of job that we could hold out as an example to our Southern neighbors.

That it was the Southerner, Lyndon Johnson, who, despite his record as a conservative, would push the most radical advances in civil rights legislation since Lincoln should have clued in such Northern liberals as Lowenstein that it might not be such a good idea to dump him when the alternative was guaranteed to be worse.   The part that Northern intellectual's bias and conceit at the expense of Southerners played in that period is a big part of what we'll need to look at because it is still a problem which must be overcome to make progress.

It is a treat to read a newspaper column written by someone who thought like an adult who saw the world as real and serious and not like it was some game board to use to score points.   The mature and charitable tone of Eleanor Roosevelt's thinking pervades her columns.  That's another thing we're going to have to get back to if we're going to get out of the fine mess liberals got themselves into in the later years of the 1960s and beyond.