Saturday, September 12, 2015

What I Said About Circles And Triangles The Other Day I Didn't Make It Up, You Know

I would have thought a pile of sciencey atheists like you guys would be more familiar with that icon of sciencey atheists, Hume.

The situation with Hume is more complicated, but also arguably clearer because the gap is addressed directly. In his A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–1740) he defended the certainty of arithmetic and algebra, but withheld it from geometry on the grounds that our knowledge of points and lines is inherently imprecise. The truths of Euclidean geometry were not truths about the world but of an abstract system, and would remain true if there were no figures in the world that correspond to their Euclidean equivalents. The isosceles triangle theorem, which asserts the equality of two sides of a triangle having two equal angles, is to be understood, Hume suggested, as the claim that in the given circumstances, two sides of a triangle are approximately equal—and interpreted this way the claim is certain (see Badici 2011 and de Pierris 2012).

Only, I lie, I didn't even expect you'd know about anything like that.  As you mock the entire field of philosophy, I don't expect you would even know the name, Hume.

In what you are so obviously not getting from what I said the other day, I was making a distinction between the pretenses of absolute knowledge and what we really face in the real world.   Even the absolute knowledge is not really absolute,    And if there is no, actual, perfect circle or perfect physical representation of the relationships that give rise to numbers such as the square root of two or pi, then those are abstractions, not actual, physical things in the physical universe and all of the formulae that use such numbers are, even at their very, very best, an approximation as a description of the real world, of nature, of absolute reality.  The ideal and absolute physical expression of them may, well, exist nowhere in nature.  And that's not to mention the implications of the curvature of space such as we're always told about.  The existence of such relationships are derived from idealized, absolutely flat space which doesn't even really exist.  Or are we not supposed to think about that, either?   As Heisenberg was dealing with the very tiny which can be evidenced, directly, apparently such questions might be more relevant at those resolutions while they can be made to fit and fudge for our purposes in more everyday contexts. And he was dealing with physics that is capable of material confirmation.  When you're dealing with tiny things, approximations can turn into enormous gaps and the things he was thinking about, the quantum level of matter at which so much of our every-day assumptions seem to go out the window, why can we assume those will hold in the infinitesimally smaller and entirely unobservable and non-confirmable level that today's celebrity physicists and cosmologists play with?

Thinking about that is fun, to me, at least.

You see, I remember what it said in my high school geometry textbook, that the figures of geometry, the basis of all of those formulas, were not to be found in nature but were idealized abstractions, only they put it in other words.  As I recall, Bertrand Russell, another icon of sciencey atheists made a similar statement somewhere in his voluminous oeuvre, as we say up here in the wilds of Oxford county.  And what they say coheres logically based on the inescapable imprecision built into the act of measurement and observation - as we were taught by our poor, beleagured 7th grade math teacher who deserves a place in heaven for putting up with us brats.   Some of us even learned enough to be ashamed of how we acted back then.

Along with that, when I am told such things as,  "One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an exact picture of the natural world. One achievement of physics in the twentieth century has been to prove that that aim is unattainable," by such as Jacob Bronowski in explaining the work of such folk as Werner Heisenberg and other physicists, many of whom he knew, I take them at their word.  I figure if that is one of the achievements of physics in the last century made by some of the great names of physics and science, you're supposed to believe it's really true.

I am surprised that it hasn't had more of an influence on the fundamentalist thinking of so many in science, especially physics, especially of guys like Larry Krauss who as recently as 2006 wasn't a materialist fundamentalist and could be quite reasonable about the limits of science which can only address a limited area of reality but who, I'm told, became buddies with Christopher Hitchens, so notably NOT a physicist,  and he was converted to his present day fundamentalist faith, which leads him to hold to such nonsensical ideas as that the universe made itself before it existed out of a nothing that is not a nothing but physical laws which he believes existed before the physical matter - the only stuff that leads to the human formulation of those laws - existed, as well.   I think if he had bothered to take more philosophy he might understand that what he and other such fundamentalists as Stephen Hawking say on that is illogical balderdash equaling and vastly surpassing the most absurd God of the gaps arguments. Only I've stopped being surprised that today's eminent scientists can say such nonsense because, as the historian of science, Paul Feyerabend, famously put it,

 The younger generation of physicists, the Feynmans, the Schwingers, etc., may be very bright; they may be more intelligent than their predecessors, than Bohr, Einstein, Schrödinger, Boltzmann, Mach, and so on.  But they are uncivilized savages, they lack in philosophical depth.

And I'm not hesitant to say that Larry Krauss and Stephen Hawking ain't no Richard Feynman. Neither are they Einsteins nor even Schrödingers,  nor  Bohrs, though Larry Krauss is working on becoming a bore, something I used to think he didn't have in him.

For more on that, you might like to look at the quotes from Einstein in this article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  I think the first one sums up the situation that leads today's eminent physicists and, even more so the cosmologists, to say some of the really stupid stuff they say so regularly.

I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is—in my opinion—the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth. (Einstein to Thornton, 7 December 1944.

Today's prominent, celebrity atheist-scientists have given up the role of mere artisan and specialist and gone down to ideological hack, looking for their next mention in Huffington Post, Salon or some other media opportunity.   And the blog flies of E-ton ain't no celebrity atheist-physicists.

How is Larry Krauss's "black holes can't possibly form" idea doing among the high and sciency, these days?  It's not even ten years old but I haven't noticed it being taken seriously.   I wonder if its failure to take among them has something to do with his descent into celebr-atheist hackery.  You don't think it could have something to do with that?   Atheist hackery is a golden-parachute career of many a past-it sci-guy and has been since Bertrand Russell pioneered that route.

It's too bad that he couldn't do more with it, I thought it raised an interesting question about how things could happen if time stopped at the event horizon.  Even if it were to prove wrong, it would be an interesting question to deal with, I'd be interested in how they'd get around it.  But if he's right about that and all the stuff they've said about black holes turns out to be scholastic speculation,  I wonder what it would do to the physics around and based on black holes, not to mention the disaster for the popular reputation of science such a massive bait and switch operation would be.  I'd probably point out that it was a rather massive example of what I was talking about in that post you think is so highly risible as well.

Hey, if someone of the stature of Larry Krauss says there's reason to be skeptical of black holes and so everything that such great names as have been built on black holes, such as Hawkings have said about them, who am I to doubt it?   At least what he said on that count coheres logically and doesn't redefine words to mean their opposite.  Here's a clue for you, any statement that depends on the redefinition of a word to mean its opposite, such as "nothing" probably ain't going nowhere good.

As an aside, if black holes get pushed into the boneyard of discontinued science I wonder what it will do to the posthumous reputation of the brilliant philosopher of physics, Eddington, another great figure of classical physics who was also quite a brilliant philosopher.  I'm not a student of his conflict with his student and friend, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, but a lot of the derisive things said about Eddington are based in his skepticism about black holes.  You wonder how Larry Krauss has, so far, escaped that same derision over his skepticism.  What do the low and sciencey have to say about that?

Update:  Oh, the hilarity, in the approximately 8 comments, and counting, that Simels has left here his last one scolds me on a lack of seriousness, which I could, if I went through my trash files, match to his and his buddies condemnations of me for a lack of frivolity.   Simels, STEVE SIMELS IS TRASHING ME FOR A LACK OF SERIOUSNESS!   Oh, yeah, I'll publish that one for those who think I'm making that up, too.

Friday, September 11, 2015

9-11 Fourteen Years After It's Time To Say Who Got It Right And The Massively Popular Figures Who Got It All Wrong

Callie Crossley was one of the few realists in the earliest days after 9-11.  As other people were solemnly declaring that "everything had changed" that "irony was dead" that "this is going to change things for an entire generation" she said that after a short time things would be exactly as they had been.  She might have said months, it didn't last that long.  Except for the wars, the one that had a bit of justification in Afghanistan and the entirely illegal one, the unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq, a horrible war based on the failure of geography education in the American school system and in our one way mirror on our side media.  

I wish I knew how to link to the specific time on the mp3 of the last segment of this old Callie Crossley radio show when she, Thomas Connolly and Rachel Rubin talked about the response to 9-11 in pop-culture (beginning at about 34:40).   The incredible narcissism of some figures in popular culture and the abysmal promotion of torture as a solution and a means of protecting ourselves in the fascistic and wildly popular with even-liberals, the FOX hit, 24 are discussed.   I have always wanted to ask members of the New Democratic Party in Canada what they made of such a prominent NDP member, one with a stellar legacy in that party being one of the foremost proponents of torture on the most effective medium for dispensing propaganda in history. 

One of the things I remembered from that time was the famous West Wing episode cobbled together on the fly,  the White House full of high school kids, lock down episode which sold the idealistic nonsense that "terrorism doesn't work".   The best thing that was ever said about that was the response of Noam Chomsky who pointed out that terrorism had been working for powerful countries, specifically the United States, for decades.

Update:  FOX entertainment's biggest fan boy has this to say in a comment I opted to post.

steve simelsSeptember 11, 2015 at 4:57 PM
24's first season started to air before 9/11And the show was never as reflexively right-wing as you think. But of course you would have had to actually see it to know that.

That, to refresh his memory, would be September 11, 2001. 

IMDb says that the first episode was aired November 6, 2001, as do other online sources I just checked.  Apparently someone needs to have a refresher course in how to use a calendar.   Or maybe an introduction to one.   

As I recall, I heard that people in the Bush II regime, especially those centered around Dick Cheney were fans, too, Sims.   Like I said, you guys have a lot more in common than you'd like to believe. 

Update 2:  I don't have time to keep knocking down every stupid thing Mr. Pop Kulcha and the Eschatots say this weekened so, here:

“24” returns: Is Dick Cheney programming Fox?

And the lack of aggressive repudiation of the “24” past means that the show is still at least plausible today.

“There are those that champion torture within the government,” said Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham. “Given the refusal of the Obama administration to call them out in any punitive way, they are in the media all the time. They say, ‘We needed torture.’ Nobody’s countering them and nobody’s prosecuting them. Public opinion is following them. As long as that drumbeat is out there, Pew polls will follow.”

Sands believes that “24” is quite a bit more influential than, say, “Idol.” He wrote during the show’s run that “24” was popular among American interrogators at Guantánamo Bay prison:

Some described to me how the series contributed directly to an environment encouraging those in the interrogation facility to see themselves as being on the front line, and to go further than they otherwise might have. 24 also made it more difficult for those who objected to the abuse to stop it.

Sands told Salon he was concerned about the potential impact of a revived “24”: “Programs have a profound impact. They send messages about what’s right and what’s wrong. Television programs do matter. They’re not academic, arcane debates about various perspectives.”

The rebooted “24” is not connected with conservative producer Joel Surnow, who famously told the New Yorker: “There are not a lot of measures short of extreme measures that will get it done […] America wants the war on terror fought by Jack Bauer. He’s a patriot.” In fact, it may well be headed in a softer direction, as it’s to be produced by Howard Gordon, the writer who told the New York Times Magazine: “Obviously anyone with any conscience is going to take [charges of abetting acceptance of torture] seriously. But look, we also recognized too that you can’t just hide behind, ‘This is just a TV show.’ That’s a little like the Twinkie defense. So we actively engaged and reconsidered how we told stories.”

And this: Joel Surnow, Rush Limbaugh Defend '24' From Janeane Garofalo 

Rush Limbaugh and 24 creator Joel Surnow on Monday were responding to attacks leveled by actress-activist Janeane Garofalo, who starred in the 2009 season of Fox's hit TV show and said recently that Surnow used 24 to advance a conservative agenda and malign liberals.

J. S. Bach - Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140

The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Conductor - Ton Koopman
Soprano - Lisa Larsson
Tenor - Lothar Odinius
Bass - Klaus Mertens



I didn't know what to write about 9-11 and the disasters that were made to follow it.   The original chorale was written by Philipp Nicholai during a plague that hit his town, killing many people he knew, including a student.  

The central choral verse, Zion hört die Wächter singen,  is better known in its organ transcription as a chorale prelude.  

This first version of it with a tenor soloist in the manner championed by Joshua Rifkin is quite convincing.   The more I hear of Bach's vocal music with one voice per part the more I like it.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Difference Between The Pretense of Complete Knowledge And The Pseudo-Scientific Pretensions That Arise From Them

One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an exact picture of the natural world. One achievement of physics in the twentieth century has been to prove that that aim is unattainable.

Knowledge or Certainty: * The Ascent of Man; Jacob Bronowski 1973

From "Thinking Again" the fourth Terry Lecture of Marilynne Robinson, in a slightly different form, starting about here.

But "the material" itself is an artifact of the scale at which we perceive.  We know that we abide with quarks and constellations, in a reality unknowable b us in a degree will never be able to calculate,  but reality is all the same, the stuff and the matrix of our supposedly quotidian existence.   We know that within, throughout. the solid substantiality of our experience indeterminacy reigns.  Making use of the conceptual vocabulary of science to exclude a possibility that in a present state of knowledge - or a former one - that vocabulary would seem to excluded, has been the mission of positivist thinking since Auguste Comte declared scientific knowledge effectively complete.  If doing so is a reflex of the polemical impulse to assert the authority of science, understandable when the project was relatively new, it is by now an atavism that persists as a consequence of this same polemical impulse.

The ancient antagonist that has shaped positivism and the parascientific thought and continues to inspire its missionary zeal is religion.  For cultural and historical reasons, the religions against which it has opposed itself are Christianity and Judaism, both of which must be called anthropologies, whatever else,  "What is man that thou art mindful of him?"  The very question is an assertion that mindfulness is an attribute of God, as well as man, a statement of the sense of deep meaning inhering in mindfulness.  If I were not myself a religious person, but wished to make an account of religion, I believe I would tend toward the Feuerbachian view that religion is a human projection of humanity's concepions of beauty, goodness, power, and other valued things, a humanizing of experience by it as structured around and mirroring back these values.  Then it would resemble art, with which it is strongly associated.  But this would dignify religion and characterize the mind as outwardly and imaginatively engaged with the world, as, in parascientific thought after Comte, it never is.   Sigmund Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents, says of religion,  "The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life."  Then, two pages on, he says,  "The question of the purpose of human life has been asked countless times:  it has never received a satisfactory answer and perhaps does not admit of one ... One again, only religion can answer the question of the purpose of life.  One can hardly be wrong in concluding that the idea of life having a purpose stands and falls with the religious system."  And then he says,  "As we see, what decides the purpose of life is simply the programme of the pleasure principle.  This principle dominate the operation of the mental apparatus from the start.  There can be no doubt about its efficacy, and yet its programme is at loggerheads with the whole world, with the macrocosm as much as with the microcosm.  There is no possibility at all of its being carried through;  all the regulations of the universe runs counter to it." 

It seems a little strange that religion is infantile but the desire for pleasure, which "dominates the operation of the mental apparatus from the start, " is not, or not, at least, in any pejorative sense.  It seems strange as well that though "there is no possibility at all of it being carried out, " the program of the pleasure principle is not also, like religion, "foreign to reality."  Steven Pinker says,  "Religion is a desperate measure that people resort to when the stakes are high and they have exhausted the usual techniques for the causation of success."  Then a little farther on he lists the "imponderables" that lie behind the human tendency toward religion and also philosophy.  These imponderables are consciousness in the sense of sentience or subjective experience, the self, free will, conceptual meaning, knowledge, and morality.  He says,  "Maybe philosophical problems are hard not because they are divine or irreducible or meaningless or workaday science, but because the mind of Homo sapiens lacks the cognitive equipment to solve them.  We are organisms, not angels, and our brains are organs not pipelines to the truth."  

How odd that these "imponderables" should be just the kind of thing mankind has pondered endlessly. Neo-Darwinism allows for hypertrophy, the phenomenon by which evolution overshoots its mark and produces some consequence not strictly useful to the ends of genetic replication, the human brain as case in point.  How strange it would be, then, that this accident, this excess, should feel a tropism towards what Pinker himself calls "the truth".

The great difference between parascientific thought on one hand and religion and traditional philosophy on the other is perhaps encapsulated in the world "solve," assuming the use of the word is not simply a casual imprecision.  It does seem as though, for the purposes of these writers, science is the conquest of mystery, as it was for Auguste Comte, and as it certainly was not for Isaac Newton.  A difference between a Newton and a Compte, between science and parascience, is the desire in the latter case to treat scientific knowledge as complete, at least in its methods and assumptions, in order to further the primary object of closing questions about human nature and human circumstance. 

*  If you have the hour to watch that 40 year old episode of Bronowski's The Ascent of Man at the link, I think you'll be reminded of why it was one of those rare hours of TV which were expressions of genius and genius to the highest of all purposes.

Right at the end, as he is standing in the mud of Auschwitz, made of the ashes of millions of people he said,  "When people believe they have absolute knowledge with no test in reality, this is how they behave."   Which, as a political blogger, is what I'm talking about.

He, being a scientist of the pre-war period and three decades after, might be excused from being emotionally able to admit the role that science really played in the events even as he documents the role of science in them, or he found it impossible to admit that science, which is whatever scientists agree to include in science at any given time, is entirely able to believe they have absolute knowledge with no test of reality required, though I think the extent to which physicists and cosmologists, social scientists and the para-parasciences based on those can believe and that political policies, laws and actions of governments can be based on those things.  We are surrounded by that kind of "science" today, it is the religious dogma of a large part the college educated population of Britain and the rest of the English speaking peoples, as well as many others in other languages.  There is nothing more dangerous than to maintain an unrealistic, idealized conception of science today.  

As an observation, the acceptance of science in society and, most importantly, in the centers of power are directly tied to their prospects of utility in generating political power and profits.   The most important science that has ever been done, the science around saving the biosphere from the majority of science that is done, the science that might just keep us from destroying ourselves, is probably the least influential, the least reputable and the least powerful of all science around today.  Compared to chasing multi-verses, strings at the Planck level, phantoms of behaviors in the lost past, absurd notions of killing off God with neuroscience, nothing could be more important than what is least respected.  That's science as science really is.

Negating The Numbskulls At Noon

I have dealt with the false accusation of anti-semitism many times, already.





so you see, I've been dealing with that slander for years.

Apparently under the rules for discovering anti-Semitism as redefined in the last several decades includes wishing that millions of Jews had been allowed to come to the United States, my country, the country of the idiots who are making that accusation, instead of either dying in Europe in the Holocaust or in a state on land donated by my country which would not be constantly at war and under attack and which, as a result, would devolve into a military dictatorship and, likely, an apartheid state if its Jewish identity is to be maintained.  That is the fact of what I said would have been preferable to the course of action that was taken.  I wanted Jews to live their lives out as Jews, keeping their religious and cultural identity and the Palestinians to live out their lives as who they were, all of them able to make their living off of their own land and living on their own terms. Apparently wishing that for Palestinians is the unacceptable thing,  the "Brain Trust" has more in common with the neo-cons than they'd like people to notice.   

Oh, and, apparently, according to the Brain Trust these people don't exist.

And this just can't be true

From Demanding Absolute Precision And Pretending to Absolute Knowledge Comes Babbling Nonsense

I don't know why anyone should get upset over my description of science as a never completed system just because a few cosmologists have clearly overestimated their ability to come up with a Theory of Everything and other things like that.  The idea that the tiny number of human beings engaged in that effort could numerically encompass the entirety of even merely human reality is as silly as the idea that anyone could do the same thing in poetically chosen words.  Again, I think the clues that that was impossible are clear in some of the most basic facts about the most basic aspects of our mathematics on which such an effort must, inescapably rest.

The exact ratio of the circumference of any perfect circle to its diameter can be estimated to an incredible and, for all practical purposes sufficient, final degree but it can't be set down as an absolute number.  The same is true for any number of other basic relationships such as the square root of two. That there are actual objects as perfect circles or a perfect an isosceles tri-angle whose hypotenuse of exactly two units - measured in arbitrarily denominated units, I'll point out - and sides would exactly measure to embody that relationship is certainly not known to be physically existent.  If those exact things exist nowhere in nature, as is probable, then the mathematical relationships we base so much on are entirely the product of human imagination and logic.  They would likely not actually AND ABSOLUTELY be embodied, physically and the motions and operations that constitute physical reality would happen without absolutely discernible mathematical regularities governing them.   And if that is true about such practically reliable entities, reliable to the extent that we seem to always, in practical terms, make those "mere" approximations work for us, then it is likely to be even more of an issue for any purported attempt to come up with a total description of reality even at scales we will never, ever have confirmation of in any way and which we most certainly don't now.

If you think I'm splitting hairs in that point then you are thinking, way, way, way, too big and too small all at the same time.  What I'm talking about is a hell of a lot smaller than that, as well as entirely bigger.  And I do mean entirely. And you are merely ignoring what it is the cosmologists and theoretical physicists are doing because that Higgs particle everyone got so excited about is massive and blatantly real as compared to what they're using to cob together their TOE, including those jillions and jillions of entire, complete and completely inaccessible universes they are also making it up out of.  And the discernment of the Higgs particle wasn't the product of infinitely precise measurement but was the product of mathematical averaging of trillions if observed events.  It wasn't seen absolutely in an absolute measurement.

The reality of infinitely repeating decimals, of infinite non-repeating decimals such as pi and the idealized physical relationships which those were created to describe leads me to believe that the belief that science, the less exact field of knowledge, cannot be rationally believed to be capable of final closure anymore than there could be a rational reason to believe that the Tower of Babel could have reached the heavens.

The story of the Tower was an allegory of the disaster that comes from human technological hubris.  No doubt it is a commentary on the mathematical, scientific and technological elite of the time of its first telling.  That would have had to have been understood, especially by those who first heard the story, as having happened in the very remote past or they would not have been there to have heard the story.   They'd have realized and almost certainly have understood the story as allegory.  It was later generations who lost that context and the habit of expecting scripture to contain allegory that took the story literally.   The habit of taking all things people say about everything as literally and absolutely true instead of understanding that even our most exacting, precise and careful statements are a limited and incomplete view of the very real reality we live in wasn't given up because Copernicus figured out that the Earth circled the sun and Newton invented the calculus and Galileo made some interesting and useful - and destructive - discoveries around the measurements of falling and thrown objects.  If anything the assumptions of having achieved absolute knowledge in those made the misunderstanding of the limits of human perception, analysis and description far worse.  I will point out that, among other things, the discoveries of science made weapons more powerful, lots of towers fell due to the science they made.  Less concretely but as damaging, the habits learned through science insisted that the only value that could be had was through the supposed absolute knowledge that science seemed to be delivering.  Among those that such allegories had to have literal truth or they and the entire book they'd been collected into must be false.   Only we know that even the greatest of those legends of science, Newton, produced approximations of events and of the forces causing those events to happen, not absolute knowledge.  Only people are now assuming that never ending, never to be achieved closure is here.

There are consequences when you believe you have come up with an intellectual system that claims and pretends to complete closure under the terms you define that system within.  That is especially true when you want to claim that your system is absolutely closed under defined terms which are calculable, as the TOE tippers do.  It's like any other attempt to construct a monist system, everything must be open to question to test it, nothing is too small or too big to bring to that testing.  The result is that it is susceptible to exactly the same kind of attack that biblical fundamentalism is.  Only worse since you are pretending that you can achieve a logically coherent, even mathematically absolute system.  Nothing is beyond question when that's the claim, nothing is too big and, certainly, nothing is too small or negligible.  Splitting hairs is what it's all about.

Update;  What sense of that, oh, so imprecise term "word salad" do you mean?   "Word salad" is a meaningless term that really means "I'm too lazy to deal with what you said or I can't deal with what you said but I know I don't like it and can't tell you why without losing."   "I don't like what you said," isn't an argument.

Update 2:  Where is the triangle that has two sides which are exactly the same size in nature?  And by "exact" I mean exactly the same length down to the absolute last tiny fraction of a picometer and how is that discernible?  I'm not even sure such a measure is feasible except to within a margin of error, which sort of makes my point on that, as well. And where is the perfect circle whose circumference and diameter are a perfect expression of the formula from which pi is defined?  I have always wanted to raise the issue of the curvature of space-time in that regard and what that does to the conceptions of those imagined objects and relationships to real objects in real as opposed to imagined space.   I don't bring it up with the kids I'm paid to tutor in jr. high math but I would like to bring it up with some TOE pushing cosmologist like Sean Carroll.   Superannuated blog brats, I'll only talk about it with them so I can ask those questions and annoy them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Alonso Mudarra - Romanesca

Stephen Pickett - renaissance guitar

Score ( page 11 of the pdf)  I believe you can play this on the top four strings of a modern guitar but it will be a heck of a lot lower than on the tiny little renaissance guitar.   It would be a lot of fun to have one of these.  I don't think there's a lot of original music for it, compared to a lute or vihuela. The tablatures that are found online are, though, very clear and readable.


Valerie Sauvage - renaissance guitar

The tablature is on page 10 at the link above.

Adrien Le Roy - Tourdion 

Can't find the name of the guitarist, I think you can find the tablature with this piece in it at the other link above, as you can for most of the pieces at this enjoyable playlist.
Yeah, a great intellectual movement that finally identifies the Douglas Adams and Issac Asimovs of the world as being superior to Petrarch and Dante.   "Humanism" vs humanism.

Update:  I don't aspire to spend the rest of my life correcting the lies told on Duncan's blog, he doesn't bother, why should I?   They're pretty much a couple or three dozen folk who are talking to themselves, the ones who aren't only talking to themselves and their sock collection.  I've been adding filters so I don't get the heads ups I used to and I don't want to.  I figure the people with an attention span long enough to make it through what I write are probably not bothering with the tweet-stylings he puts out as a major effort.   His own community doesn't bother much to read those.

Update 2:  The day I need vocabulary advice from you is the day that will never be made.

,,, And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them;
for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh
too; though, in the mean time, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered:
that's villanous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Humanism Is A Joke - Hate Mail - A Response

I would make a distinction between the original humanists of the 14-17th centuries and the "Humanists" the adherents of that atheist quasi-religion which is riddled with the most basic contradictions but there seems little point in that, now.  There were problems with that original humanism but it was intellectually, by far, the superior claimant of the name but it died a long time ago.  So, now when it's "Humanists" it is the atheist religion, the American form of which is what I'm most familiar with. especially the organized form that you can google.

Among the most obvious things about this atheist religion that puts humans on a pedestal as opposed to the gods or God is that positions humans far lower than the Abrahamic religions do.  It begins by stripping them of their immortal souls, of a hope for eternity, salvation, ultimate justice, and a host of other things hoped for by the religious view of humans.  Humanism being a materialistic religion, it demotes humans into a merely temporary phenomenon of aggregated chemicals because it demotes everything into a "congregation of vapors".   And that's pretty much the alpha and about the alpha and omega of  Humanism.  I'll come back round to the demotion of human beings by these folk who put humans on a pedestal, later.

One of the most amusing practices of the Humanists is the ridicule they heap on what they claim is the anthropomorphic God they discern from the Jewish conception of God.  The accusation of anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism from people who call themselves "Humanists" and who in one form or another make "man the measure of all things" has its hilarious features.  Not least of those is that their very name announces their most radical anthropocentrism.   You will hear their mockery on this most often in some riff on the theme of  "man created God in his own image".   While that might be true for the gods of the Greeks and Romans, the Babylonians and others whose gods were material gods which were created in their theogonies, the God of the Hebrews is definitely not material and certainly not human nor was God created.  But it is the Humanists I'm talking about here so I will talk about their replacement of the material universe as conceived of by science for God because it is, as well, an expression of the radical anthropocentric thinking of these folk who so disdain and despise anthropocentric thinking.

As you never have to stop pointing out with these worshipers of science, science is a conscious human invention, based on conventional, agreed to and very imperfectly carried out rules for attaining an agreed to standard of reliable knowledge about the physical universe.  Everything about science is a product of human imagination, of human convention.   Science produces a temporary and changing view of the universe.  The universe, as presented by science is created by man, it is a universe entirely contained within human minds, in terms which human minds can deal with.   That scientific universe is the creation of man.  Its scope has never been and never will be complete, it will never contain a theory of everything which will explain everything and which will make testable, observable and accurate predictions of all possible phenomena even within human capabilities to perceive them.  The clues to that ultimate truth of science were present in that other great human activity, mathematics, which is certainly known to not have the possibility of ultimate closure in a unified system.

But I'm going to tie up this post by pointing out more of the consequences for the idol that Humanism turns humans into, its golden calf.  The scientism and materialism of the Humanists further reduces the view of human beings from that held by the Abrahamic religions in that it impeaches even the minds of people.  The materialism of the humanist can't but force a denial of the possibility of free will, of free thought because materialism must hold, in every single case, that everything that exists, everything that happens, every physical entity of which everything is one of, is the product of material determinism and causation.   There can be nothing in the universe which escapes that or materialism is invalid.  There can be no window through which human beings can escape that aspect of materialism if it is to stand.  You can't even get away from that fact if you try to disguise materialism as "physicalism" or "naturalism" or, most clueless and incoherently of all, "Humanism".  The "free thinkers" are the first and most vociferous of all groups which deny the possibility of free thought because free thought, free will, cannot be real if their materialism is true.  You can look all through the recent and much of the older literature of atheists, materialists, "free thinkers" "Humanists" and find that the denial of the possibility of free thought is one of their foremost obsessions.   The fields of neuroscience, cognative science, psychology, sociology, anthropology are full of such assertions.

There is no more degraded view of human beings than the one ascribed to by the "Humanists" even as they put "Humans" up on a pedestal and there is no more basic self-contradiction than the holdings of such "science" about the deterministically controlled minds of human beings and the value of the science they use to make those claims.  If human thinking is the mere phantom of material determinism then that includes science, mathematics, logic, and every single other aspect of human thinking.  Science cannot be more than a product of the particular chemical constituents present in the minds of scientists worked on by physical forces in accordance to fixed law, such a thing cannot produce anything like truth, which is a transcendent property which cannot exist in materialism.  The question Pilate asked Jesus on that point is one of those incredibly insightful points in the scriptures because it is the hinge between a materialist view of reality and the transcendent, religious view of reality.   One system, the materialist one, falls on exactly that point.  If materialism is right then it cannot be true.  A materialist would do better to go with the most idiotic nihilist presentation of atheism that is found among the angry, self-centered, conceited brats who infest pop culture and the internet than with something that aspires to philosophical or scientific significance.    Materialism must, ultimately, be nihilistic and, as such, must devolve into anti-intellectualism because materialism can't but help corrode the system of values that intellectualism is based in

Update:  Why would I care that he posts excerpts he doesn't understand from what I write>  It's not as if anyone who sees it is going to read what I wrote, the few, the sappy few, the bund of blithers.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Can You Imagine A Politician Anywhere in the English Speaking World Saying This Within The Last Two Years?

Largo Carlo Felice, Cagliari
Sunday, 22 September 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

I greet you all cordially: workers, business people, authorities, the families present and, in particular, Archbishop Arrigo Miglio, and the three of you who have told us about your problems, about your expectations and also about your inspirations. With this visit — as I said — I am starting with you, who make up the world of work. With this meeting I want above all to express my closeness to you, especially to the situations of suffering: to the many young people out of work, to people on unemployment benefits, or on a temporary basis, to business and tradespeople who find it hard to keep going. I am very familiar with this situation because of my experience in Argentina. I myself was spared it but my family wasn’t. My father went to Argentina as a young man full of illusions “of making it in America”. And he suffered in the dreadful recession of the 1930s. They lost everything! There was no work! And in my childhood I heard talk of this period at home.... I never saw it, I had not yet been born, but I heard about this suffering at home, I heard talk of it. I know it well! However, I must say to you: “Courage!”. Nevertheless I am also aware that for own my part I must do everything to ensure that this term “courage” is not a beautiful word spoken in passing! May it not be merely the smile of a courteous employee, a Church employee who comes and says “be brave!” No! I don’t want this! I want courage to come from within me and to impel me to do everything as a pastor, as a man. We must all face this challenge with solidarity, among you — also among us — we must all face with solidarity and intelligence this historic struggle.

This is the second city in Italy that I have visited. It is curious: both of them, the first one and this one, are on islands. In the first I saw the suffering of so many people on a quest, risking their life, their dignity, their livelihood, their health: the world of refugees. And I saw the response of that city which — as an island — did not want to isolate itself and receives them, makes them its own. It gives us an example of hospitality: suffering meets with a positive response. In this second city, an island that I am visiting, I here too find suffering. Suffering which, as one of you has said, “weakens you and ends by robbing you of hope”. It is a form of suffering, the shortage of work — that leads you — excuse me if I am coming over a little strong but I am telling the truth — to feel that you are deprived of dignity! Where there is no work there is no dignity! And this is not only a problem in Sardinia — but it is serious here! — it is not only a problem in Italy or in certain European countries, it is the result of a global decision, of an economic system which leads to this tragedy; an economic system centred on an idol called “money”.
God did not want an idol to be at the centre of the world but man, men and women who would keep the world going with their work. Yet now, in this system devoid of ethics, at the centre there is an idol and the world has become an idolater of this “god-money”.
Money is in command! Money lays down the law! It orders all these things that are useful to it, this idol. And what happens? To defend this idol all crowd to the centre and those on the margins are done down, the elderly fall away, because there is no room for them in this world! Some call this habit “hidden euthanasia”, not caring for them, not taking them into account.... “No, let’s not bother about them...”. And the young who do not find a job collapse, and their dignity with them. Do you realize that in a world where youth — two generations of young people — have no work that this world has no future Why? Because they have no dignity! Is is hard to have dignity without work. This is your difficulty here. This is the prayer you were crying out from this place: “work”, “work”, “work”. It is a necessary prayer. Work means dignity, work means taking food home, work means loving! To defend this idolatrous economic system the “culture of waste” has become established; grandparents are thrown away and young people are thrown away. And we must say “no” to this “culture of waste”. We must say “we want a just system! A system that enables everyone to get on”. We must say: “we don’t want this globalized economic system which does us so much harm!”. Men and women must be at the centre as God desires, and not money!

I have written a few things down for you, but on seeing you these words came to me. I shall give the bishop this written text as if they had been spoken; but I preferred to tell you what welled up from my heart, as I look at you now! You know, it is is easy to say don’t lose hope. But to all, to you all, those who have work and those who don’t, I say “do not let yourself be robbed of hope! Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!”. Perhaps hope is like embers under the ashes; let us help each other with solidarity, blowing on the ashes to rekindle the flame. But hope carries us onwards. That is not optimism, it is something else. However hope does not belong to any one person, we all create hope! We must sustain hope in everyone, among all of you and among all of us who are far away. Hope is both yours and ours. It is something that belongs to everyone! This is why I am saying to you: “do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!”. But let us be cunning, for the Lord tells us that idols are more clever than we are. The Lord asks us to have the wisdom of serpents and the innocence of doves. Let us acquire this cunning and call things by their proper name. At this time, in our economic system, in our proposed globalized system of life there is an idol at the centre and this is unacceptable! Let us all fight so that there may be men and women, families, all of us at the centre — at least of our own life — so that hope can make headway.... “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!”.
I would now like to finish by praying with you all in silence, in silence, praying with all of you. I shall say to you whatever wells up in my heart and please pray with me in silence.

Lord God look down upon us! Look at this city, this island. Look upon our families.
Lord, you were not without a job, you were a carpenter, you were happy.
Lord, we have no work.
The idols want to rob us of our dignity. The unjust systems want to rob us of hope.
Lord, do not leave us on our own. Help us to help each other; so that we forget our selfishness a little and feel in our heart the “we”, the we of a people who want to keep on going.
Lord Jesus, you were never out of work, give us work and teach us to fight for work and bless us all. In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
Thank you very much and pray for me!
* * *
[The following are the words Pope Francis had prepared for the occasion and gave to the Archbishop of Cagliari for publication.]

I should like to share with you three simple but crucial points.

The first: put the person and work back at the centre. The economic crisis has a European and a global dimension; however the crisis is not only economic, it is also ethical, spiritual and human. At its root is a betrayal of the common good, both on the part of individuals and of power groups. It is therefore necessary to remove centrality from the law of profit and gain, and to put the person and the common good back at the centre. One very important factor for the dignity of the person is, precisely, work; work must be guaranteed if there is to be an authentic promotion of the person. This task is incumbent on the society as a whole. For this reason we should acknowledge the great merit of those business people who have never stopped working hard in spite of all, investing and taking risks in order to guarantee employment. The culture of work together with that of social assistance, entails an education in work from a young age, guidance in work, dignity for any work activity, sharing work, and the elimination of all illegal work. In this phase the whole of society, every one of its members, should make every possible effort to ensure that work, which is the source of dignity, be the main concern! Moreover your condition in living on an island makes this common engagement even more important on everyone’s part, and especially for the political and economic institutions.

The second elementThe Gospel of hope. Sardinia is a land blessed by God with a range of human and environmental resources. However, as in the rest of Italy, it needs a new impetus for a fresh start. And Christians can and must do their part, making their specific contribution: the Gospel vision of life. I recall Pope Benedict XVI’s words on his visit to Cagliari in 2008: we must be capable of “evangelizing the world of work, the economy and politics which need a new generation of committed lay Christians who can seek competently and with moral rigour sustainable solutions of development” (Homily7 September 2008) at the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. The Bishops of Sardinia are particularly sensitive to these situations, especially to that of work. Dear bishops you point to the need for a serious and realistic discernment, but which is also directed to a journey of hope, as you wrote in your message for this visit. This is important, it is the right response! Look reality in the face, know it well, understand it and seek roads to take together, using the method of collaboration and dialogue, living closeness in order to bring hope. Never cloud hope! Do not confuse it with optimism — which merely implies a psychological attitude — or with other things. Hope is creative, it can create a future.

Thirdly: dignified work for all. A society open to hope is not closed in on itself, in the defence of the interests of the few. Rather it looks ahead from the viewpoint of the common good. And this requires on the part of all a strong sense of responsibility. There is no social hope without dignified employment for all. For this reason we must “continue to prioritise the goal of access to steady employment for everyone” or its maintenance for everyone (Benedict XVI, Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, n. 32).
I said “dignified” work, and I emphasize it because unfortunately, especially when there is a crisis and the need is pressing, inhumane work increases, slave-labour, work without the proper security or respect for creation, or without respect for rest, celebrations and the family and work on Sundays when it isn’t necessary. Work must be combined with the preservation of creation so that this may be responsibly safeguarded for future generations. Creation is not a good to be exploited but a gift to look after. Ecological commitment itself affords an opportunity for new concern in the sectors linked to it, such as energy, and the prevention and removal of different forms of pollution, being alert to forest fires in the wooded land that is your patrimony, and so forth. May caring for creation, and looking after man through dignified work be a common task! Ecology... and also “human ecology”!

Dear friends, I am particularly close to you as I place all your worries and anxieties in the hands of Our Lord and of Our Lady of Bonaria. Blessed John Paul II emphasized that Jesus “worked with his hands. In fact, his work, which was real physical work, occupied most of his life on this earth, and in this way entered the work of the redemption of man and of the world” (Address to the Workers of Terni, 19 March 1981; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 30 March 1981, n. 4, p. 6). It is important to devote oneself to one’s own work with diligence, dedication and competence, and it is important to be accustomed to working.

I hope that in the logic of giving freely and of solidarity, it is possible to emerge from this negative phase together, so that secure, dignified and steady employment may be guaranteed.

Please convey my greeting to your families, to the children, the young people and the elderly, I too am taking you with me, especially in my prayers. And I warmly impart the blessing to you for your work and for your social commitment.

The Gospel is radical, even in the hands of conservatives like Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II, on economic issues the Gospel requires a more radical vision than current politics allows.  And, remember, those were arch conservative popes who tried to destroy liberation theology. 

The radicalism in this is far more radical than anything I've seen in any recent officially leftist declarations on labor and economics.  It's more radical than Marx ever was, it is more of an elevation of humans than "Humanism" ever was, that philosophical pose that makes "man the measure of all things".   The Humanists' yardstick for measurement, ironically, can't help but devalue human beings because it is limited within narrow definitions, that happens whenever you attempt an naive and silly application of the reductionist methods of science where the subject matter is too big to be contained in those.  The use of a more inclusive and larger system of measure can see that people are more than their identity within economic theory or the accounting of assets, though you can't pretend the results are science, something they never can fit into so the attempt to turn that into science always ends up with people ending up short changed, according to their power to resist that.  Which is why we have Labor Day, after all. 

An Attitude Problem A Confusion of Terms And The Triumph of Fiction Over Reality

Considering the power of merely conventional passed down as an attitude to be held and maintained and not to be contradicted by any number of facts on the allegedly liberal mind it is remarkable that a word denoting freedom of thought could still be used to name it.   And in that we can see both the fragility of ideals in the face of habit and a desire to fit in to one's comfort and profit and, also, the power of conventional attitudes to control careless thought.  The "liberalism" of that phrase isn't the liberalism that gave rise to the great reform movements of the past four centuries which bettered lives.  As has been pointed out that liberalism was based in the liberal giving of sustenance to those who lacked the material, social and spiritual means to live at all in many cases and in still far too many to live a decent and morally edifying life.

No, the "liberalism" that replaced that in the usurpation of the word was the late 18th century notion of liberalism which was a mere freeing from restraints, morality among those, which was supposed to release some natural force which would set things aright.  But that was always a daffy notion.  It resulted in anything but the equality that the older liberalism founded on verses in the First and Second testament but, rather, in laissez faire economics and other boons to the rich freed of government oversight, Social Darwinisn and eugenics for the poor.

I have come, in the past dozen or so years, to see the failure to make that distinction as one of the crucial aspects of the failure of liberal politics in the past fifty years, most easily seen in the last years of the life of The Reverend Martin Luther King jr and in the period after his death when his goals of the Blessed Community abandoned for something that had more sciency veneer on it.  What had been built up by those who promoted the earlier, egalitarian liberalism was burdened with the second thing called liberalism but which it had little in common with.*

It was, though, a problem for a lot longer than that.  Yesterday's go round on whether or not "Shakespeare in Love" was a "bio-pic" reminded me of a post I did on one of the most remarkable cases of liberal confusion that hinged exactly on that point, which I'm posting here, today.  That was the identification of Oliver Wendell Holmes jr. as a liberal icon when he was a particularly brutal and savage Social Darwinist, the author of one of the worst legal decisions violating the most basic rights of people on the basis of science and social economics.   The part Broadway and Hollywood played in creating that confusion is, to an extent, unknowable but I would guess the idiotic "bio-pic" The Magnificant Yankee might have played in that is a lot greater than any familiarity with his actual thinking was.  I would guess many more thousands of college degree holding liberals saw that than ever read the Buck v Bell decision and his other thoughts impinging on actual liberal law, social policy and understood its effect in the real world.   Here is what I said on that matter in the post form several years back.

Compared to the "right" of private businesses to do things that could have enormously effects, good or bad, on countless people, including deaths,  Holmes saw the danger of individual people asserted to be "imbeciles"  having a child as more deserving of the most extreme state intervention, even into their bodies with surgery, on the mere prediction that any child they had was of an increased potential to be intellectually or physically deficient.  

Yet Holmes is seen as some kind of great progressive force in the law, primarily, I'd guess, due to his free speech dissents and his usefulness to Franklin Roosevelt at the very end of his life.  There was the movie of the play "The Magnificent Yankee" which only adds weight to the case that historical fiction in the hands of the theater and Hollywood, is best considered to be fiction.  Liberals seem to be suckers for that kind of "history".

As compared to the silly movie  that used a few names from late Elizabethan and Jacobean England to spin a totally fictitious yarn the misunderstanding of Holmes as a liberal hero is really dangerous in political and so real terms.  So the triumph of the conventional thinking that can grow out of that mistaking of fiction for reality, to be passed on as a de rigueur attitude to be held to be a good liberal, is damaging to the very identity of liberals as those who fight for the poor, the destitute, the oppressed the other among us, the least among us.  I understood in my early years of college, when I'd never read a single word of Holmes that I was to think of him as some kind of liberal hero, just as I was to hold any number of other mere attitudes based on nothing but assertions and even the merest implications of what other people said about people and ideas.  In a way the past dozen years has been about finally getting past that junk as so much more of the primary source material that I should have read, that we all should have read has become available for free in its entirety.

In these years of blogging on how the left went wrong, lost its ability to elect people to office who would change the law to improve the real lives of real people whose lives, physically and spiritually, depended on those changes, I've come to see that in a lot of cases the problem lay entirely on those attitudes and seldom on the facts.  One of the most damning was, in fact, one that had been identified a long time ago by our political opponents, that was the charge of snobbery, of believing that the college educated liberal elite loved to believe it was superior to people who had not been to college and who had not absorbed the requisite attitudes of that class of people.  I think that snobbery has been the sword that liberalism fell on, something anyone who was there for the political campaign of 1968 was stupid to not see.   Nixon used the resentment against that trait of so many of the conventional liberals, magnifying it and hanging it around the necks of even the most egalitarian of real liberals.  It took reading the unedited thinking of many thousands of those who considered themselves liberals online to make me see that in that case, we gave them the rope to do that with.  As I've also pointed out, the response of heaping more of that kind of ridicule on those who had supported Nixon in the form of Archie Bunker notably didn't prevent Nixon winning a second term or Reagan and two Bushes interspersed with conservative, laissez-faire style Democrats instead of someone who would revive and extend The New Deal or The Great Society.

It would seem to me that the first thing liberals need to understand to turn that around is what the difference between a real, traditional American liberal is and the laissez-faire substitute is.  The first is butter, the second is trans-fat margarine.  But liberals also need to understand the motives of those who led us down that path, those in the media whose interests always lay more in being able to lie for their profit than to promote a decent, egalitarian society, paying the merest lip-service to that as required in their social milieu of writers who like to be called liberal.   As the conservatives learned, all they needed to do was to give up the purity campaigners to get the media to drop the pretenses. And in allowing the porn industry - whose practices are and always have been an expression of laissez faire economics - the freedom it wanted it gained a lot more than it lost.   Rupert Murdoch, who previously may have been excluded as a soft-core pornographer being allowed to take out American citizenship and to buy a major American media company is the real life proof of what taking that "liberal" position benefited the worst of the far right enormously.  And try pointing out that "liberals" consuming his coarse, degrading, and even fascistic junk are enriching him online to see how discerning a bunch they are.   I've run that experiment on Eschaton, on Hullaballoo  on other blogs, including a couple of blogs I discontinued earlier this year.

I have certainly been guilty of most of what I'm talking about here.  The laziness and self-congratulations that led the left astray are easy and seductive, especially when sold with the full range of PR tactics and appeals to the lowest in us that are characteristic of a successful con job.  It certainly isn't pleasant to realize you have been had and it's your own fault.  But it's necessary for the future success of the program of real liberalism that those things be faced, including the defrocking and defenestration of some of our plaster saints. A lot more than the altered, phonied up bust of Shakespeare will have to go, a lot more.  The great "authorship question" is only really important as a model of how a required conventional attitude can triumph over the factual content of available evidence, the question of whether or not you really believe all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with equal rights and the right to sustenance and respect, that's the real thing.

* I'm coming to wonder if it isn't possible to analyze all of American history to be a struggle between those two "liberalisms" the second one being, actually, a mere variation on conservatism, what I've come to see as more accurately called "liberalish libertarianism".  The 18th century "liberals" who wrote the Constitution set up the necessity of the anti-slavery struggle, the struggle for women's rights and for the rights of workers as opposed to their employers, and universal justice.  We, today, struggle with those who want to reimpose that 18th century liberalism on us through their occult divination of the "original intent" of those liberals and, as I've also pointed out many times, even real liberals are suckers for it when they intone the phrase, "The First Amendment".

The Darwinist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. made what might be the most infamous declaration on eugenics made in the United States, it may be his most well known quote.

Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

The fuller reading of the paragraph, near the end of his decision in the Buck v Bell case, is even worse:

The attack is not upon the procedure, but upon the substantive law. It seems to be contended that in no circumstances could such an order be justified. It certainly is contended that the order cannot be justified upon the existing grounds. The judgment finds the facts that have been recited, and that Carrie Buck

"is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health, and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization,"

and thereupon makes the order. In view of the general declarations of the legislature and the specific findings of the Court, obviously we cannot say as matter of law that the grounds do not exist, and, if they exist, they justify the result. We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

If I had the time, I'd go through Holmes' famous dissents in matters of prior restraint in printed matter, even, as in the Gitlow case, against the restraint of publishing incitements to violent insurrection and revolution, even as Holmes contemplated that sufficiently eloquent incitements might succeed in that incitement.  I see his approval of the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck was a "prior restraint" on her ability to have another child.  Leaving aside Stephen Jay Gould's essay on the case, in which he quite conclusively shows that neither Carrie Buck nor her daughter were, actually, of below normal intelligence,  Holmes clearly saw the danger of her having another child as being a greater danger to "the state" than a possibly successful insurrection overturning the government.   In the Gitlow case, when it was merely the mode of expression and its contents that were at stake, he said:

Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief and if believed it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between the expression of an opinion and an incitement in the narrower sense is the speaker's enthusiasm for the result. Eloquence may set fire to reason. But whatever may be thought of the redundant discourse before us it had no chance of starting a present conflagration. If in the long run the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorship are destined to be accepted by the dominant forces of the community, the only meaning of free speech is that they should be given their chance and have their way.

However, clearly, in Buck v Bell, Holmes considered that people, their right to have children, the right to the ownership of their own body, was less important compared to the right of words.  


It would be possible to go through the decision and make point by point comparisons with what the great Holmes said and what such infamous figures as Galton, Haeckel, and their colleagues now considered less disreputable said and find who Holmes was very likely paraphrasing.  In fact, on the other end of the history of the first eugenics era, the defense of Nazi doctors at Nuremberg cited Holmes' decision as well as other American documents in their defense.  You have to wonder what that felt like for Francis Biddle, the chief judge at those trials, given that he had been Holmes' private secretary.   

His familiarity with Holmes gives Biddle's analysis of the effect that Holmes' thinking and reading a particular credibility that could stand alone as evidence of how he came to decide what he did.  In a series of lectures Biddle gave, which were published in 1960 he said.  

All society rested on the death of men or on the prevention of the lives of a good many. So that when the Chief Justice assigned him the task of writing an opinion upholding the constitutionality 
of a Virginia law for sterilizing imbeciles he felt that he was getting near the first principle of real reform— although of course he didn't mean that the surgeon's knife was the ultimate symbol. 
... He was amused at some of the rhetorical changes in his opinion suggested by his associates, and purposely used "short and rather brutal words for an antithesis," that made them mad. In most cases the difficulty was rather with the writing than with the thinking. To put the case well and from time to time to hint at a vista was the job. . . . 

The vista of which Biddle spoke was provided by Holmes' reading of Charles Darwin.  Biddle continued:

This approach is characteristic of Holmes, and constantly reflected in his opinions— to keep the law fluid and the doors of the mind open. For pedestrian lawyers it was often unsatisfactory— they wanted everything defined and settled and turned into everlasting precedents. 

Darwin's influence was strong on Holmes, and his theory of the survival of those who were fit to survive must have been constantly and passionately discussed in Dr. Holmes's house when 
Wendell was a growing lad and young man. On the Origin of Species had appeared when he was eighteen, and The Descent of Man in 1871, when he was thirty. Darwin led to Herbert Spencer, 
whom Holmes thought dull, with the ideals of a lower middle-class British Philistine, but who, with Darwin, he believed had done more than any other English writer to affect our whole way of thinking about the universe. All his life Holmes held to the survival of the strong, and did not disguise his view that the Sherman Act was a humbug, based on economic ignorance and incompetence, and that the Interstate Commerce Commission was not a fit body to be entrusted with rate making. However, as he said to Pollock, he was so skeptical about our knowledge of the goodness or badness of laws that he had no practical criticism except what the crowd wants. Personally he would bet that the crowd if it knew more wouldn't want what it does. 

Compared to the "right" of private businesses to do things that could have enormously effects, good or bad, on countless people, including deaths,  Holmes saw the danger of individual people asserted to be "imbeciles"  having a child as more deserving of the most extreme state intervention, even into their bodies with surgery, on the mere prediction that any child they had was of an increased potential to be intellectually or physically deficient.  

Yet Holmes is seen as some kind of great progressive force in the law, primarily, I'd guess, due to his free speech dissents and his usefulness to Franklin Roosevelt at the very end of his life.  There was the movie of the play "The Magnificent Yankee" which only adds weight to the case that historical fiction in the hands of the theater and Hollywood, is best considered to be fiction.  Liberals seem to be suckers for that kind of "history".

Since he lived until 1935, Holmes saw eugenics activity in the United States increase enormously after his decision, responsible for the forced and involuntary sterilization of scores of thousands of people.  He also lived to see the rise of fascists in Europe, the Nazis, he lived long enough and could have been quite aware of the Nazis eugenic laws, the first in Germany, in July of 1933, laws which were justified by the Nazis and their supporters by citing the eugenics laws in the United States, both at the beginning and, as mentioned before, after the fall of the Third Reich.  I don't know if he is recorded as ever having said anything about that,  other than his declaration that he felt he was getting at "the first principle of real reform" in his decision, I haven't yet found anything he said in its wake.  I would suspect there is something, I just haven't found it yet.

David A. Hollinger, in an interesting essay, "The Tough-Minded Justice Holmes" gives more insight into what almost certainly influenced Holmes to write his most famous decision.  He notes the influence of Charles Darwin and his circle and how William James tried to broaden his friend, Holmes' views and lead him to be less unquestioningly accepting of them. 

This is not to claim that James developed his categories with Holmes in mind, but there is no doubt that this particular map of intellectual alternatives was suggested to James by a circle of mid-nineteenth-century British secular intellectuals with whom Holmes strongly identified himself and against whom Jame's own career as a philosopher was directed.  The members of this circle were often called “scientific naturalists” or, less helpfully, “positivists”;  they included Herbet Spencer, G. H. Lewes, T. H. Huxley, John Tyndall, W.K. Clifford, Henry Buckle and – although his reticence in philosophical and religious matters made his position in this movement ambiguous – the great Charles Darwin Himself.  To James, these “knights of the razor,” as he called them sardonically, were anathema on account of their parochial misunderstanding of science and their extraordinary ability to intimidate people who would prefer to make a more generous view of religious experience and individual volition. While James mocked the pretensions of Popular Science Monthly – the major American medium for the dissemination of the views of this circle, Holmes so rejoiced in its influence that he sent a fan letter to its militant editor, E. L. Youmans.  Holmes celebrated the triumphs of this truly “scientific,” reality-facing, ostentatiously stoic cadre over the sentimentalism he associated with his own father.  While James thought his friend Holmes was making rather a spectacle of himself by representing his marks of toughness the scars worn by the sword-fighting duelists in German universities, Holmes seemed convinced that the battle against sentimentalism was never won. 

The idea that Holmes' "tough-mindedness", an attribute given him by James, could have been reacting to the "sentimentalism" of his father, the poet, is interesting.  It's almost tempting to see Holmes as an example of that turn from 19th century liberalism of the kind that produced the reform movements of abolition, women's rights, temperance, various reforms to protect workers and consumers, etc. into a more "scientific" liberalism that still distorts, denatures and defeats liberals today.  But I think the case is that such denatured liberalism was unable to make the distinction between a mythical, liberal Holmes and the reality of his products.  Is it his "free speech" language that deceives liberals?  Liberals go all soggy when someone says those words.  Free speech, with its potential to incite violent struggle can be seen as a useful motivator of natural selection as much as it is a vital component of liberal reform.  In the hands of the rich and powerful it has that effect, often to the detriment of genuine liberalism, as our freest press ever proves 24/7/365.  In the beginning of his essay, Hollinger points out:

.....that a major folk hero of the liberal intelligentsia is a man who has been plausibly described by Grant Gilmore as “savage, harsh, and cruel, a bitter and lifelong pessimist who saw in the course of human life nothing but a continuing struggle in which the rich and powerful impose their will on the poor and weak.  The two issues are largely distinct from one another, but they do connect through the utility of a “scientific” persona held for proponents of a genuinely secular, de-Christianized liberalism for the public culture of the United States. 

This is what I meant by the wrong turn that liberalism took as it attempted to become more "tough-minded", more "scientific", less "sentimental".  Such liberalism equates whatever is held to be science with hard reality and whatever can be associated with the "sentimental" as being an illusion, including religion, including vast stretches of morality which comprise the genuine substance of liberalism.  This is how it mistakes Holmes for a liberal when he was no such thing, it's how eugenics, the negation of everything that liberalism comprises, came to be associated with liberalism.  

Post Script:  I can't say it any better than the atheist and materialist and friend of Stephen Jay Gould,  Richard Lewontin, did in his Essay:  Billions and Billions of Demons

The struggle for possession of public consciousness between material and mystical explanations of the world is one aspect of the history of the confrontation between elite culture and popular culture. Without that history we cannot understand what was going on in the Little Rock Auditorium in 1964. The debate in Arkansas between a teacher from a Texas fundamentalist college and a Harvard astronomer and University of Chicago biologist was a stage play recapitulating the history of American rural populism. In the first decades of this century there was an immensely active populism among poor southwestern dirt farmers and miners.7 The most widely circulated American socialist journal of the time (The Appeal to Reason!) was published not in New York, but in Girard, Kansas, and in the presidential election of 1912 Eugene Debs got more votes in the poorest rural counties of Texas and Oklahoma than he did in the industrial wards of northern cities. Sentiment was extremely strong against the banks and corporations that held the mortgages and sweated the labor of the rural poor, who felt their lives to be in the power of a distant eastern elite. The only spheres of control that seemed to remain to them were family life, a fundamentalist religion, and local education. 

This sense of an embattled culture was carried from the southwest to California by the migrations of the Okies and Arkies dispossessed from their ruined farms in the 1930s. There was no serious public threat to their religious and family values until well after the Second World War. Evolution, for example, was not part of the regular biology curriculum when I was a student in 1946 in the New York City high schools, nor was it discussed in school textbooks. In consequence there was no organized creationist movement. Then, in the late 1950s, a national project was begun to bring school science curricula up to date. A group of biologists from elite universities together with science teachers from urban schools produced a new uniform set of biology textbooks, whose publication and dissemination were underwritten by the National Science Foundation. An extensive and successful public relations campaign was undertaken to have these books adopted, and suddenly Darwinian evolution was being taught to children everywhere. The elite culture was now extending its domination by attacking the control that families had maintained over the ideological formation of their children. 

Lewontin's is about the most realistic, most informed and most sophisticated analysis of the this struggle in the United States which I've read.

In a struggle that produces far more than its share of ironies, it is remarkable that as the fundamentalist anti-evolutionists who have made the best use of the history of American Eugenics, the eugenics history of Charles Darwin and his inner circle and the waves emanating from them as present day liberals are obsessively protecting the inspiration of eugenics, the lassie-faire capitalist, supporter of the 19th century British class system, anti-contraceptive, racist, flagrant bigot, etc. Charles Darwin on behalf of his science, which is long superseded by better explanations of the fact of evolution. 

How Darwinism became the great cause celebre of liberalism when it has nothing to do with a genuine liberal political agenda and, in the genuine history of Darwinism is antithetical to liberalism, is worth asking.  The separation of church and state is worth supporting but, frankly, if we've got to buy Darwinism to do it, it's not going to lead to liberalism.  I don't think liberalism has to make that deal.  At the very least it should face the real Charles Darwin and throw him off the sled.  Liberal struggle requires that.