Saturday, February 23, 2013

Carla Bley Steve Swallow: Remember

I will be away for several days.  I will post another piece on Tuesday.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jimmy Guiffre Trio: In the mornings out there, 1961

Jimmy Giuffre clarinet,
Paul Bley piano, 
Steve Swallow double-bass

Looking Backwards

In the past days I've had a lot of occasions to think about what it was like to be gay in the 1970s.   To a lot of people, especially straight folk, that sentence will bring to mind Armistead Maupin's San Francisco based Tales of the City or something similarly themed purporting to celebrate gay life in New York City in the same decade.  Those, in the popular imagination, were the two poles of the gay world in the United States in the 1970s.  And both truly were magnets for gay men and Lesbians.  But any short consideration of numbers will reveal that for most of us, our gay 1970s was not like the carnival of gay sex that was, in fact, available in those cities.

Being a musician living in the suburbs of Portland, Maine for several of those years, my New York city based friends were constantly urging me to move there.   One told me he couldn't understand how I could pass up having a hand in participating in the building of "the emerging gay culture".   My several friends from San Francisco, all of them Maine boys who had gone west instead of to "the city" similarly encouraged me to go there.   One told me that it was like buying a coat, if you went to a bigger store you could try on a lot more coats before you found one that fit perfectly.  He didn't seem to have found that perfect one for himself.

I never did get to San Francisco but my trips to New York City quickly revealed that it wasn't for me.  The clubs, where most of the men I knew went most nights, were a lot like they are depicted, some of them far more so.  Lots of drinking and drugs, lots of anonymous and exotic sex, lots and lots of it.  Lots of attention getting behavior. Like all instances of attention seeking, the more extreme and the gaudier, the more likely it is  to be noticed.   It was a continual indoors Mardi gras, self consciously seeking decadence, then depravity.   And they wanted the real thing as provided at The Mineshaft and The Toilet.

Yes, the music was disco.   I can't say it was disco that decided the question that I wouldn't be going to the city but it helped in that decision.  I hated disco from the first time I heard the first bars of "Love's Theme".   I didn't get to the symphony or to hear new music concerts much on those visits.  I hadn't developed a taste for opera yet, which is too bad as one of my friends sang with the City Opera chorus.  How he did it while clubbing I will never understand.  He was one of my many  friends who died of AIDS, after burying his lover who died of AIDS as well as just about every single other of his New York friends, before he went home to his family to die.

It was in 1973 that someone I knew from New York made a remark about hepatitis being a rite of passage for gay men.  It was a moment that pulled together a lot of what I hadn't, as yet, concluded about what I was seeing.  I knew enough about hepatitis to already realize that it was an insane idea, an expression of the unreality of the spectacle.   And knowing it was spread by contact with feces, the statement was another way saying that anal sex was "the real gay sex".  That was explicitly asserted many times by the theoreticians of this allegedly emerging gay culture, that other forms of sex were, somehow, less authentically gay. Not having yet seen K.J. Dover's book about intercurral sex as depicted on Greek pottery or knowing that Oscar Wilde and a number of other famous gay writers had rejected anal sex, I didn't argue the issue on those grounds.   I'm sorry to say I didn't argue it at all.  I didn't happen to want anal sex, knowing about hepatitis and e-coli and some of the other, then known, risks of anal sex.   I certainly didn't like the increased chances of disease but I also refused to accept the theme of dominance that made traditional straight relationships something women had to fight against.   That is exactly what the emerging so called gay culture of the 1970s was doing, reveling in the very worst aspects of straight male identity masked with the gaudy trappings which were what most people seem to have seen.

Confronted with evidence of hard science during that crisis that was, literally, decimating gay men,  noting the health problems of anal sex or anonymous sex got a blast of soc-psy speak mixed with huge amounts of the current political theory that was, in fact, geared to shut down reasoning  and discussion.   The "theory" of gay sex current in the late 70s and 80s was anything but based in reality, it was a mound of crap based on preexisting mounds of such "theory" as, no doubt, could have gotten you a masters at a prestigious university.  You could have fertilized Central Park, all of the green spaces in New York City with the stream constantly being generated to enforce the current line of "liberation".  It would be exactly the same stuff , said by the same men, even as the AIDS deaths were mounting and a link to anonymous and anal sex was found.  The trips to New York City in the early 80s were more like a slow motion Masque of The Red Death in the world's biggest ball room.  After 1985, there wasn't a trip that didn't include one or more funerals for men in early-middle age or younger.  All of the ones I knew dead from the consequences of what had seemed so liberating to them only a few years before.  Temporarily, the unignorable fact of AIDS killing gay men influenced the discussion.

Seeing what I did, hearing what I did, I learned it is immoral to censor what I say about the consequences of irresponsible and selfish sex, not to mention commercial sex and the constant coercion of the sex industry to either participate in that kind of dreary, boring, increasingly immoral sex or to accept if not approve or it for other people.  You are to accept what its lying and idiotic spokesmen said on behalf of the industry, many of them women, these days.   Which is unstylish to say in the 2000s, especially in the virtual 1970s recreated online, for those who actually recreate the milieu with their bodies, counting on being able to be sustained by a series of drug protocols that, eventually, lose their effectiveness as HIV mutates in response to them, and, even more so, the nonparticipating cynics who enjoy the spectacle, which must be constantly ramped up as they become bored with last season's show.

I am afraid for my nieces and nephews in the same way that I was for my gay friends in the late 70s and early 80s, only now I've seen what I'd only suspected was going to happen come true.  The equivalent of "sex pos" "feminism" and hooking up are things I've already seen and I know what the next act of the tragedy is.


I've come to think that anyone who wants to see how the left, in general, went seriously wrong could probably find some ideas in studying the political expression of the 1970s gay scenes in urban centers.  Three  statements from some of the ephemerally prominent spokesmen for gay men back then have stuck with me.

One was in a magazine ad, I think it was for some gay political group or other, in the form of those period Dewar's Vodka "profile" ads.   In correct 1970s theoretician speak, the now forgotten profilee said that we must stop thinking of gay men as individuals but think of gay men as a category.   Just the idea that we must think that way would be enough to get my back up, even at that age.  I wasn't interested in being liberated in order to be told how I was to think.   But even more so was the idiocy of thinking that liberation was all about coercion to conform to some concept dreamed up by some theoretician.  Most of the people who talked like that were either academics or they aspired to be mistaken for an academic.  For a lot of the more intellectually inclined of any gender preference, being a THEORETICIAN was the apex of achievement.  Being a theoretician might get you a faculty position.  Having suffered through a series of useless theory classes as a music major and, much worse, having read theory of the past decade, I was already far more impressed by doing rather than abstracting and expounding theories.

Another would be gay leader, whose name I wish I remembered,  said something much more sensible, that the gay movement needed a Martin Luther King and it wasn't going to have one.  I don't know if I realized at the time that it was a far more insightful statement about gay life in the 1970s but it's one of the few such statements from back then that was a sharp insight into reality.  We needed a unifying figure who could effectively force the kind of legal change that was made in the 1960s.   The conditions that produced that kind of leadership, especially black families and black churches, were entirely missing from gay life.  The lack of those entities meant that the real possibilities for change were always either aborted before development or constantly eroding into the very gay carnival scene that so many took as the entire point of the new freedoms.  There was nothing providing a center around which to organize, no agreed to goal.  The competing theorists of the "emerging gay culture" weren't a dialectic  that produced progress, it was a grinding machine that just produced a pile of junk.  The antagonism from and to religion left gay men without what religion provided the earlier civil rights struggle.  The attempts to provide that through The Metropolitan Community Church and other groups were good but no competition to the profane attractions and the atheistic world of academic theory.

While the emerging possibilities of being out, of fighting against the need to hide ourselves were an essential part of the movement to real equality, the decade was an unfortunate one for gay folks in many other ways.

Sex, being the central issue in being identified as gay,  that fact meant gay people were also caught up in the increasingly screwed up ideas about sex that are common to the human species.   The third statement was that the great achievement of the alleged gay liberation movement was to separate sex from love, to free sex from love.  Well, I couldn't deny that there was a lot of sex removed from love or even acquaintance,  it was obviously one of the few things that was really happening in a big way.  But I'd always seen that kind of furtive sex as being a symptom of the necessity to not be seen as gay.  It was an emblem of oppression, not freedom.  You couldn't be seen as having a long term gay relationship without risking your job and, in many cases,  membership in your family, and in reality, your life.

Of course anonymous sex was dangerous as well.  Even aside from getting hepatitis or other forms of "VD," as we used to say back then, every gay man I knew either knew someone who had been brutally attacked and/or robbed during their pursuit of anonymous sex.   A lot of us knew the names of men who had been killed by the class of criminals who specialized in attacking gay men who were looking for sex.  The police response to crimes against gay men, especially those who had been attacked while looking for sex, made it useless to report those crimes.  On occasion it was the police who attacked gay men, if they weren't there in plain clothes to arrest men who approached them.

If there was one thing I was absolutely certain of, I didn't want sex divorced from love, I didn't want sex based on domination and submission or a simulation of rape or the psychotic, internalized hatred of sadomasochism, no matter how idiotically chic it was sold as being by idiots selling themselves as intellectuals.  I didn't want a series of ephemeral sexual encounters with men whose name I didn't know,   I didn't see anything sustainable or good in what was then developing as a  "gay culture" which I increasingly saw as a symptom of internalized oppression and self-hatred by wounded men who had been prevented from having an open, loving relationship with a man who was committed to them.  What, at first, seemed like frivolity aping the prescriptions provided to women to keep them from taking their lives seriously all the easier to dominate,  was quickly turning into something far worse.   It was looking to me like the early parts of Pasolini's movie Salo, in which a rising level of violent novelty in sex was necessary to maintain interest for those able to take a dominant role.

Then the AIDS crisis became a brief and solemn time out from all of that.   The self-destructive party was submerged in the health crisis only to reemerge as AIDS was declared over due to the powerful and far from consequence free drug cocktails, and, even more so, as more people went online.   Thinking about how it happened became passe.  The AIDS quilt was made of cloth, not of granite.

In the past ten years, being exposed to far more gay porn than I saw in the previous four decades,  the results of divorcing sex from love look, ever increasingly, like Salo.*   That is what sex divorced from love always will result in, that is what seeing people as objects treatable by theory leads to, it is the opposite of The Reverend Martin Luther King jr's conception of the beloved community.   And, as can be seen in the increasingly violent straight porn, of the lunancy of "sex pos" "feminism."   The hook up sex culture  of today offers to straight women what gay men had in urban centers of the 1970s,  including the inevitable results of ignoring the science generated by places like the CDC.  If nothing else, then the denial of reality as then will lead to only an alternative form of oppression by a new form of coercive denial of the humanity of individual people, turning people, not into people free to love and be loved but into interchangeable and fungible units of commerce in a market of commodities, with rich opportunities of cheating and theft.  With that inevitably comes a sacrifice of those units whose value is depleted.

It was my luck that I didn't want what I was told to take in the 1970s.  I didn't want sex without love, I didn't want superficial encounters with people I didn't know as a substitute for love.  I didn't want the deadened pain that the disco-drug-drunk-domination program really was.

I chose something else and I was lucky to find a man who wanted what I did.  The times and places we lived in made it impossible for us to have more of what we wanted but neither of us came to the kind of bad ends that so many of the men we knew did.  Both of us lost scores of friends to AIDS, to alcoholism and drug addiction, to violence and the literary-celluloid  prescription for being gay of suicide.   Neither of us had any desire for anal sex or sex with strangers or sex with themes of domination and submission.  The discussion about that was rather uncomfortable until we were both relieved to find we agreed on that point.  We didn't want sex that put either of us at risk We didn't want sex without love.  We didn't want sex without each other.   I'd have liked to have married him but that wasn't going to be.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thank You

Thank you for the comments.   It really came out of nowhere, he was in perfect health and I was hoping to see him next weekend.   He was someone I ran a lot of my ideas by, often pointed out lapses in consistency.   His sister is pretty shaken up, she's a friend too,   She's his only family, a musician as well.   He really was about the nicest guy you'd ever want to know.

Copland Violin Sonata - Kaufman/Copland (2/3)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The most aggravating thing about him is that he was one of those men who only got better looking the older he got.  He started out good looking enough for anyone to be, tall, lean, with fine hair and a beautiful face.  He was so good looking that women were always hitting on him, only he wasn't interested.  It confused everyone, he seemed totally straight.   I figured he was beyond hoping for.  The day he asked me if I'd accompany him I thought all he wanted me for was my sight reading ability.  He had a mustache, not exactly to my taste but it suited him.  As my hair was turning steel gray his turned, first, salt and pepper then pure white, his mustache too.  My only consolation was that his thinned out a bit.  He liked that mine had only changed its color.  I was never nearly good looking enough for him but I think he loved me for my chord spelling, by then.

We didn't play together a lot, we played different kinds of music but it was always fun when we did.  He certainly made more money from playing than I ever did.  I drew the line at singer-songwriter stuff.  “I will not play a song with the word “coping” in the lyrics”.   He laughed.

We never lived together, he wanted to have his own place.  He taught school.  It would have been a lot more awkward back then, even if I'd lived in town with him.  He was uneasy about meeting my family “How many did you say there are?”  Farm life wouldn't have suited him, anyway. It was never an ideal situation but we stayed together a lot longer than other people did.  He knew I insisted on him being faithful, he did too.   We buried too many friends, too young.  The time he told me I was his only lover,  I believed him, not because he didn't get chances – did he ever -  and certainly not because of my looks, but because he'd have told me if I hadn't been.  He was honest.   He didn't drink.  He was a good musician.  He was a quiet, decent man.

It was entirely unexpected. I loved him and I'll miss him till I die too.

Maria Muldaur Doc Watson Honey Baby Blues

Dave Holland Quintet - How's Never?

This is the piece I'd planned on posting today, so I will.  It's a great piece, especially the solo by Chris Potter, though all of the solos are surpassingly fine.

In The Beginning God Created Everything Studied by Science

A few years ago there was a lot of blather about the "God gene" about, especially after the Tufts philosophy professor, Daniel Dennett wrote "Breaking the Spell", another of his attention grabbing books that earn him a place in the highest rank of new atheists.  Dennett is always trying to find a way to find a biological explanation of everything about human thought, squeezing or chopping at everything to fit it into a Darwinian framework.  Everything must be due to natural selection.

I asked where was the "God protein" that was produced by this gene or genes and the evidence that tied gene, protein, tissues and religious "behavior", only there is none.  I also asked how "religion", its alleged product, a belief in God or gods, or, in some assertions, Nibbana or Nirvana, etc. was so variable.    "Religion" is far more varied than the color of sheep or wrinkles in peas.  There really isn't one "thing" that we're talking about when we talk about religion.  The category "religion" is an artificial construct, not an actual thing with an independent existence.  It would be as possible to include things or exclude things from the category.  One atheist I had an argument with a while ago, "SLC" wanted to include Marxism in the category, something I'm sure many true believing atheistic Marxists would violently reject.  Not to mention many other religious folk.  His definition "a set of assertions based on no evidence" would make what Dennett assertions of "god genes" which he peddles to atheists, religion.

For example, among the most extreme of such assertions are the heaps of evidence free belief in Dennett's book "Darwin's Dangerous Idea".  In that book his extension of natural selection based on his assertions of "substrate neutrality" undid the Mendelian synthesis of the 1930s in order to make the most extravagant claims for natural selection, even outside of biology.   The assertions quickly became quite irrational since Dennet ignored that it was exactly the specific "substrate" of discrete genetic inheritance which, literally, saved Darwin's idea from impossibility.   Natural selection won't work unless there are specific units of inheritance that can be passed to offspring, intact.   Dennett, ever so eager to make all things Darwinian doesn't seem to have a very good understanding of  the concept and  history of Darwinism, or its logical and scientific, as opposed to ideological, substance.   He should look at the period from the last two decades of the 19th century up until Fischer glued Mendelian genetics to natural selection, when there was a large amount of scientific skepticism about natural selection.  And as he looks he should put aside his constant weapon of accusations of betrayal of materialism.  Dennett always brings that tired old accusation out, accusing even atheists he deems to be insufficiently wedded to Dennett's extreme Darwinian makeover of reality of looking for "sky hooks".   That kind of rhetorical tactic is a sure sign of someone unprepared to seriously confront countering arguments.

I think that Dennett's book is a modern day recreation of Haeckel's insanely expansive monism, though it wouldn't surprise me if Dennett hadn't really read Haeckel or to have understood that what he did was infect evolutionary science with what was, in fact, a metaphysical, ideological virus, that is still a pox on science, one of its major sources of disrepute.

Oddly, enough, considering Dennett's trashing of the idea that genetic inheritance is what makes natural selection even plausible,  he's always inventing genes to explain things about human thought which he doesn't like.   He doesn't like God so he figures if he can convince people that God is "merely an incidental result of the instinct*"  - to borrow a phrase from Darwin - to reproduce, they'll give up God.  I dare say that  Dennett, Dawkins, and other biological determinists proably hold a record for attempts at modern alchemy, trying to make their words into flesh, or at least locations on chromosomes.  Only not being especially interested in actually finding them.

Like all biological reductionists I'm aware of, Dennett figures if he can only get everything down to a molecular level, he can prove that God is a delusion and he will have made his name as a father of the great new atheist future.   Or, at least, he can get the kind of attention religion bashing gets during this period when atheism is a fad among the middle-brow intelligentsia.  He'll definitely get on the chat shows.


But Dennett's flawed thinking is just symptomatic of a more pervasive misunderstanding by atheists of how billions of religious people think of  God.   The absolute refutation of their misunderstanding is contained in the first sentence of Genesis, before the debunkable assertions about how the diversity of life came about.   "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth" or as it's put in the Creed,  "God created all things visible and invisible".  

No matter how much atheists must hate the idea, their entire effort to use science in all its levels of focus to dispose of such a Creator is futile, at least if intellectual coherence is the requirement instead of appeals to sloppy thinking and prejudice.   The belief is that God created all things,  everything in the universe, everything that science is capable of discovering about the physical universe, the objects and forces within it, is held by people who believe in the Creator God to have been as created by God as trees, stones and water.  That would include the largest definable structures that scientists posit to what we can see without telescopes, to what we can only intuit from the wreckage of super colliders to objects at the Planck scale which may or may not be there but which are very likely to ever escape physical verification.   It certainly includes genes and the all of the chemistry within cells.  There is no other level of matter or energy, the exclusive domain of science,  that isn't covered by that idea that God created everything.  There is no alternative universe for science to study that is not covered by that idea asserted in the first few words of  The Bible.

You don't have to believe it but there is no argument that you can make in science that overcomes that inclusive statement of belief.  The best science can do is to clarify understanding of that creation, it can do what it does internally, clarify understanding of the physical universe overturning misconceptions,  whether those are held by an atheist or a believer.  But it can't touch the idea that what it finds is a part of the actual creation believed in by religious people.   The men who invented modern science, all of them Christians, believed they were making exactly such discoveries about that creation, they believed they were attaining a deeper understanding of God's thought.  Almost all of them more philosophically sophisticated than some very famous scientists today, understood that.  Apparently they also had a level of philosophical discernment that some professors of philosophy can't deal with, as well.

One of the invariable features of atheist polemics, from the beginning down to today, is atheists taking pot shots at is one or another of the the gods of primitive fundamentalism.  In Western discourse that is a god who stands or falls on the basis of the fidelity of scriptural assertions about the creation with contemporary geological and fossil evidence.   That god is one that is easy to knock over but that isn't the God that I believe in.  Atheists are frequently telling me that I have to believe in that God when I tell them I don't.  Some of them get quite angry when I say that because that's the only God they know how to attack.   But God doesn't depend on human conceptions but whenever human beings talk about God, held to be infinite and beyond the physical universe,  it has to be out of our limited conceptions.   Any too defined articulation of God is liable to debunkery but not the God who created the heavens and the Earth, the God who surpasses human understanding, human conceptions of logic and the natural laws we discern.  the God whom people believe in even as every attempt at comprehension and imagination is bound to fall infinitely short.

When I first heard Daniel Dennett expounding on his genetically based God, one of the things that occurred to me was that if there was a Creator who wanted to be known to people, it wouldn't be surprising if such a God made peoples' physical bodies their brains, able to believe.  It's no more startling an idea that natural selection produced our minds.  Why unthinking molecules would care about their reproduction seems to me to be much more far fetched.

And for natural selection to be relevant to "God genes" not all members of a species could have had them.  Natural selection can't select for a trait that is universally possessed.  Some people would be religiously deficient, so to speak.   Perhaps that accounts for there being people who are atheists.  They are genetically unable to sense what religious people do or, perhaps, to process their experience in order to sense another aspect of reality.  Perhaps a nagging sense of their inability to percieve God is what makes so many atheists so very angry and resentful.   I can imagine that predestinarians could make a great deal of there being people genetically unable to believe in God.  Perhaps they are chosen for eternal damnation.  At least that's how I put the possibility when I want to annoy people silly enough to pretend there are God genes.   I don't believe a word of it, myself.  Perhaps I don't have genes that lead some people to make up stories about genes without any evidence, whatsoever, to support them.

You might enjoy this John Cleese podcast, The Scientists

*  Whenever a Darwinist wants to dismiss an idea they don't like or which is inconvenient to the universal potency of natural selection, they will come up with an expression that makes it accidental or an illusion.  It's a habit that began with Charles Darwin, himself.   That those assertions demoting ideas and phenomena are without any, actual, basis in data and evidence is one of the things that has made me doubt that natural selection is likely more than an artificial construct, an acquired and required means of expression and mode of thought,  itself.

A personal note:  I have had a death in my family today,  no, not my very old mother.  I will not post more of this series again until next week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dave Holland Quintet: Herbaceous

I love how when they solo, they really solo.

Larry Krauss Being a Doofus

Larry Krauss, who I used to have some respect for, seems to be giving up theoretical physics to follow the well worn road that Bertrand Russell took when he had to abandon his second career in philosophy and Richard Dawkins followed as his evo-psy has reached the stage of full maturity and is showing serious signs of rot.   Krauss is going from making some rather moderate statements on the new atheists, encouraging them not to oversell what science can do by way of promoting athiesm, to going full new atheist.   I strongly suspect that he has gotten far, far more attention and, perhaps, per-hour remuneration, from his more recent religion bashing than he did from being a prominent theoretical physicist*.

He's got a "Big Think" YouTube up in which he says that teaching children about creationism is "child abuse" and similar to what the Taliban does.

Krauss is 1000% right that the teaching of biology should be free of extra-scientific ideas, certainly in the public schools.   Really in all of them but the law can't restrict private schools in the same way.   But his language is so absurdly overblown  that he leaves himself open for a charge of hypocrisy. More about that in a minute.   If he really believes that telling a child about creationism is child abuse then he would have to approve of it being illegal to do that.   He'd have to approve of prosecutions of parents or grandparents who read their children the first chapters in Genesis, no doubt turned in by their children.  Not to mention Sunday School teachers.   With his Taliban comparison, maybe he'd suggest that parents who tell their children the story of Adam and Eve be sent to Gitmo or taken out with some of the emerging products of the same science and technology he mentions.   Hey, if he can go all overblown, why can't I?

Krauss makes his accusation on the entirely correct basis that a literal belief in the biblical creation stories is scientifically wrong.   Then he ties in predictions of dire consequences for society and even the economy, which I'd like to see him support with actual examples from real people in society.  For just about anyone who doesn't deal with evolutionary science as part of their work, a knowledge of it has all of the impact on their lives as a knowledge of  the early years of the Holy Roman Empire.     I doubt that a belief in the story of the talking snake really has a major economic impact. But, perhaps, Krauss believes he, out of his superior status as a theoretical physicist dealing with inanimate objects, can spout the truth without the vulgar evidence of those kinds of real life examples.

Before his new atheist star turn, Lawrence Krauss was, perhaps, most famous in the general population for a paper he and some colleagues wrote a few years aback in which they called into doubt the possibility of the formation of black holes.  The idea interested me because he noted that if time stops at the event horizon of a black hole, things couldn't fall into it, or at least that was my understanding of the very complicated argument.  It sounded plausible to me, though I'd never take a position on it.   I don't know if he's still pushing that conclusion but I remember reading him saying that there were alternative explanations in collapsing stars to explain the appearances suggestive of black holes, which, as he pointed out, no one had actually observed.

I was also curious as to the consequences if black holes were debunked.   There is nothing in science that has figured so heavily in recent pop-culture as black holes.   They are scary, destructive, enormously powerful, inevitable and have purported powers mysterious enough and spooky enough to have fueled many a totally crappy plot line in sci-fi books, sy-fy TV, movies, and I'd guess video games.   Black holes have sold, big time.  If those were debunked I predicted the consequences for the public acceptance of science would be disastrous.  I've become increasingly convinced that a lot of the public resistance to science is due, in no small part, to instances in which it was massively oversold.

But, coming back to Larry Krauss's recent cry for attention.   If he was right and black holes aren't real, isn't teaching children about them as much a violation of reality as teaching them creationism? Wouldn't Krauss, to maintain his most basic intellectual integrity, HAVE TO DECLARE THAT TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT BLACK HOLES IS ALSO CHILD ABUSE?   And what can be said about that can be said about enormous areas of theoretical science which will not pan out and the numerous instances of pseudo-science now taught as "social science" but will likely be overturned before the child reaches middle-age.   I recall being taught "science" as validating Freudianism, as it fell into an intellectual black hole as well as parts of its successor, behaviorism, now having followed it into that bleak apocalypse.   I, still being 16 when I had that course, should Dr. Ford be hauled out of his long retirement to stand trial?

Of course Krauss won't do that.  Black holes are to old sci-rangers what T rex is to so many young ones, massively popular due to being what was noted above.   His attack on their reality would not do his burgeoning second career any good with the fan base he will have to attract.   Intellectual integrity be damned, he's not about to risk that.   I suspect that the attention he got from his black hole paper might have given him a taste for celebrity,  which can be as addictive as Oxycontin.   It generally doesn't do much for the integrity of a scientist, historian, philosopher, etc. when they go for that pill.   It certainly seems to be turning someone I used to respect into a pill.

*  As I've suggested before, go to the "Scienceblogs" and see how many hits the bloggers who are all-science, all the time get as compared to the religion bashers.  Religion bashing sells far better than serious science.

Update:   Rereading this post to see what things I missed while editing, it came to me that if black holes are real, then Krauss and his colleagues were risking becoming child abusers by dissing the idea.   Maybe all theoretical work should be suppressed until the verification of those in observation of nature is in hand, making them safe for the public understanding of science.   Otherwise the scientific thinking of the masses might be damaged with bad ideas.  Imagine what the suppression of black holes might have done to make crappy sci-fi of the past century less easy to write.

The Atheist Persecution of Science

Among the the phoniest of the Charles Darwin myths current today is the one in which he was a beleaguered radical, an outlaw from the state, under active persecution by the church.   In the most absurd version of that I came across on a blog comment thread, it was clear that the callow atheist reciting it had him mixed up with the current, somewhat exaggerated, version of  Galileo,  having the Brit who seldom left his estate in England, being persecuted by the Catholic Church.  Of course the whole thing is fiction, he as a  rich boy from two prominent families, a member of the investor class educated at Cambridge University, member of many honorary societies,  ....  who had a grandiose funeral rivaling those of many a member of the nobility if not minor royalty, planned by Francis Galton and Thomas Huxley, and buried in WESTMINSTER ABBEY, A CHURCH WHERE THEY CROWN MARRY AND BURY THE ROYALS (for the callower materialists who don't know that).   A quick check of a geographical dictionary can show how many places on Earth were named for the persecuted radical by the very same establishment that honored him massively when he lived and after he died.   If there was one thing that Darwin wasn't, it was a persecuted radical.  He was so upper class establishment that it entirely colors his science*.   His science was so popular with the rich and powerful because it was the good news that informed them that, while they might not be anointed as the cream of creation by God, they were by natural selection.

And the speed with which Darwinism took in the English speaking world was, actually, incredibly fast, especially considering the massively incomplete state it was in until the 1930s.  It became immediately influential, especially the eugenics and Social Darwinist aspects of it.  For anyone who might not be familiar with my  blog, I will not go over the large number of posts I've done to prove that Darwin was fully aware of and a part of both aspects of Darwinism.  That case is easily proved by reading his books and letters.   The instances of rejection of Darwinism are relatively few and, in no case I'm aware of, did they involve any danger to Darwin, prominent Darwinists or the public articulation of his ideas.  In order to make a case the Darwin fan club has to turn to the nearly complete fabrication of Inherit the Wind or the as fictional account of the so-called Huxley Wilberforce Debate.  

It feels as if it should be wrong but, I can't help it.  That the fictional persecution of Charles Darwin by religious people is largely invented by anti-religious propagandists leads to it being fully satisfying to be able to point out that when biologists were really killed for upholding science, it was atheists who were doing the killing and oppressing.   That would be the notorious Lysenko affair in the Soviet Union, the countries under its virtual occupation and, to an extent in China and other countries that were officially anti-religious, atheist states.  It even had repercussions for  communists in non-communist countries. 

Briefly, Lysenkoism was named after Trofim Lysenko, an agronomist (figures it would come from the social "sciences", huh?) who sold the Soviet leadership on his totally ineffective agricultural techniques base on the belief in Lamarckian inheritance of acquired traits.  In an ironic twist, Darwin also believed in inheritance of acquired traits, at least one of his close associates, Haeckel, said that you might as well believe in the Mosaic books of the bible if you rejected Lamarckian inheritance.  Mendelian inheritance wasn't grafted on to Darwinism until the period during which Lysenko flourished under "scientific" materialism.  Lysenko's methods of "research" were a complete and utter fraud but he was able to put his ideas forward in ways that supported the Marxist ideology of the despots, promising them that his "science" was more truly in line with their "science" and so it became official state policy.   In preparing this post I think the closest western parallel is eugenics**, which is massively ironic, in itself.   

Other than being an agricultural disaster, probably contributing to famines other than the intentional ones (such as the one that killed millions in Ukraine) and a disaster for real science under the officially atheist scientific enlightenment, one of the real consequences of the persecution of real biological science was the actual execution of real scientists in countries with atheist governments.  The eminent scientist Nikolai Vavilov died in prison, Georgi Karpechenko was one of those actually shot by firing squad and they were hardly the only scientists who were killed by the science worshiping atheists.  

Many other real scientists lost their job or were restricted due to being suspected of insufficient adherence to materialist-science, as flourished under one of the most anti-religious despots in history.  It sort of contrasts interestingly with John Scopes predicament.  I mean the real history of the case, not the complete fiction of Inherit the Wind but the real John Scopes who never was jailed or had stones thrown at him.  He got a scholarship to the U. of Chicago and landed on his feet as a corporate geologist, he converted to Catholicism when he married.   Despite what the callow champion of Darwin probably would believe , there was no anti-Darwinist purge in Catholicism, though the Catholic church was one of the strongest forces against both eugenics and Social Darwinism.   The book Scopes was brought to trial for using taught both of those as biology.   Perhaps his conversion led to his giving up those pseudo-sciences.   It really is telling how much the "we own evidence" side relies on completely phony substitutes for history. 

I've always meant to look more into how the science claiming communists in the West addressed Lysenkoism before Stalin died and the Soviet Union began to make it officially OK to reject Lysenko's pseudo science***.  I've been especially interested in what the financial godfather of pseudo-skepticism, pseudo-"Humanism", the immediate predecessor of the new atheism, Corliss Lamont said about the rank pseudo-science as he was promoting Stalinism in the west.   Almost as interesting is look at what JBS Haldane, a very important geneticist and another aristocratic Marxist had to say about Lysenkoism.  The article shows him bending over to find something good to say about Lysenko while, clearly, being appalled by what the only Marxist government in the world was pushing as an alternative to real science.  As he was writing that, his fellow geneticists were being killed. 

Relevant to yesterday's post, Alexander Oparin, the father of "abiogenesis", explicitly founded to insert ideological materialism into science, was one of Lysenko's more influential supporters among scientists.   The contention of some that he promoted Lysenko out of fear of the consequences doesn't really do an awful lot in support of his credibility, especially in light of his own openly ideological "science".

*  I refer back to my hastily written series of last summer, a temporary linked index of which can be found here

**   In reading up on the Buck vs. Bell case, I found  a paper talking about how heavily influenced Oliver Wendell Holmes jr. was by his reading of Darwin and Spencer.  I haven't gotten around to seeing how much of eugenics and Social Darwinism he'd read and trying to find out what effect that then currently accepted science had on his Supreme Court decisions.  It's clear as can be that he bought eugenics and was quite prepared to have the state force people to be sterilized on the basis of what he was told.  It's just as clear that despite the "scientific" evaluation of her that Carrie Bell, who was quite literate and of at least average intelligence, and her daughter were not "imbeciles" as Holmes said.   The paper has made me far more interested in how much Holmes' reading of now discredited science and utilitarianism, the artificial substitute that materialism proposes to replace religious morality, informed his rulings.  I have a strong feeling that the market valuation of utilitarian analysis and discredited "science" has had a direct and malignant effect on U.S. law.   Holmes seems to have read the same happy news that his fellow Anglo-Saxons comprised a natural elite that made Darwin so popular among the same.  Something that aided the spread of eugenics and Social Darwinism, even in places where evangelical Christianity was a powerful counter force to legitimate evolutionary science. 

***  In China, almost as soon as Stalin died and it became less than lethal to diss Lysenko, they felt safe to openly criticize him.   I somehow suspect that it might have taken longer for the thaw to reach some branches of U.S. communism.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Bruce Ditmas, Paul Bley - Donkey

I believe this is Carla Bley's composition, though I can't find my copy of the lead sheet.   1970s electronic jazz at its best.

What I Believe Darwin Got Right or Delusions of Scientism

I believe that all life that has been, so far, studied on Earth is descended from a single, original organism, that at some time in the very distant past it arose, constructed from non-living matter,  functioned as a living organism and, for some unknown reason, in some unknown way,  produced viable, successfully reproducing offspring.   I believe that from the evidence of genetic similarity among extremely distantly related species found in the highest, yet assigned taxonomic groupings of domains living today, from the available fossilized evidence and from what seems to be reasonable conclusions of probability founded in what evolutionary science has reliably established.

I believe from what I've said so far that one thing can be known about this proposed common ancestor of all known life, that unlike every last one of its descendants it did not come about from biological reproduction.  Its origin is in a process which is unknown to biology.

That is true even if, as some of the frustrated "abiogenesists" have proposed,  the introduction of a living, first organism on the ancient Earth was by meteor impact.  That would only put the actual origin of life on some other unknown,  planet or planetoid, it doesn't get us any closer to an answer to the question.

And, there is one more thing that can be known.  The actual original organism arose in an actual event, an event that happened in the one and only way it happened.  In one way, in one place and by unique processes which we don't know and of which we have absolutely no physical evidence. That fact really is all important. 

Getting ahead of myself, whatever those actual, historical events and circumstances were like, one thing that seems eminently reasonable to conclude is that it was not under laboratory conditions under the care of scientists.   The real conditions under which life arose are entirely unlikely to be reproduced by scientific experiments in the 1950s or down to today.  Call me an enemy of faith but I will not entertain the consideration of the too close cousins of Scientology that make up myths about life on Earth being put here by extraterrestrial scientists.  That, again, only puts off the sad hour when the "science" of abiogenesis has to face that it can't do what it was invented to do, support the ideology of materialism with an accurate, materialistic account of the actual origin of life on Earth.

From those facts and the resolvable, available micro-fossil evidence I accept that life began in the very early Earth, probably more than 3,500,000,000 years ago.  I accept that the conditions under which it arose are far, far different from those we know with enough detail to enter into science from much later periods, including our own.  Given the enormously long period during which it might have arisen and the expectation that conditions on the early Earth were probably quite variable in different locations, I don't believe we will ever really know what those conditions under which life began were like.  From that same micro-fossil evidence and the problems of the first organism being multi-cellular and having the complex cellular chemistry in all known organisms today, I believe it was far, far different from even its very ancient single-celled descendants.

You may notice that all of what I've said so far is expressed in the form of the creed, I believe, because that is true. The evidence my belief depends on is no closer to the presumed beginning of life than hundreds of millions of years after I believe it began.   Any conclusions I make are informed by the fact that later life is known to have evolved, sometimes dramatically, during much, much shorter periods of time.  This is especially true of some kinds of microscopic life.   There is absolutely no evidence of what the original organism, that I believe was the unique, actual, origin of life on Earth because there is no physical record of that.

I do believe that if life arose more than once it would be miraculous, if separate lines developed from different original organisms to produce genetic similarity in its descendants, today,  I can't see how anyone could rationally reject the idea that it was a miraculous and intentional act.  If that's the case then science can't deal with that aspect of it.  It merely seems to be unlikely to have happened that way, I can't honestly say that I know it didn't happen that way because of a lack of evidence.  As I said, above, my conclusion is that there was a single original ancestor of all known life on Earth, the only place in the universe we know where life is found.


An atheist, "Candian Skeptic," got very angry with me over at Huff Post  last week because I honestly admitted that my belief in common ancestry was a matter of faith, not science because of a lack of evidence of what that common ancestor was like.   My faith is based in a knowledge of evolution, the commonality of genetic materials, the lessons of geology and what I presume are correct ideas of the probability of events happening.   Those ideas of probabilities aren't based in any actual facts from the earliest life but are imposed out of what is known from later life.  For all I know none of that is actually relevant to the unknown.  Even what I believe about the mathematical probabilities concerning the origin of life is an act of faith.  Real probabilities would depend on far, far more information that is unavailable, which I believe will always be unavailable.

In discussing the origin of life with science oriented atheists, all of them materialists, I've found that they are uniformly more driven by faith to make wild assumptions about what that was like than I am.  I think I've gone farther than the real evidence of that than can support anything honestly classifiable as knowledge,  they, on the other hand, are prone to really believing that the now ancient and scientifically disputed work of Miller and Urey, and even the earliest, clearly ideological, claims of Oparin are actually relevant to the origin of life on Earth.   And if not those then more recent, far from uniformly believed, assertions made by later scientists.

It seems to me that when you are dependent on belief, without any evidence, it is far more prudent to believe in the simplest case possible with the fewest details, minimizing the amount you have to believe in to come to conclusions about it.   Tellingly, the atheists, materialists, who are true believers in one or another of the creation stories of abiogenesis believe, quite emotionally, in far more than I would ever express.  And, most tellingly of all, they believe that their faith is reliable science.

In some of the most extreme expressions of that atheistic faith, I've had a number of atheists make arguments about the the "OoL" out of DNA or RNA, only there is no evidence that those molecules were present in the original organism.  I'd like to know where those were supposed to come from, unprovided by biological action,  in what is likely to be a very inhospitable environment, assembled out of what were very weak solutions of unknown chemicals.  Not to mention how those came to work, perfectly, in the absence of the very complex cellular chemistry necessary for them to function.  Where did a containing membrane for such a complicated common ancestor come from?   How did that membrane divide for the first time in an act of reproduction and reseal itself in both the "original" organism and in its first offspring, an act of what would almost certain to be the most complicated chemical and physical act to have ever happened on Earth (or on which ever planet or planetoid it might have happened on).  I don't believe, for a second, that the common ancestor had anything like that complicated structure or chemistry, not unless it was the product of a far greater intelligence than our best scientists have today.  I believe that the cellular biology we know today is the product of evolution within living organisms.  If I believed in what those atheists assert, I'd have to believe in intelligent design of it.  If I did come to that conclusion, I would never assert that it was science.

And every, single other proposal of how life originated on Earth I've read, to date, has either an extraordinarily unlikely chemical complexity, extremely speculative conditions - preposterously  speculative, at times - or other problems with their seeming probability.   None of them has anything like an enduring, majority acceptance among even the true believing "abiogenesists".   That field seems to produce splinter factions like Freudian psychology and American communism does.   Sometimes the intra-scientific sniping reads like that found among schismatic sects of Baptists.

It's rather odd to be in a position to be able to scold the atheists due to their  faith holdings based in a total lack of evidence asserted to be science.   But there is nothing that so easily shows that these atheists presenting themselves as the only and true champions of ultra-rational, hard-headed, "only the evidence will do"  science-science, clearly inserting their ideology into proposed science in order to arrive at a predetermined result to prop up their atheism.

I am convinced that was the goal of Oparin in inventing the "science" of abiogenesis and for many if not most of, if not all of,  its major figures.    I don't believe that "abiogenesis",  if it is presented as revealing how life originated on Earth is honestly held to be science.  There is no way to test any of the many versions of that origin against the actual event or, indeed, any evidence.  No matter how impressive its eventual products might be, they will never have the support of evidence of the original organism which likely was consumed by its descendants, or reduced to a dispersed smear of chemicals or which is forever lost in the enormous mass of geological change over the past 3.5 billion years.

Unlike inert chemicals and even some very complex chemical reactions, when you are talking about living organisms, with their life history, their particular structure and chemistry, their interaction with what becomes an environment due to their being alive and the mere facts of chance during their life, you can't make generalized assumptions.   An organism has a far, far more complex identity than molecules and elements that can be considered as typical by science.  You can't really produce science about a real, entirely unique, original organism without definite knowledge of those things and that is entirely unavailable for the very unique original organism that both I and the abiogenesists believe in.

I would expect that as soon as a mechanism of inheritance susceptible to mutation was present in the line of life that arose from that organism, that evolution began.  I would guess evolution began far earlier than the first resolvable fossils by many tens of millions of years.  Given the speed with which modern, single cell organisms evolve, I would expect that the rate of evolution in those years would have be extremely rapid, within organisms unlike those that survived, produced diverging lines that would eventually produce everything from the modern classification into domains, kingdoms, families, ... right down to subspecies, varieties and the very unique individuals that modern organisms truly are.

In thinking about "abiogenesis", "exobiology", "evolutionary psychology", and other products of the applications of materialist ideology purported to be biological science,  I've been struck at how much more faith those require than I'm comfortable with including within science.

All of them make the most extravagant possible claims out of anything from evidence inadequate to support those claims to a complete creation of "science" lacking any evidence, whatsoever that its products exist in the natural universe.   And there has been the same kind of materialist ideology inserted directly into evolutionary biology, from the beginning, as demonstrated by the citations of Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel and Galton.   That insertion continues, almost entirely unremarked, down to today.   The, thankfully, unsuccessful attempts to insert Intelligent Design and the even more obvious forms of creationism into science, would have to be absolutely up front in order to serve its purpose.  As can be seen by anyone who looks honestly at those "sciences" ideological materialism has a far higher rate of success in being presented as science, accepted by scientists and others who are predisposed to make the huge leaps of faith necessary, pretending that the lack of evidence isn't important.   I think that materialist ideological pollution of science plays a major role in reducing the reliability of what is asserted as science, it brings science into disrepute.   As can be seen in the question of the actual origin of life on Earth, it certainly brings into question the role of evidence in what is accepted as science.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dave Holland Quintet Looking up

Illusions of Materialism 2b Burning Down Darwinism To Save Darwinism

One of the most popular ideas in current materialism, atheism and among the self appointed "skeptics" is that "altruism" is a product of natural selection.   That idea was pushed by a latter day Darwinist named W.D. Hamilton* who came up with equations alleging to prove that conscious acts of self sacrifice by an individual were really acts of genetic self-interest, selfishness for the propagation of genes by organisms that are the mere robots and vehicles of them.

Backing up, the problem that acts of generosity posed for the theory of natural  selection goes back to the beginning with Darwin.  If natural selection is what formed all organisms, body and mind and behavior, acts of generous self-sacrifice, resulting in the death or injury or even some form of reproductive disadvantage can't be explained.  Natural selection is, as even Darwin asserted, all about "survival of the fittest" [On the Origin of Species 5th ed. p. 92] in a struggle for life and reproduction.  And, as seen in yesterday's post, Darwin and his followers were already making the most extravagant claims about its action in human societies.   They, of course, had nothing but narrative, lacking data to back up then claims.  Quite often in Darwin, Haeckel and others, the narrative was a thinly veiled creation myth designed to assert an appearance of natural selection in nature when it was only there in the fables.  That effort has continued down to today, it is the reason why such an overwhelming amount of asserted "science" surrounding behavior and thought becomes accepted, fashionable, out-moded and then junked as newer fables or, on occasion, some actual data or the application of reason debunks them.

In the hands of any Darwinian fundamentalist,  whose goal is not to test Natural Selection but to uphold it and assert its universal explanatory power,  all phenomena which could harm the theory must be either rejected or twisted to fit it.  "Altruism" as expounded by Hamilton is transformed into a mere appearance of generosity but which is, actually, Darwinian self-interest on behalf of genes contained within organisms.  In order to do that the human experience of generosity has to be made to equal behaviors in other species which are far removed from us in evolutionary descent by many hundreds of millions of years,  ants figure heavily in it.  I haven't seen any applications of Hamilton to organisms more distant in time for us, though the imperatives of the ultra-Darwinist claiming the total explanatory power of natural selection could hardly continue to ignore the vast majority of the living species, and grad students in the soft "sciences" will always be looking for novel ways to please the faculties in their field.

The most frequently articulated form of Hamiltonian "altruism" I've encountered, by far, is that of gene selfishness as popularized by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.  And by a factor of many times to one, the expression of such "altruism" brought up by his fans is in the fable of "the first bird to call out".   I wrote briefly and quickly on that last spring.  My recent go around at Jeffrey Sallit's  atheist themed "science" blog, "Recursivity",  brought up some even more absurd aspects of it, so I will go over it again.  Here is the fable as Dawkins sets it out.

Laying down one's life for one's friends is obviously altruistic, but so also is taking a slight risk for them. Many small birds, when they see a flying predator such as a hawk, give a characteristic "alarm call", upon which the whole flock takes appropriate evasive action. There is indirect evidence that the bird who gives the alarm call puts itself in special danger, because it attracts the predator's attention particularly to itself. This is only a slight additional risk, but it nevertheless seems, at least at first sight, to qualify as an altruistic act by our definition.

Richard Dawkins:   p.6, The Selfish Gene,  Thirtieth Anniversary Edition, 2006

In my analysis last spring, I noted, at great detail that the entire basis of the invented "altruism" was the assertion,  "There is indirect evidence that the bird who gives the alarm call puts itself in special danger, because it attracts the predator's attention particularly to itself." Only where is that "indirect evidence" that the first bird calling out had more of a chance at being killed by the predator?   Dawkins gives none, something he has in common with others making assertions of "altruism" of this sort.   Lacking a large enough number of filmed examples to study in which to identify both the "first bird to call out" and that it was the one caught by the "flying predator" it would be impossible to make that hypothesis into real science.  No matter how well it might work as convincing narrative. 

Just on the basis of physics, if the other birds in the flock were close enough for the alarm call to allow them to escape, they'd have to be far closer than the predator and, the speed of sound being rather fixed, they'd probably have taken off in a flurry of confusion before the predator even heard the call.  I don't think that part of the fable passes muster either in terms of adequate scientific observation (something generally lacking in evo-psy)  or on the basis of basic physics.   I'll pass over the often observed phenomenon that when birds see a predator, they very often don't call out but play statues.  Also that among some birds, it's not uncommon for different species to flock together and for bird flocks to be found in close proximity to each other. 

But, as I put it to the mathematician, Shallit, the proposal has even more basic problems with it.   If Dawkins is correct that there is a genetic basis of  bird "alturism",  in lines with his fable, and that the "altruism" consists in the self-sacrifice of birds containing those genes, in order that other birds containing that gene can escape and reproduce, he ignores that birds not containing that genetic "altruism" would also benefit from that self-sacrifice.   That would mean that every time Dawkins fable happened, every time those "altruism" genes worked as proposed,  the percentage of birds containing the "altruism" genes would decrease and the percentage of those not containing them would increase within the flock and within the species.  For Dawkins fable to work, decreasing numbers within the population would have to result in either increasing percentages or, at the very least, a statistically neutral wash.   I challenged Shallit to explain why that wasn't true.  On my last check the self-promoted champion of science and mathematics had failed to do that.   As I noted to him neither has anyone else I've ever posed that problem to.

Even more problematic from the point of view of natural selection would be the fact that every time an "altruistic" bird sacrificed itself, its breeding potential, passing on the "altruism" gene to a new generation, would be cut off.  In its stead the birds not carrying "genetic altruism" would have an increased chance of successfully breeding in its place and any offspring they produced would not have to compete with as many offspring carrying his "altruism genes" in the next generation.  How the "altruism genes" would increase from that needs to be answered.  As well as how those who claim to uphold the highest of scientific and logical integrity could create such "science".

Now, there is nothing in classical Darwinism that is more established than the contention that eyesight and hearing are the products of natural selection, progressively selecting individuals with inferior eyesight and hearing to die through predation and decreased success in producing offspring.  Good eyesight and hearing are the quintessential examples of positive adaptations,  offered as proof of the correctness of the theory of natural selection.   Natural selection fails as a theory if positive adaptations do not result in more offspring for those individuals having them than for those which don't have them, eventually resulting in new species which incorporate that adaptation.  That is the bedrock concept of natural selection and Darwinism.   Without that the long, violently contested  and continuing struggle over the evolution of the eye would never have happened.

I further noted that the proposed "altruistic" self-sacrifice, based in genetics would have the odd effect of turning superior eye-sight and hearing into a maladaptation.   "Altruistic" birds with superior eyesight and hearing would be more likely to see a predator first, more likely to call out first and more likely to die in its talons than an "altruistic" bird with bad eyesight and hearing.  Nearsighted, hard-of-hearing "altruistic" birds would be more likely to be among the survivors as their more able fellows sacrificed themselves, they potentially would increase the percentage of bad eyesight and hearing in the subset of "altruistic" birds, leaving them more prone to being preyed on in other ways.   I'll repeat that.  According to classic Darwinism, such good eyesight and hearing would increase the maladaptive effect of genes that directly led to early "altriustic" bird death if they had superior eyesight and hearing within the group of "altruistic" birds, but bad eyesight is, in itself, maladaptive.   Any way I can see,  Dawkins' proposed "altruism" is a maladaptation, failing in purely Darwinian terms as well as contradicting the properties of the set of Natural numbers.

How Richard Dawkins and those who peddle the idea of Hamiltonian "altruism" can be successful when their ideas are so essentially irrational needs investigation.  It also has to be asked how the entire effort to dispose of real generosity on behalf of a theory that can't explain it can lead alleged champions of science to so totally trash everything, including logic, including mathematics, including Darwinian doctrine, itself.  in order to deliver on a bad note of promissory materialism.

No matter what it's alleged scientific origin is, the concept of "altruism" set out in such illogical fashion is extremely popular with materialists,  atheists, "skeptics" because of their devotion to Darwinism.  As noted, it is frequently cited by them in online discussions and blog brawls.  It is ideologically important to them that Darwin's ultimate theory, which is natural selection, not evolution, has a standing similar to that of the laws of gravitation and those concerning chemical bonds.   I was brought up with a non-ideological faith in the power of natural selection which I've found extremely difficult to test and question and I wasn't wedded to it in the same, emotional way that atheists are.   The first reason for the atheist devotion to natural selection is found in its earliest supporters.   Galton said it in noting his motives in the invention of eugenics,

THE publication in 1859 of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin made a marked epoch in my own mental development, as it did in that of human thought generally. Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and to arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science.

Ernst Haeckel, as well, expressed his adoption of natural selection in terms of its ideological use,

On the other hand, the theory of development carried out by Darwin, which we shall have to treat of here as the Non-miraculous or Natural History of Creation, and which has already been put forward by Goethe and Lamarck, must, if carried out logically, lead to the monistic or mechanical (causal) conception of the universe. 

Most explicitly he said,

This final triumph of the monistic conception of nature constitutes the highest and most general merit of the Theory of Descent, as reformed by Darwin.

As noted in previous posts, Charles Darwin was fully aware of Haeckel's statements as he cited the book in which Haeckel said it.  I have seen nothing to indicate that Darwin rejected that view.

The very real conflict over evolution overturning a literal interpretation of Genesis masks a far deeper ideological conflict that comes from natural selection, considered to be an absolute law of nature.   It was a fight that Darwin's accepted and deeply appreciated early promoters were already laying out in full detail, including, literally, a rejection of the most basic ideas of morality.  You can read Huxley, Galton, Haeckel, and others right down to today to see that has been a feature of natural selection as articulated by its foremost promoters.  As natural selection was, itself, based in the moral atrocity of Malthusian economics, any expectation of anything else coming from it is irrational.  There is no place for the real phenomena of human generosity in the declaration that the alternative to selfishness is death, which is what natural selection is.   Generosity escapes the artificial gravity of Darwinism, it will whenever it arises.  Its reality is denied by Hamilton's perversion of "altruism", itself a word invented by Comte to try to force generosity into his less sciency articulation of materialism.  It's hardly a surprise that, given the cynicism and stupidity of most of the promotion of atheism today, that turning it into selfishness by unthinking molecules would be so very popular.

* In a planned post I will look at the idea that what the rather awful and depraved W. D. Hamilton had to say about generosity and "altruism"  should have been taken with more pinches of salt than are compatible with health.

Update:  Since someone asked, my difficulty in questioning natural selection comes, first and foremost, in that it was the way I've been taught to think of evolution for more than fifty years.  Try to imagine how you would face the fact of evolution if you didn't assume that natural selection was both a law of nature and the framework into which all other thinking about evolution must fit.  Second was the enormous coercion that comes to someone who begins to question the theory.  That coercion is ubiquitous and powerful.  Creationists aren't affected by it because their denial of evolution removes them from its effects.  I was never brought up to believe in the literal truth of the early chapters of Genesis, I never have so I never had that to overcome.  I had been brought up to an entirely conventional belief in contemporary evolutionary theory.  My mother has a degree in Zoology, I did well enough in the biology classes I took that my teacher encouraged me to think of changing my major, I've had two field biologists in my family.  I used to care what the people imposing that coercion think, most people on the left still do.  I don't care about their opinion any longer.

I was brought to not caring about it through my investigation of "evolutionary" psychology and Sociobiology and other "scientific" expositions of biological determinsm far earlier than my reading of Darwin's books and letters led me into total heresy on the matter.

I now doubt that natural selection is a force of nature in the same way that gravity or other physical forces abstracted into laws are.  I don't think that, as science, it's an especially good theory.  I don't believe that all of those trillions of  variable, changing lives of unique individuals, their deaths, their successes and failures at reproduction, the role of mere chance and far more subtle and effectively infinite variation in those really equals one force of nature.   I think a lot of the articulation of this is colored by natural selection instead of the actual events being accurately explained by it.

Natural selection's alleged virtue of providing an explanatory mechanism for evolution doesn't make up for its deficiencies as a theory.  Evolution would still be a fact if natural selection was junked and no successor framework for thinking about it replaced it.  There is no law of nature that everything has to be susceptible to that level of human comprehension.  The belief that everything is eventually explainable with science is a superstition, not scientific.    As I noted in talking about the enormous dimensions of evolution, both in time and in numbers of lives, the idea that Charles Darwin would find the key that unlocks the entirety on the basis of the information he had available in 1859 it is a matter of faith, not of reason.  I think that to a great extent the lens of natural selection might have a decisive effect on what is looked for, how what is found is looked at and for the acceptance of any analysis of that by science.  I will predict that, eventually, natural selection will either change far more radically than it already has in its history (Darwin and his contemporary colleagues, other than Weismann,  believed in Lamarckian inheritance, after all).  I think it's also possible that, eventually, natural selection will be laid aside as more of that enormous field of study is discovered.

Much is made about the instances of accuracy in what Darwin said and I am not entirely dismissive of Darwin.  I firmly believe in what I think is his greatest insight, common ancestry, while admitting that is based on belief and presumed probability.  Which will be the topic of my next post in this series.  But I am in the same position that St. George Mivart, an early convert to Darwinism, found himself in while attending a series of lectures on the subject given by no less of an authority than Thomas Huxley.  He found that the more he learned about it the less credible it seemed to him.