Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hate Mail Meatniks.

I might be worried about what such people said about what I have written if there were any evidence in their  misrepresentation of what I wrote and my motives for writing it that indicated they'd bothered to read it before they commented on what they think I wrote, but didn't.  If our minds are computers made of meat, they got stuck with a lousy CPU.

If they wanted me to worry about that they could try addressing what I actually said.  But that would require reading it and that's something like work.   Those guys make Maynard G. Krebs look like a model of intellectual curiosity and industry.   They don't even get nostalgia points for what they do.

Bill Gates Kingmaker to Richard Dawkins god Maker

First, I should explain something which has apparently caused some consternation among some atheists who believe they are paragons of scientific reasoning, more about that in a minute.   Since I have comment moderation on my blog, when a comment is posted for inclusion here a notice is sent to my e-mail with links making it possible for me to publish or reject the comment from my e-mail Inbox. Which is why I call the posts I do answering points, well that's a kind way of putting it, answering the contents of those e-mails,  "Hate Mail".   Since that appears to have bothered some of those posting hate mail to my blog, maybe that will ease their troubled minds.  Not that that's something I generally would choose to do.   Such minds could use more troubling, they don't seem to get much else in the way of a work out.


One such commentator thinks it's going to bother me that Bill Gates recently revealed that he is planning on reading a book by Richard Darwkins as "summer reading".  Why he thinks that would bother me is not stated.   I could hardly care less what Bill Gates is reading at the beach this summer.  The title at The Independent apparently thinks it's noteworthy enough that he "outs himself as a comic fan" ( apparently because he reads the geek cartoons of xkcd ) that it includes that in the title.   I wonder if he read Doonesbury a number of years back when Garry Trudeau used to joke about his "minty green" complexion.  As to Gates' comments, I differ with Gates' idea of the quality of Dawkins' thinking on science, which I think is more of a symptom of the degeneration of the link between logical coherence and what people are persuaded of through writing technique.  Here's an old piece I did on that point.   I don't find some of his other work to stand up to inspection any better than that.   Asking why the summer reading of a man who is, pretty much, a business man should interest me is my response.   I'm about as interested in that as I am in what Lena Dunham's latest bid for attention is.  

Another hate mailer is bothered by my observation that to believe that natural selection, "DNA"* is the cause of our consciousness and our ideas, that those exist in their real form as physical constructs in our brains only makes sense if  DNA has, effectively, universal knowledge that allows it to understand, entirely the nature of what it is recreating in our brains, the means to do that with total accuracy and that it gets it right an astounding number of times.

But that is the the only logical conclusion that you could draw about the quite Dawkinsian concept.   How else would "DNA" do what is claimed for it?   I would like to ask chemists who have tried to synthesize or even analyze DNA if they thought they could do that without a huge amount of hard gained knowledge.  And that's just an act of replication of a known type of molecule, it's not the creation of a physical entity that is, in effect, a totally unplanned and, often, entirely unexpected external phenomenon or an internally generated inspiration in excruciating detail and subtlety.  What such sciency materialists demand of DNA is far, far more an impressive act of knowledge and technical virtuosity than anything even the most accomplished of scientists has ever done in creating such entities and fitting them with absolute precision into an existing, working, massively complex "mechanism" where they function perfectly, instantaneously.   It makes the entire collective achievements of computer science look like nothing in its relative simplicity.  And it does so hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of times a day in each and every being who has a brain.  What accounts for the clear behavior of organisms without brains, I've asked before.  Why...... why, it's downright god-like in a far more impressive way than such guys are supposed to believe can possibly exist!  

And what you can say when someone with no real answer when asked to account for our minds as material substance pulls "DNA" out of their hat would have to go for any other proposed physical origin of our minds.   All of them would have to have those same abilities which far surpass the known abilities of the entire world of science and scholarship.**  As I mentioned so controversially, their mechanism for constructing such physical entities would also have to be precognitive, clairvoyant and telepathic because they would have to know what they were creating BEFORE it existed in the brain, in the locus in which it was being created or they would never possibly get it right.  

As I mentioned in a comment, atheists are always creating god-like entities while denying that's what they've done.  Others in the henotheist pantheon of materialism is the recently popular "quantum vacuum" or "quantum gravity". The fact that Richard Dawins and other atheist polemicists have recreated the material and entirely all too humanly self-interested, "selfish" gods of pagan mythology as "DNA" is too much of an irony, too much of a revelation of the dim-wittedness of this attempt to explain away our minds to not point it out.  In the new atheism, I think, we don't see atheism, we see the creation of these unadmitted substitutes for God with these omniscient, omnipotent entities while denying that's what they're doing.  And there are lots of them.   I think that a lot of the cult figures of neo-atheism, such as Carl Sagan, can count among those with a lesser potency, though not different in kind.  And maybe you don't have to be dead to join that pan-atheon.   Perhaps Richard Dawkins is one.  He created memes out of nothing, afterall. 

*  When such people use the term "DNA" they are talking about a shallow and at times entirely superstitious entity with magical powers that the actual molecule doesn't possess.   That's the reason I'm putting it in quote.  I would suspect that easily 95% of what gets said about "DNA" is said about this imagined version of the molecule, not the actual molecule and what it actually does in association with some rather complex and not completely understood cellular chemistry.

**  Update:   When I said, "All of them would have to have those same abilities which far surpass the known abilities of the entire world of science and scholarship"  I should have noted that this is literally true BECAUSE EVERY KNOWN ASPECT OF SCIENCE AND SCHOLARSHIP WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE BEEN CREATED BY "DNA" OR ANY OTHER THING ORIGINATING THE PHYSICAL, MATERIALIST "MIND".   If you reject that, you would have to reject Dawkins' rather silly idea about the creator having to be "more complex" when he is trying to debunk God.   Only, since his conception of "God" is certainly of a God who has the attributes of things in a universe, the similarly physical gods assigned to create our minds would doubly have to have effective universal knowledge.

Update 2:   OK, the longer I think of this the more obvious it is that the atheist-materialist "brain-only" brain does, literally, involve that whatever model of that they present, it would, actually, have to have universal knowledge,  it not only would have to have a prescience of science and scholarship but of every aspect of all possible future knowledge.  The promissory notes of materialism, the eventually promised Theory of Everything, would already have to have their answers in such a model or, at least, the ability to construct those in our brains which, before the requisite knowledge was present in them, could hardly be held to contain that knowledge.  Or, at least, I'm throwing that in as a proposal for discussion.  Now,  my experience tells me, the atheists will be prepared to talk about my cooties or some such thing as they pretend I haven't said what I did here.   Apparently their god-like minds aren't prepared to discuss that.  The gods of atheism are false gods. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 MLK Lecture with Professor James H. Cone

With war, you reap what you sow.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Religion vs. Science? Fr. Richard McBrien, Now on a Thursday

I am dealing with an issue, not serious, just time consuming,  and will probably not be able to post another piece until Saturday, if then.  Since I probably won't be able to post at all tomorrow,  I'll post Fr. McBrien today.   Apropos of my post yesterday and for so many people who believe they know all about the almost entirely unused, widely misunderstood and not universally accepted doctrine of papal infallibility, in contradiction to that widely spread misconception, here's a bit of a hint, though some heads might, as they say, explode. That is if they  bother reading it.  Such minds are harder to blow open than modern safes. 

From November 28, 2005

The controversy surrounding the Terri Schiavo case earlier this year surprised a number of well educated, middle-aged, and older Catholics who had always been taught, from the days of Pope Pius XII (d. 1958), that no one is required to employ extraordinary means to stay alive. 

Over the centuries, the concept of "extraordinary means" varied as medical technology evolved, but by the middle of the 20th century the term clearly applied to the use of a feeding tube to keep alive someone in a persistent vegetative state with no realistic hope of recovery.

A different type of Catholic, associated in one way or another with the pro-life movement and apparently unaware of this lengthy and consistent moral tradition, latched onto a talk given by the late Pope John Paul II to a group of visiting physicians in March, 2004. These Catholics interpreted the pope's remarks as if it were a definitive moral teaching on the Schiavo case, unequivocally favoring the continuation of life-support mechanisms.

Middle-aged and older Catholics have had a similar experience with regard to the current controversy over evolution-versus-intelligent design, the latter an updated version of creationism.

Catholics brought up and educated for the most part before Vatican II were taken aback when a prominent cardinal, Christoph Schoenborn, archbishop of Vienna and someone who had been frequently mentioned as a possible successor to John Paul II, published an op-ed column in The New York Times ("Finding Design in Nature," 7/7/05) that purported to give the "real" Catholic position on evolution. 

The problem was that the position offered by the cardinal seemed to represent a reversal of the Catholic moral tradition on the subject of evolution, and particularly the teaching of Pope Pius XII.

Even in one of his most doctrinally rigid encyclicals, Humani generis (1950), Pius XII explicitly approved of dialogue on the subject of evolution between scientists and theologians. He acknowledged the existence of scientific arguments in support of evolution, and insisted that the Church is open to them so long as there is no retreat from the Church's traditional teaching that "souls are immediately created by God" (n. 64).

The Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes (1965), also spoke approvingly of an evolutionary framework for understanding the human condition: "the human race has passed from a rather static concept of reality to a more dynamic, evolutionary one" (n. 5).

In a 1996 address before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome, Pope John Paul II noted that the scientific case for evolution was growing stronger and that the theory was "more than a hypothesis." 

Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, chair of the Committee on Science and Human Values of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, cited the pope's remarks in assuring his brother bishops that "the Church does not need to fear the teaching of evolution as long as it is understood as a scientific account of the physical origins and development of the universe."

Catholic theologians also find the scientific arguments for evolution fully compatible with the view that God creates through evolution. They have clearly distanced themselves from creationist theories which are based on a literalist reading of Genesis.

Creationism and its updated form, intelligent design, are products of faith, not scientific evidence. Their proponents act as if the Bible, narrowly interpreted, is in the same genre as scientific data. 

It was later discovered that Cardinal Schoenborn's op-ed piece had been solicited by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, a leading advocate for the teaching of intelligent design in biology classes, and that the article was subsequently submitted to The New York Times by a Virginia public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts, which also represents the Discovery Institute.

More recently, however, another cardinal, Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, seemed to weigh in against Cardinal Schoenborn's view. He spoke at a recent news conference about "the dangers of a religion that severs its link with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism."

Another Vatican official, Msgr. Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project, Science, Theology and Ontological Quest (STOQ), reaffirmed Pope John Paul II's 1996 statement that evolution "is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."

Although Msgr. Basti agreed that the pope's statement before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was not doctrinally definitive, neither were John Paul II's remarks on life-support mechanisms which many in the pro-life movement seized upon in the Terri Schiavo case.

In the end, as Cardinal Poupard noted, the doctrine of creation is "perfectly compatible" with evolution. 

As The Stories Appear This Morning On The Salon Most Read Column

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Robin Eubanks and EB3 - Pentacourse

I love how after he plays a solo Robin Eubanks just walks over to the keyboard and starts playing bass.

I love this group.


Blues for Jimi

Some of the most imaginative use of electronics I've heard in a long, long time.

Robin Eubanks and EB3 -- Mojo Jojo

Robin Eubanks: Acoustic and Electric Trombones, Loops, Percussion Pads, Keyboard Bass.

Kenwood Dennard: Drums, Keyboard Bass.

Orrin Evans: Keyboards, Keyboard Bass.

I love this, I love how they use the keyboard to provide an independent bass, everyone doing multiple tasks, Kenwood Dennard doing both drums and keyboard bass, trading off with Orrin Evans.   And Robin Eubanks is a great trombone player.

Rugged Individualist Conformists In Full Leather With Guns Playing Let's Pretend For Real

My friend, RMJ has posted on the biker battle in Texas.  His post is very well worth reading, I'd definitely read it first if I were you.   Here's an old post of mine from Echidne of the Snakes, as a contribution to the discussion.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Irrationality and Contradictions of the Mythic Construct, Individualism

Claude Fischer, in today’s paper, does a little looking around that very odd self-attribution common in American life, rugged individualism. It’s long been my experience that the strongest and most aggressive claimants to individualism, are, inevitably, the most conformist of all. In the past, here, we’ve listed jocks, bikers, cowboys, .... macho guys in general, as about the most violently conforming identifiable personas there are. Yet all of these are commonly identified as being “rugged individualists”. Which says more about the phoniness of identities than it does about any people adopting those set models. In his article Fisher says:

American individualism is far more complex than our national myths, or the soap-box rhetoric of right and left, would have it. It is not individualism in the libertarian sense, the idea that the individual comes before any group and that personal freedom comes before any allegiance to authority. Research suggests that Americans do adhere to a particular strain of liberty - one that emerged in the New World - in which freedom to choose your allegiance is tempered by the expectation that you won't stray from the values of the group you choose. In a political climate where "liberty" is frequently wielded as a rhetorical weapon but rarely discussed in a more serious way, grasping the limits of our notion of liberty might guide us to building America's future on a different philosophical foundation.

Which is about the first time I’ve ever seen any kind of official explanation of that obvious phenomenon. You’re allegedly free to choose what rigid role model you adopt but once inside of that role, you’re expected to meet expectations. Though I doubt anyone chooses to be a biker or Rexall ranger without living up to other peoples coercive expectations. 

As a New Englander, hearing people from conservative states and areas identifying themselves as rugged individualists has always seemed absurd, but no more absurd than my own state and region also saying the same thing people here. I don’t think that people in Maine are notably less conformist than those in Kentucky, the last state I remember being identified with “rugged individualism” on the radio. I'm certain New Hampshire isn't. There isn’t a state or region that doesn’t claim itself to be the home of “rugged individualism”. It’s an idea that people seem to like to please themselves with. Never mentioned is that the idea of collective individualism, as seen above, being a non sequitur if ever there was one. That the “individuals” so mentioned all seem to conform to a type doesn’t register either.
I don’t think that Americans really tend to think for themselves and act out of principle divorced from social expectation much more than most other people do. The pose of doing so, I think, masks a deeper conformity.  For what it’s worth: 

But in modern America, when you look at real issues where individual rights conflict with group interests, Americans don't appear to see things this way at all. Over the last few decades, scholars around the world have collaborated to mount surveys of representative samples of people from different countries. The International Social Survey Programme, or ISSP, and the World Value Surveys, or WVS, are probably the longest-running, most reliable such projects. Starting with just a handful of countries, both now pose the same questions to respondents from dozens of nations.

Their findings suggest that in several major areas, Americans are clearly less individualistic than western Europeans. One topic pits individual conscience against the demands of the state. In 2006, the ISSP asked the question "In general, would you say that people should obey the law without exception, or are there exceptional occasions on which people should follow their consciences even if it means breaking the law?" At 45 percent, Americans were the least likely out of nine nationalities to say that people should at least on occasion follow their consciences - far fewer than, for example, the Swedes (70 percent) and the French (78 percent). Similarly, in 2003, Americans turned out to be the most likely to embrace the statement "People should support their country even if the country is in the wrong."

I’ll leave aside any skepticism I’ve got about the whole idea of measuring something like that to go on.

Fisher also points out:

This quality in the American character struck observers from overseas, including Alexis de Tocqueville, who in his 1830s book, "Democracy in America," famously tied the relatively new word "individualism" to what seemed so refreshingly new about the Americans. Popular culture today reinforces this image by making heroes of men (it's almost always men) who put principle above everything else, even if - perhaps especially if - that makes them loners.

He began by mentioning Clint Eastwood, or rather, the various roles Eastwood has played. He’s the rugged individual following only the imperatives of his will, living his life for his own reasons and to his own ends. Then he mentions the public persona of Frank Sinatra But those roles as individualism is a bunch of hooey, it’s all about the set expectations of machismo in the end.

While, sometimes, Eastwood’s characters have a touch of self-sacrifice to them, the good of other people was seldom presented in a way that would escape cynical self-interest. The code that he was presented as following was hardly one of daily self sacrifice for people unconnected with him. Which wouldn’t have made a tidy commercial movie. There was generally, something grudging about any effort made on behalf of other people. And it then had to be de-sissified by a component of violence. Frank Sinatra’s known association with organized crime, not known as a bunch of free spirits, would make him an even odder role model of “rugged individualism”. You go individualist on those guys in an important way, you were likely to find it not too healthy for you.

I’ve run into the imperative to conform to expectations a lot, writing for this blog and commenting at other blogs. People are always complaining that you hold ideas that you shouldn’t based on your identity or, often, the pigeon hole they’ve put you in. Liberals aren’t supposed to vary from the dogma of free speech absolutism, leftists aren’t supposed to believe in the supernatural, neither are those who accept science, etc. etc. etc.

I hope I’ve never adopted an idea or a behavior on any other basis than that it makes sense, that the evidence available and reason leads in that direction. I hope I haven’t. That other people might have the same idea, even people I disagree with about other things, really can’t overrule evidence and reason. Individuals exist in the universe, they don’t escape its requirements and the limits imposed by it.

The important consideration in adopting an idea or a course of action isn’t if it is conformist or not, it’s why you’re doing it and to what end. Our lives are generally dictated by necessities, not elective choices. It isn’t conformist to eat an adequate diet to maintain life. Eating an eccentric diet that causes malnutrition isn’t rugged individualism, it’s irrational. Dressing in ways that will expose you to the cold and wet could kill you even faster – as any worried relative to fashion conforming teenagers will know.

An even more exigent restriction on individual will than that is the demand of morality that my rights don’t override the rights of other people and living beings to their lives and their rights. Rights and the people who hold them aren’t single entities, they exist in tension with others. Ignoring that doesn’t make you more individual, it makes you more of a selfish jerk.

The necessities of living in a society forces a level of conformity. Dirty Harry was a rogue cop, one who managed to keep his job through a couple of sequels, as I recall. He was in the business of enforcing conformity to the law, while breaking it as he saw fit. In at least one of his other movies he enforced frontier law even as he saw it was unjust. Though if I try to parse out all of the conflicting possible analyses of his movies, more so than the writers and directors seemed to, it would take books, not a blog post.

Igor Stravinsky once said that the more restrictive he made the parameters from which he chose to make a composition the freer he was to write the piece. Arnold Schoenberg famously came up with his method which seemed terribly restrictive to many. That both of them wrote some of the most extraordinary music produced since Beethoven while their detractors didn’t, would seem to indicate that they might have been on to something.

The obsession with individualism is understandable, given the consequences of nervous conformity and the irrational and often immoral strictures placed on us by society and government. But, as becomes clear when you think about it, what we call individualism is sometimes an even worse form of conformity. Maybe the entire concept is flawed and we should develop new ways to think about these issues. One that doesn’t present a false dichotomy of the kind that philosophy and formal study create for their convenience which only becomes increasingly removed from reality as they pursue it. If you’ve got to set up a bifurcated system of looking at it, generosity verses selfishness or irrationality verses rationality would be far more useful than individualist verses conformist. Which means little to nothing, when you look at it closely.

Update:  Echidne, one of the best writers on the blogs, even when I disagree with what she says, is having a fund-raiser.  She says she's going to base whether or not she continues on the results.  I'd encourage you to give her blog a look, if you haven't.   When I say she's a good writer, I couldn't believe it when I found out her first language wasn't English, she's better at writing the language than almost all of the native speakers on the blogs. 

Really, Its Astounding How Stupid You Guys Are While Being Taken As Educated People

So, you know, I might feel upset about an article about an MIT physicist who became also a devoutly religious Orthodox Jew who spends long hours studying The Law - making a point that I have about the high level of intellectual activity the Orthodox scholars' study represents - if I were the kind of atheist who insists that religion is incompatible with science,  but that's you, not me.  As it happens, I read about Jeremy England's speculations a good while ago and my head remains quite unexploded.

But, here's a little clue, Simels, you have to actually read the article to know what it said, though in your case even reading it three times and looking up all the ideas and words in it that you don't understand probably wouldn't do it, considering that it's you.

Yes, I'm going to break my resolution to ignore you again because, as you have been doing at Duncan Blacks's ever shrinking chat room for years now, I'm informed you are libeling me tonight.

By the way and about the article you think is going to upset me which you obviously didn't read or understand, I don't think Meagan Walsh knows the difference between Darwinism and evolution, just as an aside.  Nor the fact that the majority of people who accept the reality of evolution in North America, Europe and some other places would have to be Christians or the numbers in the surveys wouldn't work.  Her article says:

The Rabbinical Council of America even takes the stance that “evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator.”

Which would be a good short description of the policy of most non-fundamentalist Christian churches in regard to evolution and science, in general. It's not that unlike what it says in the official, Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church.  That she apparently doesn't know this doesn't lead me to think her journalistic preparation for writing this article saw accuracy on that point as being very important.   I have gradually come to see having a journalism degree from an elite institution as being a disqualification to be a reporter.   They certainly don't seem to emphasize accuracy and research.

While I know this is the kind of article that gets atheists all excited, that's because 1. they don't understand that as a description of how life began on Earth that this is the most attenuated of speculation, since there is no remnant of that event available to hold up the speculations against.  In other words, what they say can't be verified. 2. that they fail to understand that any religious believer who believes God created the universe  also believes God created what we understand as "physical law".   Anyone who believes "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth shouldn't be at all upset by England's speculations.   Someone who believes that God created the physical universe believes he created all of it, as it is, as opposed to how anyone might believe it to be.

A more subtle point in the article, one which Walsh may have actually gotten right in her title is this,

Vijay Pande, a Stanford chemistry professor. “Jeremy’s proposal makes life a consequence of physical laws, not something random.”

Which would, actually,  be far more upsetting to the traditional atheist-Darwinist dogma in which life arising and developing depends ENTIRELY on the random meeting and combination of molecules and random mutations occurring to them.  The idea that physical law includes that which leads to the development of life is certainly consonant with many  traditional interpretations of the ideas contained in Genesis, including the repeated declarations that God found the creation of life good.

The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  

So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

So if God thought it was so good that they keep saying that, it would be expected that they would find that physical law would seem to encourage the creation of life wherever the previous descriptions of the creation of atmospheres, bodies of water, dry land, things like that happened.

I will risk your head exploding when I point out that other than the flip side of your ideological coin, the scriptural fundamentalists, anyone who thought that Genesis was inspired and an allegorical description of the creation of life as told in line with the early Iron age knowledge of natural philosophy,  could take what England and Pande say with total equanimity.

I would think that a biologist who cared about the standards and absolute requirements of their science might be a lot more upset about a physicist's speculations in this area having much to do with the very specific and very unknowable origin of life on Earth.   Physicists do tend to have some rather naive ideas about life, not understanding that what the actual form of life that is being considered matters entirely in biology, if actually talking about what happened is the question.  And, as I've noted many, many times, the evidence of the one and only way in which life began here, on Earth, is lost in the shifting 3.5+ billion years that are believed, as of now, to separate us from that event.  The comparison with even the very earliest resolvable fossilized remains of microscopic life, coming hundreds of millions of years of very possibly evolving life forms, is little to go on.  Every single one of the descendants of that primordial first living being is unlike it in the most relevant way.   All other life came from living beings, the original organism in the line didn't.   Which is the crucial problem which the alleged science of abiogenesis can't possibly solve without having the actual, resolvable remains of that, one organism, which will almost certainly never be available for study.   I've been bringing that up for years online and no one has ever been able to tell me how such a discovery can possibly be made without having that fossil evidence to lead them in the right direction.

Now that I've taxed your very limited understanding, I will also note that, somewhat typical of the speculations of non-biologists and, sadly, way too many biologists sharing your ideological passions,  trying desperately to figure out how they can make life having happened in the total absence of the evidence they would need, they come up with all kinds of wild speculations.  Reducing it to crunching numbers in a computer, comparing the creation of life to a very living soprano causing a crystal goblet to shatter with her singing, while it might be some interesting physics and maybe even some relevant information about the physics of energy relevant to life, it will not tell you much of anything about how it happened and will almost certainly either be incorporated into the many different, conflicting theories that abiogenesists have already cooked up without that evidence, and, I'd expect, will lead to more, diverse, conflicting theories incorporating what Jeremy England comes up with.  The article says:

These are pretty things to ponder. Unfortunately, England’s work hasn’t yet provided any answers.... 

Here let me interrupt to repeat that

"England’s work hasn’t yet provided any answers..."

... leaving the professor in a kind of speculative state as he doggedly tries to put numbers to it all. “He hasn’t put enough cards on the table yet,” Franck says. “He’ll need to make more testable predictions.” So it remains to be seen where England will land in the end. Other scientists have made similar claims about energy dissipation in the context of non-equilibrium thermodynamics, but none has found a definitive means for applying this science to the origin of life.

And I'll point out that last point again because it makes exactly the same point I have about the place of speculation about the origin of life in the total absence of the fossilized evidence you would need to actually study it.

"...none has found a definitive means for applying this science to the origin of life."

Only, you have to have done what you obviously didn't do, READ THE ARTICLE and, even more so, UNDERSTAND IT.   I did and my head is quite intact.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fun Times

I'm told there is a tantrum going on over what I wrote today - getting it all wrong.   As dear Emily Dickinson said,  I shall not live in vain.  

Chris Potter New Quartet - Stranger At The Gate

Chris Potter - sax
David Vireilles - piano
Joe Martin - bass
Gerald Cleaver - drums

Design for Blogging

These glib, over-articulate and amoral creatures force their lives into fantastic shapes and problems because they cannot help themselves. Impelled chiefly by the impact of their personalities each upon the other, they are like moths in a pool of light, unable to tolerate the lonely outer darkness but equally unable to share the light without colliding constantly and bruising each other's wings....

Noel Coward, about his play, Design for Living

I would rather have two dozen people who actually read what I write than fifty who still come to regularly ignore what I don't bother to write anymore because they only come so they can talk about TV shows and what they're having for lunch and the pop music they grooved to half a century ago.   That's the same reason I never did Facebook or My Space.  Or Twitter.  

I can, though, boast an extremely large spam file as I get better at tweaking those sorts of sorting things.  

Update:  And you ain't no Fontannes,  Lunts or Cowards.   Noel Cowards, that is. 

Update 2:  Well, that's the reason I quashed the post about the "dad bod" fad, I didn't want to really hurt too many of their feelings by mocking the idea that pudgy, middle aged men with midriff bulge, a double chin  and flabby arms were hot! and that there was anything new about fat old guys.   It's like no one noticed them before or something.   It reminds me of that ultimate old man fantasy flick,  "As Good As It Gets" in which the repulsive asshole played by Jack Nicholson not only gets the very nice, beautiful girl less than half his age, but also the very nice attractive gay guy who looks like he could be her younger brother to fall for him, too.   You just know who is behind this stuff, out of shape, pudgy middle-aged men with money writing and producing their fantasies about how desirable they are.    

OK, so I just did it.  Only the piece I didn't post was a lot meaner.   

Postlude: Materialism Is a Monist System Nothing Could Possibly Be An Exception To It, Any Exception Destroys It

For all of their insistence on materialism ruling, man, materialists are always tellingly peeved when you push their claims to their logical conclusions.  They, like so many others, insist that they can have it both ways, that their monist faith that everything is a matter of physical causation, or if they want to cover that up "physical law," as if there's really any difference.  Only, when someone presents them with problems with that model, that it doesn't match our experience of the universe, they have a tantrum.   And there were tantrums.

Only, most of the atheists you encounter these days are so abysmally ignorant of everything that they don't even realize that what they push has a name other than "atheism".   And I'm including a lot of people with PhDs in science, some of them quite famous.   I'll even include a few philosophers such as Daniel Dennett who gets tangled up in the most obvious of ways.

The most basic problem is that they pretend that every single thing about their materialist model of realty doesn't rely, entirely, on the thing they have to impeach or ignore because it can't be made to conform to their model, our minds and our minds experiencing reality as we live in it.   They want to claim an unlimited number of exemptions for their preferred model of reality, as many of those as needed to maintain their belief in their model, exactly the same thing religious and political fundamentalists insist on.  So, I present them with problems for their model that are quite obvious and in the daily experience of all of us.

The fact is that any, even the most minutely detailed and complex problem of our perception or thought, would have to have, not merely its image or representation BUT ITS ORIGIN in a physical structure in our brains, constructed through biochemical action by our brains, exactly the right structure to account for the exactingly detailed millions of ideas we have in the course of a week, each tiny nuance, each shading of meaning, some of them entirely unique in our experience -to our brains - or in the experience of our species and to get it right and for it to be appropriately linked with other structures so as to fit into a larger range of experience and coherence.   And our brains have to do all of that in real time, in the fractions of seconds in which those ideas would have to form to account for us remembering things in as tiny a detail as one of the 32nd notes in a long run of them in each individual performance of a piece of music such as J.S. Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue.   If the mechanism for the brain making those proposed idea-structures can't be explained or found, the "brain-only" materialist brain falls.  If it doesn't seem plausible, as I think the anger at my post indicates it is not plausible, there is every reason to reject that materialist model and, without an ability to turn our experience into the result of physical causation,  materialism as an ideology fails.   If they think their anger doesn't lead me to conclude they can't respond to my points, let me take this occasion to tell them that is exactly what I conclude from their reaction.

I am not the one making the claims I investigated yesterday, I'm merely pointing out a few and hardly even a large percentage of the complications involved in that claim.

If you think yesterday morning's piece was nit picking, it was nothing.  Similar things could be said about mathematics and every single thing purportedly done and discovered through the methods of science, in which case the objective reality of even arithmetic would be impeached.  The very god substitute of popular materialism would be its own victim, it would be like Cronus eating himself in addition to all of his children.  

It's not my fault that a basically self-refuting ideology is all the rage with the self appointed champions of science and everything modern and fashionable, with the superficial and the angry materialists.   Their toy models of reality don't match our experience of reality.  That starts with the fact that they want the universe to match their model in every way, it is a closed, monist ideological system, just as religious fundamentalism is a closed, monist system, which is the reason atheists love to pretend that all religion, all "authentic" religion is fundamentalist.   Monist systems are generally the easiest to poke holes in and push them over.  Only it works with atheist monist models as well. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Yeah, yeah So you tell me.

A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.

Bertrand Russell

There's a reason I posted it in the side panel.

J.S. Bach Partita in a Minor BWV 827 - Wim Winters: Clavichord


I listened to this recording this weekend and am convinced that I've never heard this particular piece before.   That's kind of shocking since the Partitas are some of the most important pieces in the Bach keyboard pieces.  I realized that I'd never owned a recording of the complete Partitas, I don't know why, just never got around to buying one.  I do have the score but I never studied this particular one.  I'm sure I'd have remembered some of the more unusual features of the writing, the Burlesca and Scherzo movements (very unusual for Bach).   How someone could get as old as I am and still not have heard or played all of Bach isn't that hard to understand, the guy wrote a huge amount of music, just about every piece a major masterpiece.  There are Cantatas I've never heard.  Still, for someone in my position it's kind of shameful.

Update:  Looking around for information this weekend I came across this really interesting paper, Johann Sebastian Bach's Clavichord Technique Described by Griepenkerl by Miklos Spanyi.  It has some really useful and eye-opening information, including the fact that Griepenkerl was sort of a direct musical descendant of J. S. Bach through his son Wilhelm Friedmann and Johann Nikolaus Forkel, one of W.F.'s students who was also J. S. Bach's first biographer.   It makes me want to read Forkel's biography, something that wasn't considered to be one of the most important sources when I was in school.   If he studied with the musician for whom some of the greatest didactic pieces in history were written, he must have learned somethings that would reveal a more authentic performance practice.   Forkel would certainly have tried, hard to accurately pass on J. S. Bach's preferences as passed on to him by Bach's son and one of his most famous pupils.

The Materialist Models of Consciousness and Ideas Are Unbelievable When Looking At Real Experiences As Opposed to Reductionist Models Supposedly Representing Those

While I should have been concentrating on what my student was playing and giving him his money's worth of advice and observations, I couldn't help but wonder if every single note being heard in Bach's 14th Two-Part Invention existed as an independent idea-structure in each of our brains and if the fact that so many of those notes are played slightly differently, heard slightly differently on each re-playing of the piece under his hands doesn't obviously necessitate the construction of new idea-structures with every performance of every note that we hear, structures that have to be made virtually instantaneously.

If the idea is embodied in a physical structure in my brain it must happen instantaneously, because I can remember the distinct character of those notes so that we can discuss them after he's done playing the piece, that one might be held a little longer, sustaining a legato line - as Bach points out was his intention in writing those inventions - or if that one might not be cut slightly shorter to distinguish where that phrase ends, or maybe not.  And the idea of what he played must be constructed instantly and be biologically active because I can stop him while he's playing to make a suggestion.  If the materialists are right, it must happen as I'm hearing the rapid notes pass by and those structures would be biologically active instantly because they can be evaluated to see if they match the written instructions on the page and my ever changing ideas about that and about the piece as heard and imagined.

I don't think the materialists understand how exigent the requirements of human experience and thought are when you consider them as they really are in our experience in real time, in their vast and ever changing varieties and what that means for their proposed models of how that is the product of material causation. In accounting for real life experience as we really experience it, real time is a crucial issue.  One which can't possible be made compatible with some of the cruder proposed popularly imagined models based on the construction of novel molecules that would exactly be the idea created by DNA molecules - just one of the microscopic entities raised up to the status of a god in the popular, materialist misunderstanding of science - could hardly measure up to in real time or in omnipotent omniscience, not to mention psychic ability to anticipate the future.  The perceived notes do have duration.  The idea-structure for any given note would have to be formed so as to account for all of its characters as those were happening.   The idea of the beginning of the note would have to have formed in order for me to reach the idea of the end of that note so I could judge if it were long enough or short enough in context.  Does that one not not require at least two different ideas for me to make that judgement?  How about each nanosecond of that duration?  How is that supposed to be built by the brain?

And, now, later, I wonder, are all of the notes in the great Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue BWV 903 not entitled to their own distinct idea-structure, and wouldn't each of the notes in those startling chords, sounding so much more modern than even much of the music written in the middle and later 19th century,  have to have their own distinct idea-structure and how would the structures for the individual notes that make up those startling chords, experienced both as individual notes and as distinct harmonic wholes, not help but be both separate and the same.

As a more general example, an e natural note as the third of a C major chord is certainly not the same idea as it is as the root of an e minor chord or the minor seventh in an F# dominant seventh chord or the fifth of a diminished chord where it's possibly not even called or notated as "e" but as an "fb", the musical identity and experience of the same note on the keyboard being so different in context and in the harmonic function intended by the composer requiring a different "spelling".  The musical identity of the note in the unnamed, often entirely unprecedented harmonic contexts in modern music can be of virtually infinite variety.  All of which brain-only brains would have to record as different experiences and thus different ideas of the same pitch.

And then there are all of the notes, all of the chords, all of the elements of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue as recorded by the great pianist Rudolph Serkin, the first recording of it I ever heard of it, the first experience I had of it, and that which I just listened to on clavichord played by Wim Winters,  [the 1950 recording by Serkin is only partially posted online so I won't link to it].  The perception of the same piece, played on different instruments with quite distinctively different styles and concepts of performance practice has to generate different ideas.  How can the piece be the same piece and yet be such a different experience?  Especially if "the piece" exists as a material structure*.   And one doesn't replace the other in my memory of the piece, my sense is of the same piece in two different and very distinct renditions.  And they are hardly the only ones I've heard, including my own playing of it.  And then that's a thing.  OR MAYBE NOT.  A "thing" that is.

The experience, my idea of the piece is very different playing it as distinct from listening to someone else play it.  And I doubt I've played it twice in the same way, not to mention every other piece I've studied and taught and listened to.  For one thing the style requires improvised ornaments and, especially in the fantasia, other spontaneous elements of performance required by the style.   As I mentioned a while back, despite what non-musicians might believe, any performer of classical music won't play the same piece exactly the same way twice but will - hopefully - do it differently, hopefully better with repeated performances.

The would-be scientific view of music is often quite funny in its naivete, the idea that a note is the same note in different contexts reduces music, an experienced experience, into a would-be analysis of it as if it were a physical object or phenomenon.   Reducing the pitches to vibrations per second and decibels (even accounting for the development and decay of the sounds), rhythms to a series of durations, even if it were possible to reduce that comparatively simple (or at least brief) invention into a mathematical description of what is alleged to happen during the performance, it wouldn't suffice to describe any actual performance of the piece which would certainly not be restricted to or even match the "scientific" description of the piece.   Given that tuning an instrument is as much art as science, octaves being stretched, certain intervals tuned slightly differently by different tuners, not to mention the inevitable "imperfections" in the tuning by the time you actually get around to playing, even the pitch as vibrations per second wouldn't match the mathematical model.   All of those would certainly have to exist in the mind since that performance is what is experienced, what the idea consists of,  and those differences would only add to the necessity of there being different idea-structures for each and every performance.

The alleged physical mind model is so absurd when you think of it in terms of real human experience in human lives in real time as opposed to the frozen data, alleged to represent pinned and mounted specimens of experience.  I don't think you could seriously maintain that the experience of hearing two seven year olds sing Happy Birthday or one of them sing it twice could not but defeat any proposed model of the mind as a physical entity.   Would the song be the same "thing" when sung to their beloved mother or reluctantly sung to their creepy cousin?   I don't think I'd experience the same thing on either occasion.  I mean, the song exists in a rather more complex range of contexts than are included in a sciency concept of "Happy Birthday to You".   The "You" being sung to and how the singer felt about them during the singing is certainly relevant to the experience that the idea comprises.

Again a post that is getting long and very complicated.  That is because when you think about ideas as they really are instead of in the reductionist substitutes of those in  neuro-sci, cog-sci, materialist ideology or any other attempt to reduce it to a "thing" to study, you are forced to take into account the fact that actual experience is incredibly and unaccountably varied, beyond the reach of description and definition and yet as intimately experienced as any of the thousands of notes in a great piece of music such as BWV 903.  And you do experience every note.  You will hear a wrong one in one of those wildly moving notes in one of the long runs,  you'll know that from memory or from context and the perception that the relationship of the wrong note in that specific context alters the relationships of the other notes in real experience.  And you'll know it as soon as you hear it.  In a simpler piece, based on experience with other pieces from its time period, you can usually tell when someone hits the wrong note even if you never heard the piece before, though sometimes you have to check the score.  The length of time it takes to identify a wrong note that the brain couldn't have anticipated having to record is a fraction of a second.

To get something of an idea of what I'm talking about, go to Youtube and listen to a lot of different performances of the 14th or any of the inventions and the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue.  How varied those pieces are in the hands of different musicians, even the ones who play it well as opposed to badly, however you might take that.

*  Experienced listeners can often identify who is playing a piece either in a recording that they have never heard before or, even more strikingly, by players in live performance as they're walking down the hall outside of the practice rooms in a music department.  That would be based on a huge number of perceptions and associations which would, in each and every particular, have to have its own physical representation in the brian-only brain.

Note:  I anticipate someone coming up with the analogy of a digital recording as a model of what our brains are alleged to do.  But that doesn't work because a digital recording is just a record, it doesn't instantly make the associations, comparisons, judgments, evaluations, etc involved in the experience of a note and its place in the line of music being heard, in the harmony it may be in, its duration, its appropriateness or not in the context.  The record of a musical performance produced by a computer is nothing like the experience of listening to the performance or even the fiftieth hearing of the recording produced by the computer.  The fact that each listening to a recorded piece of music is, as well, informative and would have to be a novel series of ideas in the mind.  I wrote about that in regard to a specific recording years ago.   Here is a more recent performance, recorded live by Soprano Tony Arnold to Babbitt's recorded synthesizer accompaniment.  She did a pretty fine job.

I can also anticipate someone getting angry and asking me what my model of the brain is if the materialist one is to be rejected.  The idea that we must accept inadequate ideas that are obviously inadequate so as to be getting on with things is obviously inadequate, itself.  That all of this model making might be inadequate and inconvenience professionals wanting to model minds has no bearing on the truth or adequacy of those models.  That exposing those inadequacies might rather be a disaster for the materialist ideologues is even less of a reason to accept crappy ideas.  There's a name for what those ideologues experience in the wreckage of their model mind, it's called "tough luck".

Sunday, May 17, 2015

J.S. Bach Partita n°2 in C Minor, BWV 826 - Wim Winters: Clavichord

It's fairly obvious from the writing of a lot of Bach's music that he conceived of it with the clavichord in mind, though he obviously didn't see his music as wedded to a particular instrument as he wrote versions of pieces for various instruments and, it's pretty certain, performed the same pieces on different keyboard instruments.