Saturday, January 13, 2018

Second Feature - Mavor Moore - The Book of Hell

This was interesting because the author, Mavor Moore, played Nero Wolfe in the fine CBC series, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe, just about all of which I've posted here.  Budd Knapp is one of the actors in this play, the others are Nonnie Griffin, Patrick Young and Lynne Daragon, all of whom I believe were also in the Nero Wolfe series but I can't find my notes on that.   I think the story is handled well.  

Here is an interesting blog post about this production on a blog dedicated to the Nightfall Series it was part of.  Apparently Mr. Moore was not happy with the revision of his original script and wasn't hesitant to tell anyone so.  I'd be interested in hearing a production of the original for comparison but unless someone financed such a project, I doubt that's going to happen.  It makes you wonder how many thousands of good, very good and excellent radio plays will never get produced again even as they redo the 874th remake of some piece of garbage or other.  

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Heinrich Böll - Murke's Collected Silences

Murke is a radio producer obsessed with silences who constantly seeks the spiritual even in the clanking of the paternoster lift. One day he is asked to edit out the use of the word 'God' in a radio documentary.

Heinrich Boll won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972. He was born in 1917 and he published continuously from 1949 and his last work was published posthumously in 1985. In 1967 he won the Büchner Prize - Germany's highest literary honour. He was revered as an author and social commentator. In the early 1970s he was president of the International P.E.N. organization. Before his death in 1985, Boll's work had been translated already into more than 30 languages. He remains one of Germany's most widely known authors.

He fought as a private in the Second World War and much of his early work was about war and how people coped in its aftermath.

Dominic Letts stars as Murke. Dramatised by Jonathan Holloway. Directed by David Hunter.

Like so many of the BBC dramas, it's only available for a limited time, the site says 19 days left from today. 

Without Equality Any "Liberty" Will Retain Inequality And Injustice, It Merely Frees The Oppressor To Oppress More Freely

I wish I felt confident enough to try to translate the response of Caroline De Haas to the letter of Catherine Deneuve, both were signed by a large number of Women, that of Deneuve largely, if not entirely of White Women, mostly established professionals, affluent and secure, many of the Women who signed onto the response of Caroline de Haas were Black Women, Women of color, rights activists, anti-rape, anti-pedophila, anti-racism activists, etc.   You look at the lists and read the texts and you see a real difference in the two documents and the Women who associate themselves with them.   The response is an excellent response, pointing out that the Deneuve signers associated themselves with the idea that it's perfectly fine, some kind of bizarre compliment, apparently, to be groped by strangers on the subway.  I have to wonder when the last time Deneuve took the subway was, when was the last time the affluent co-signers of her document had the experience of poor Women, of Women of Color in France or the United States.   I'll translate a short passage from it:

The signatories of the statement of Le Monde by and large favor repeat offenders, defenders of pedophiles, apologists for rape. They are using their media visibility to trivialize sexual violence. They despise the millions of women who suffer or have suffered that violence.

You can get some sense, in English of what was said from a regrettably short piece by Lauren Collins in the New Yorker.   After describing being assaulted in Paris when she was living there she says:

I hadn’t thought about it again until I saw, yesterday, that a hundred Frenchwomen, including the actress Catherine Deneuve and the writer Catherine Millet, had signed an opinion piece in Le Monde, defending “a freedom to bother, indispensable to sexual freedom.”

“A freedom to bother”—it was the first time I’d heard that one. (The word that the women used, “importuner,” ranges in connotation from bugging someone to really disturbing her. Whatever the level of offense, the behavior is clearly unwanted.) Was this some bold new European liberty, like the right to be forgotten? One didn’t have to read far to figure out that the statement was just another apologia for sexual assault and harassment. “Rape is a crime,” the piece in Le Monde began. “But hitting on someone insistently or awkwardly is not an offense, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression.” When the second sentence of an argument makes a turn against the wrongness of rape, you know you are not in for a subtle debate.

Deneuve and her co-signers run through a series of tired arguments, conflating the censure of sexual violence with censorship, and misconstruing #MeToo feminism as “a hatred of men and of sexuality.” The movement, they write, renders women “eternal victims, poor little things under the influence of demon phallocrats, as in the good old days of witchcraft.” (Daphne Merkin chose a different period setting for an Op-Ed in the Times, writing, “We seem to be returning to a victimology paradigm for young women, in particular, in which they are perceived to be—and perceived themselves to be—as frail as Victorian housewives.”) The Le Monde hundred find the concept of informed consent ridiculous. They defend Roman Polanski, sound a few notes on the dog whistle of “religious extremists,” and talk about the touching of knees while remaining silent on men demanding blowjobs and masturbating behind locked doors. It’s the small jabs that betray a hostility to the entire #MeToo project, not just its excesses. “A woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a ‘slut,’ nor a cheap accomplice of the patriarchy,” they write. “She can insure that her salary is equal to a man’s, but not feel forever traumatized by a frotteur in the Métro.” Ladies, one of these clauses is not like the others! Consensual sex is no more akin to being rubbed up against in the subway than drinking wine is to being roofied. A woman can fight for equal pay and not like assault, or tuna-fish sandwiches. There’s no connection.

I think she gets to the heart of the difference in the next part of what she said.

The women who signed the Le Monde piece are mostly, though not exclusively, white members of the professional and artistic classes: journalists, curators, artists, professors, psychoanalysts, doctors, singers. There aren’t any housekeepers or bus drivers on the list, and there is no acknowledgment that things might be more complicated when a woman is not the leader of her professional team, as women so often are not. The concept of intersectionality, by which a feminist would concern herself with causes far wider than the persecution of a man whose “only wrong” was “to have tried to steal a kiss, to have spoken of ‘intimate’ things during a professional dinner,” doesn’t seem to have occurred to the signers.

Although there is a range of ages represented among the women, there is something of a generational tinge to the discussion. They object to the imposition of new rules on established figures. “Meanwhile, men are commanded to beat their breasts and dig up, in the depths of retrospection, any ‘inappropriate behavior’ they might have committed ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, and for which they must now repent,” they say. I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with a Frenchwoman in her late sixties. Before her church wedding, in 1974, she told me, she had to submit to an interrogation of her sexual history by a priest. This made me realize what a wondrous event the sexual revolution must continue to seem to those whose lives were opened up by it. I wonder if those of us who were born later, who are fighting other battles, often underestimate the primacy of sexual liberation in the world view of previous generations.

Well, there is that concept of the "sexual revolution" and then there's equality, and they aren't the same things unless everyone involved chooses to make them the same thing.  Most of the "sexual revolution" was to turn everyday life of most people into the kind of thing that affluent men enjoyed all along, only, since equality wasn't real in real life, most of that still ended up with Men,  Straight White AFFLUENT Men, or those who in any sexual encounter were in a position of superior strength would end up being the primary or only beneficiary of the encounter.   That is as true of gay male sex as it is of heterosexual sex, if you don't believe that look at what's encouraged by way of inequality in gay male sex in gay porn, which is as bad and worse than the inequality of straight porn and the non-pornographic depiction of straight sex in most movies, novels, plays and poetry.    Without a transformation of the nature of life, putting equality before "freedom" admitting that universal equality is not a mere option but is an absolute component of any genuine liberty, any "sexual revolution" will just be trading one form of oppression for another, and not unlikely worse oppression. 


As a gay man I saw most of the movement for equal rights for LGBT people, up to and including the right to marry, to employment security, a right to report crimes of violence and discrimination against us and have a right to the law treating us equally and that was good.   But I also saw the self-destructive "freedom" to have anal sex with multiple partners run smack in to the biological reality that doing so turned the gay male population into a perfect vector for HIV and other STDs to spread and kill us and injure us, I also saw that after the briefest success in talking men into being sexually responsible (and men being brought up as they are, that was no easy thing to do) with people like Andrew Sullivan declaring an "end to AIDS" all hell breaking loose again and with the rise of internet porn, far worse sexual practices, unprotected sex in ways that were ever more an opportunity for infection, ever more degrading sexual scenarios and encouragement of inequality among gay men, sadism*, everything up to and including racist, Nazism and, yes, gay porn sites that present Trump as a hero and, in some cases, even declaring themselves to be "alpha male" opponents of the equality of "fags".

I will point out that no one saw AIDS coming in the late 70s, though a lot of us knew the men who loved that new freedom to screw around, the kind of  freedom championed in Tales of the City,  were in for trouble.  I remember a mutual friend telling me that our friend was going to kill himself with his swinging lifestyle in New York City years before HIV struck and, yes, he was one of the first of the scores of men I knew who died of AIDS related illness in the early 80s.   The man who predicted that is still alive.   There is no guarantee that another unknown virus or bacterial infection couldn't arise and be worse for its obvious immunity to anti-viral drugs being taken by men who have unprotected sex.

The "freedom" to publish porn, to appeal to the worst in gay men has led to the situation that in such places as the United States, the most viciously hateful depiction of gay men is in gay male porn, and a lot of the worst of it carries videos, gifs, photos and texts depicting the violent rape and abuse of women, now.  As I pointed out several years ago, you can look at gay male porn sites and see violence and degradation of gay men which is indistinguishable from the images of violence against gay males posted by Russian neo-Nazis and white nationalists.  Only they're not pretending that the viewers should get turned on by it and to try it as sex.

The general truth is that without equality any freedom will lead to those with power enjoying freedom at the expense of those without it.  And in the case of Women, they will always lose, though those who are affluent, who have succeeded under a regime of inequality, will not feel it much.

*  ANY pose of freedom which champions such figures as de Sade is a fraud covering fascism, and de Sade has been a hero of the kind of perverted "freedom" in sex since he first wrote his aristocratic fantasies of domination.   I've become convinced that anyone who champions that is someone you should expect to turn out to be an enemy of equality and real freedom.   His history in the French Revolution, even as it devolved into a violent blood bath which almost consumed him should give anyone as much pause as the presence of slave holders in the American "founding fathers".

Update:  Since it's an important point and I didn't think to make it that the fact that unprotected sexual promiscuity makes promiscuous gay men or STRAIGHT MEN AND WOMEN exactly the same kind of vector for any new opportunistic infection that HIV is.   And that the presence of aggressive anti-viral drugs in the bodies of those engaging in promiscuous sex will ensure that some of those unforeseen but entirely predictable viral diseases would evolve with an immunity to those drugs and, I don't know, perhaps a propensity to develop immunities to similar drug.   If that happens, who knows but the fact that it happened with HIV and more aggressive forms of that and other STDs prove that it can happen and should be expected to happen. 

I've also pointed out how insane it's gotten that the same people who will, rightly, slam anti-vaxxers as risking spreading diseases will also champion sexual practices that more obviously risk spreading disease.  One of the modern superstitious irrationalities is that when it's sex no one is supposed to talk about that because it's some terrible violation of "freedom".   Well, I saw quite a number of men and a couple of women in late stage AIDs and they were anything but free, body or mind.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Why, at this point, can I find what John McCain and Michael Steele said to condemn Trump's racist "shithole" comment but I can't find anything from Barack Obama about it? 

Obama, cut the cool crap and exercise some moral leadership.  Or at least tell us you don't intend to do anything like that because, despite what we were told,  you're really not that into it. 

Hate Mail - "No one reads your blog"

I decided a long time ago to not look at the statistics of my blog because I didn't want to write things based on what I concluded would get the most readers.   I don't know how many readers any particular thing gets.  I write what I feel compelled to write.  So, that particular taunt doesn't impinge on me at all. 

Update:  Gee, Simps, if that's true stop reading it right now, I'd rather have two readers and not three if the third one is you.

Actually, Stupy, since it was none of you who left the comment I'm answering, as always, you're wrong. 

And, really, you read?  Skim at most, you don't read.  Another thing you and Trump have in common.  

Update 2:  So we can add the word "nevertheless" to the things that you never learned before Cornflake College credentialed you. 

"I just see it as a popular expression of this imperative of a capitalist culture, to do away with this monstrous rival to the market, GOD."

Just a short video and my imperfect transcript of the first answer that David Bentley Hart gave to questions on the video, the rest of it is worth hearing, too, though I agree less with it and I don't have any more time to type it out. 

Remember, as you hear and read it, there are a lot of people who identify DBH as a "conservative" largely because a lot of his essays get published at the right-wing magazine First Thoughts, but I don't think you're likely to find anything more radical in the most radically basic meaning of the term at any of the current Marxist blogs or any anarchist blogs, those arguably Christian anarchist websites such as Catholic Worker, perhaps, excepted.  Remember, any mistakes in the transcript are mine

Questioner:  Do you think capitalism is hostile to prayer and is consumerism hostile to really well reasoned thought?  

David Bentley Hart:  Um,  are you a member of the Rand Society?  (laughs) I just want to make sure,  I want to know how hostile the audience can get, here.

Seriously, I think that late a capitalist culture, any capitalist culture but one that in Adorno's terms is really consumerist,  is a culture whose primary cultural task, the great adventure of the culture is the fabrication of desires and ever more desires for an ever greater diversity of things.  Desires for things that were not even desirable before they became “necessities” and then make room for other desires.  within that sort of order of social cultural relations in which acquisition and disposal become the primary business of life.  I mean  Look, we're surrounded by advertising all the time, we don't think about it, it's a white noise but that's what our culture does, it's teaching us to fabricate desires. There are problems . . . Such a culture is inherently atheist, it has to be, that  doesn't mean that you can't live a perfectly decent life within, you know, building a small business, building a business, employing people, that's not what I mean.  

I'm talking about the consumerist culture is one in which prohibitions on desire progressively have to be erased, right, new desires have to be fabricated constantly for things that ultimate values that could possibly subtract from or distract from or act as rivals to the momentary finite desires by which the economy is sustained and the culture “advances” have to be abolished.  And there is no value more problematic than God. Because you know  he might actually send you out into the desert rather than into the world of business.   

This isn't an opprobrium cast to people who make their lives making things and employing people  but you can do that without having embraced the culture and the inherent nihilism of consumerist capitalism.   

And so, yeah, I think there is a necessary . . . and what I see in the New Atheists is a kind of predictably vulgar expression of this need to do away with . . . there are a lot of things I see the new atheists . . . I also see contemptible western supremacist, you know, the late modern notion of those who have not embraced the late modern western mechanist vision of reality have cultures that are “worthless,” I mean literally worthless.  You get sort of the Quineian notion or the Rawlsian notion that “the only light that comes from the East is is the sun,” you know – Aboriginal culture in Australia with this very rich language of dreaming, that's meaningless because, of course, it's not mechanism, it's just “folk mythology” it's not even “folk psychology.”  So there's that and there are any number of things I see in the new atheists,  I just see it as a popular expression of this imperative of a capitalist culture, to do away with this monstrous rival to the market,  GOD.  

And prayer I think is an essentially subversive activity in a culture like that.   Prayer is the one thing you should not be allowed to do, in a truly good consumerist culture.  It gets in the way of advertising, it gets in the way of your openness to advertising, you should be opening your pores and your mind and your souls to constant advertising and prayer is something else that should be discouraged.  So, yeah, I do see a link there. 

Joy Reid Is A National Treasure

Intellectuals Out For A Night of Slumming It Among The Plebs

J'ai vendu mon âme au diable
Mon pouvoir est formidable
Sans effort je fais un voeu
Et j'ai tout ce que je veux
Je n'ai pas pu pourtant
Garder pour moi le coeur
Du gars que j'aime tant
Rien ne le touche, il aime ailleurs
J'ai vendu mon âme au diable
Mon pouvoir est formidable
Mais le diable est sans secours
Bonnes gens contre l'amour.

I was curious, after mentioning the disgusting, violently misogynistic dance apache ("les apaches" being the name racistly given by late 19th century journalists to the most violent gangs in paris) to see if the most famous French feminist who lived during what I kind of thought was its hey-day, Simone de Beauvoir, had ever condemned it.  I'm looking through her The Second Sex and have yet to find that demonstration and romantic promotion of violence against women - and an advocacy of that as "love" and have not found anything in that book or attributed to her objecting to it.  I suppose she thought it would be a most unfashionable criticism of "art" or "liberté" if she had.

I did, though, find something that sounded familiar when I read it on a blog, a description of a Paris house party of fashionable people in the arts and academia and philosophy where, having gone past midnight, de Beauvoir and her boyfriend (who has been critisized as treating her like a prop) Jean Paul Sartre where someone sang the song, J'ai Vendu Mon Âme au Diable (the refrain is the introduction) and  Les Papillon de Nuit (The Moths) the lyrics of which romanticize the brutalization of women by an "Argentinian dancer" named "Lélio" and how they fly to him only to be brutalized by them, more than implying that the women love it and find it attractive.  I'm as conflicted about posting the song or its words as I am the shockingly many video examples of the danse apache - something which has had a stunningly long and frequent use in movies, according to one list I saw online, preceding 1900 and continuing up till just about now.   It is clearly presented as a major artifact of French popular culture.   I will note that most of the movie and TV treatments on the list are not French.   Though, as the movie I mentioned it appearing in isn't on any of the lists I saw, those don't appear to be comprehensive.

I might write more about the lapse of de Beauvoir's book which I don't think I've looked at since the last century, it strikes me as far more superficially facile, dishonest and entirely inadequate if women's equality and decent behavior of men to women of all classes and conditions is the real goal, and any claimed campaign of rights which doesn't insist on that is a fraud.   I see, especially in the chapter dealing with "Prostitutes and Mistresses" and, well, lots of it is just plain awful.   I'd begin by her conflating the "church fathers" with the amorality of Bernard de Mandeville (whose philosophy would serve as a far better catechism of American Trumpian Mammonism and as a code of conduct for pre- last October Hollywood producers than it does democracy).

Sewers are necessary to guarantee the sanitation of palaces, said the Church Fathers. And Mandeville, in a very popular book, said: “It is obvious that some women must be sacrificed to save others and to prevent an even more abject filth.”

The danse apache would, actually fit right in with Mandeville's style of thought, it being an exhibition of misogynistic sexual violence for the entertainment of a jaded elite audience out for the fun of slumming it (which Sartre and de Beauvoir and their intellectual crowd was famous for, philosophical one-upsmanship bouts between watching the underclass amuse them).   I am, though, wondering which of the Church Fathers she could have pointed to who promoted the prophylactic presence of prostitution.  She gives no citation in her surprisingly skimpy footnotes.   I'm thinking hard and I can't recall reading any of them who did, and it would be very bizarre if they had and it hadn't been suppressed centuries ago.  That's not the usual rap on sex and religion made by fashionable secularists.   As it says in the first song quoted above, it's the good people who put a damper on the sexy stuff.  Between that view of things and the opposite claims of Les Papillons de Nuit and the danse apache, it seems like they insist on having it every which way.

Update:  You will note in the link that the party mentioned was famous in, um, . .  "culture" as it was the night of the famous first staged reading of Pablo Picasso's play "Desire Caught By The Tail"

For three days on a sickbed in 1941, Pablo Picasso wrote his first play, Desire Caught by the Tail. Some three years later, Picasso’s friend, surrealist Michel Leiris and his wife Zette, produced a reading in their Paris home during the Nazi occupation. The cast included the playwright, Simone de Beauvoir, Valentine Hugo, Raymond Queneau and Jean-Paul Sartre. Albert Camus directed it.

I have to admit that I haven't read the play and doubt from the descriptions I've seen that I'd be eager to see it, at the link one of the actors, so frustrated at the meaninglessness of it, said in exasperation that he didn't think he could play it.   I have gathered that the role that de Beauvoir took was charmingly named "Tartine" which means a sort of sandwich but which apparently is translated into english as "Tart".  Considering the fact that Picasso was infamously and viciously misogynist (he made the really horrible Hemingway look like a nice guy) who destroyed a long series of women, his children with them and who seriously damaged his grandchildren as well.  I can't imagine it was a depiction of a free woman with a strong sense of self-worth and self-possession.   I'll stand corrected if someone can point me to a script, in English or French.

I do know that when she found out her pet, Picasso, was putting words on paper, his early patron, Gertrude Stein was P.Oed.   I don't know why she should have been, when you produce meaningless nonsense what does it matter who puts their name on it?   That's something I learned when I tried to write a paper about the aleatoric composer Christian Wolff and gave up.  I did learn one thing from it, there's absolutely nothing to be said about it because it is entirely meaningless.   It gave me a real appreciation for meaning in art.

Republicans, The Media, The "Liberal" Elite, Having Their Crap Cake And Having To Eat It And Forcing Us To As Well

What we are witnessing in the United States is no less than the self-revelation of the Republican Party as a fascist party under the control of one of the stupidest, crudest, most ignorant, most disgustingly self-indulgent, most probably insane despots to arise in an allegedly democratic country in the West since the election through a minority vote of Hitler in Germany.  I have thought about the history of Western governments since then and not one of them has come close to matching the disaster that Trump is.  And even if you just consider that he's been in office for just under one year, if you compare how Trump is operating to the first year of many of the worst fascist despots, many of them at the one-year mark would not have produced anything as alarming as Trump has, especially in a country which was a major military power and which once had a reputation as a reputable democracy. 

The racist shit show of yesterday is just the crap icing the Trump torte, many of the layers are filled with the same flavored filling.    That it was objected to by some Republicans in the run up to the election, only to have the same Republicans to make common cause with him after he came to power - especially as seen in the recent vote on the Tax Billionaire Bonanza - shows that they bought it, from insanity and ignorance to racist, sexist, rants and mocking of the disabled.   

There is no excuse for the American media covering up for this.  They knew what they were doing, they are in the business of knowing what product they sell.   Trump is their creation.  The American media took the Trump of the 80s and over the past thirty years they co-created, with him and his hireling handlers, the Trump who now occupies the White House leading a gang of thieves and organized criminals.   This is the produce of the  free press freed to lie and to promote and amplify lies and which has, in fact, steadily, since the 1970s conducted the effort to fan racism which is, as someone said last night, the central pillar of Trumpism.   The Republican Party took in the most racist of racists who left the Democratic Party when President Johnson pushed the congress to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and those and their ideological descendents are probably the majority of those you will see on cabloid TV and on the Sunday morning  network lieathons, which replace revealed religion in the American state religion of Mammonism. 

Anyone who expects this is going to end without major changes to what brought us here, including the interpretations of the Constitution which, more than merely enabled it, CAUSED IT, is deluding themselves.   We got here, step by step, since the mid-1960s even as privileged white elite "liberals" who lead the media, who lead Hollywood, who lead academia wallowed in the eutrophic ooze of lies and amorality which tolerated the media promotion of racism, the backlash to feminism and a host of other things as long as it didn't interfere with their sex lives and their wealth.   They're the low-brow Weimar era style party before it started raining shit down on their heads.   They helped undermine the morality of the United States that was our only real protection from the neo-confederate fascists and Nazis who were enabled and aided by the champions of "free speech" "free press". 

I'm going to have more to say on this later.   I'll warn you, the goddamned ACLU, Common Cause and other icons of that pseudo-liberalism will be mentioned, prominently. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

I Found This Enormously Satisfying - President Donald Trump's Peter Hoekstra 'Lies About His Lies'

But even more satisfying was the Dutch media, in his first press conference with them as ambassador wouldn't let him just continue lying about it.   I especially liked the woman who said, This is the Netherlands, you answer questions.   It would be nice if our "free press" would take that same line.

Hoekstra was a bottom feeder in American politics, which is why Trump appointed him. 

No Country For Pregnant Women

I'm having eye problems so editing is going to be even rougher than usual till it clears up.  If it does.  Someone once told me that I wasn't really a bad writer, I was a bad editor and that lots of professional writers had the same inability.  The difference was they had editors.  If my editing gets better you'll know I won the lottery and could hire an editor.  

Hate Mail - Dump Darwin Save Science, Accept The Limits Of What You Can Know

One extremely gratifying thing in that interview of the eminent Oxford scientist Denis Noble I excerpted and linked to was this:

Suzan Mazur: There’s also natural selection, which became a catch-all term. As Richard Lewontin has pointed out, it was intended as a metaphor not to be taken literally by generations of scientists. The range of views about what natural selection is is staggering — a brand, a political term, a political and scientific term, failure to reach biotic potential, physicists are seeing it as part of a larger process now, etc. etc. Things are being majorly redefined.

In the first thing I ever wrote about Darwinism about eleven years ago I noted that I'd asked about five people whose profession was some part of biology, some teachers, some active research scientists, to define "natural selection."  Their responses were all over the place, even including such things as genetic drift which was certainly not part of any classical definition of natural selection and which I doubt could logically be considered to be contained in the idea.   I took quite a bit of heat for saying it led me to believe that when people talked about "natural selection" they weren't talking about the same thing and it was what first led me to believe that there isn't really any such thing.   I think when people use the term, even within biology, they use it as a synonym for the mere fact that the geological record demonstrates that lines of life change in their physical characteristics over time for reasons.  And I think they will include any of those reasons they come up with, even those which are not related to adaptations or "traits" that can be asserted give the organisms having them an alleged reproductive advantage.   I think when you do that the term means nothing since it has been made to mean everything, even contradictory things  

I think the term is still used even as its meaning dissolves into meaninglessness because it gives the illusion of comprehensive understanding of how species arise when there is no real knowledge and understanding of HOW it happens.  That's not to be confused with the far more reliable knowledge THAT it happened.  It's still used merely to maintain an illusion of knowledge of how it happens when there is no real knowledge.  

Other than that it's the, primarily ideological,  coercive effect of Darwinist hegemony over professional science and its extension into popular culture - no one wants to be called an "enemy of science" the god substitute of all right-thinking secularists - that has kept people using it.   Looking hard at the reality of what has happened to Darwin's claim to fame as its once held position as THE mechanism of evolution as that has been found increasingly inadequate and its lack of actual foundation in rigorous observation becomes apparent is unacceptable in polite society.  But I'm not polite, I'm a thought criminal and I don't care about what they say on those BBC costume drama-science shows that they sell to PBS here.   

As I said in the comments, the fact is that other than a tiny number of fossilized remains, an inconsequential fraction of which comes from the billions of years of who knows how many trillions of organisms whose lives, deaths and descendents make up evolution, nothing can be observed at all about how evolution happened.  And the fossilized remains can only tell you a very little bit about the individual organisms that left that evidence, it tells you nothing about the others of their kind, it tells you very little about their lives in their environments, often it doesn't even tell you why they died.  You can't know that their deaths are due to any of the physiological features of the fossils that you might interpret as a maladaptation in most cases or how many descendents any of the fossilized individuals left, the most salient fact of their relevance to evolution.  You don't even know if the stories you make up about that in the lost past are true or not or if they lead you closer or farther from the truth.  

That evolution happened is pretty well a certain fact, how and why it happened is something I don't think we'll ever know.   I doubt there is one single way it happend to know.  One thing I think is almost as certain as that evolution is a fact is that with the numbers of trillions of lives in vastly different circumstances, adding things such as chance and coincidence and the unknowable into it, I doubt there is any one "thing" any one "force" that controlled how evolution happened, I doubt it is the same one thing in the evolution of different species or even change within species.  To think Darwin nailed the great overriding reason evolution happened out of his reading of Malthus and the limited amount of information available to him in 1859 - and that his thinking wasn't primarily controlled by his own upper-class British cultural milieu as he made up the narratives and stories his theory was based in - is an extremely naive belief that has become an obligation in polite society.  

In other things I've written on this, especially about Daniel Dennett's idiotic idea of extending natural selection to universal explanatory power in, literally, everything, I noted that the eminent science writer and geneticist H. Allen Orr said that without the substrate of genetic inheritance that natural selection can't happen.  I haven't looked into it but I wonder since, as Denis Nobel, James Shapiro and others have pointed out that we now have evidence of robust inheritance of acquired characteristics (something Darwin believed in even as he promulgated natural selection) how natural selection could survive that discovery.  It certainly must diminish the "Darwinism" I was taught, which was really the neo-Darwinism of people like Fischer and Haldane, as must the discovery of evolutionary mechanisms such as genetic drift and of that thing which is indefinable even as its presence is undeniable, what Stephen J. Gould often wrote about, contingency and accidents.   

All this leaves me entirely skeptical that Darwinism will stand, ultimately, the test of time and the corrosive effects of knowledge.  I think the stretching done to glue it to genetics was probably the last time that could be done before natural selection is finally scrapped.  Considering how many millions of people whose lives were ended through the idea, considering how many lives were blighted in its application through eugenics laws and thing such as 20th century British education policy, it needs to go, the sooner the better.  Evolution will still be there, there's not much you can do to stop that.  The sooner science faces it, faces the damage that the use of St. Darwin as its mascot and the encouragement of his use of him as a cult figure in popular misunderstanding of science  has brought to science, the sooner they can get shut of it.  
NPR, I think it's that schmuck Inskeep, has Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union on, lying about the competence of Trump as I get up to turn the radio off.   Like I said, American journalism sucks.   NPR is the FOX farm team, it sucks as it sucks up to Republicans.  No one to the left of Matt Schlapp should ever give them or their affiliates another dime. 

Defund NPR, there's no reason for liberals to support their lying for Republicans.  

I'm listening to Radio Canada online, maybe I'll go to Radio France Internationale, first. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hate Mail

Oh, there's a lot in French culture that I admire enormously.  The music,  Debussy is one of the greatest of all composers,  I also have a great deal of admiration for Olivier Messiaen,  Paul Dukas, Henri Dutilleux, and a large number of others.  François Couperin, .... I could probably come up with several dozen just off the top of my head. More if I made a comprehensive list.   Not to mention many, many French musicians. French organists are some of the greatest in the world, especially in the art of improvisation.   I have only had the good fortune to play on a well maintained French piano, a Pleyel, only once and if I could afford more than one piano it's what I wish I had more than most other things. 

And then there is the jazz, I love Gildas Boclé and his groups, the players who play with Nelson Veras...  The French have certainly treated American jazz with more respect than American audiences have, which proves their generally superior taste.

I have a great deal of respect for a number of French thinkers, though not generally the ones most often heard about here.   I greatly respect Emmanuel Mounier, Xavier Le Pichon . . .   I have to confess that I am quite fond of the writing of Marcel Aymé,  George Sand,  Victor Hugo ...

And then there is the SERIOUS French journalism which tends to be among the best in the world.  I try to listen to Radio France Internationale every so often.  During the terror bombings in France, their coverage was in just about every way superior to the coverage National Public Radio would do if it had happened here.   I've recommended their Journal in Easy French to at least a dozen people (I don't meet lots of people the age of students these days except music students).

I will never not be grateful to the French government's position on the disastrous American invasion of Iraq, which subsequent events proved to be so right.   They were a far better partner than the British government was on that issue.  If we'd taken their advice, the world would almost certainly have been vastly better off than it is. 

I wouldn't expect any French person who admires something about the culture of the United States (though, please, don't have it be the goddamned movies and pop culture or goddamned Hemingway or Gertrude Stein) would do so uncritically.  And I would hope that they would feel free to point out our shortcomings.  I said that just about everything I criticized going on in France had its counterparts in the United States - A LOT OF THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT-ABUSE HAPPENED IN THE UNITED STATES - And that's not to mention Donald Trump is sitting in our White House! 

Wednesday Night Radio Drama - John Kelly - The Pipes

A wayward character sells his soul to become a master of the Uilleann Pipes, in a comic odyssey from Enniskillen to New York via ‘Augustinian whirlpools of vice’. 

Featuring Barry McGovern, Conor MacNeill and Michael McElhatton

Original Recordings by Liam O'Flynn

Written by John Kelly Producer: Kevin Brew

I almost feel like I should post a trigger warning but it's the civilized, in-tune Uilleann pipes, not the out of tune gas bag most people think of.   I've told my family they can have pipes at my funeral only if they're sure I'm dead, first. 

As ususal with RTÉ, you've got to download it to listen. 

Elite France Has More Issues Than The National Geographic

Apparently the fine French actress, Catherine Deneuve, who has done a number of admirable things in her life, is championing the rapists, sexual assaulters, sexual harassers and other, assorted poor, put upon things who are being exposed in the past several months.  And it isn't the ambiguous cases she and apparently a group of French stars in popular culture and the pop-star culture academia that is a fixture in France.  As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, even the philosophers are media stars in the fashion driven culture of Paris.

The revered French actor Catherine Deneuve has hit out at a new “puritanism” sparked by sexual harassment scandals, declaring that men should be “free to hit on” women.

Deneuve was one of about 100 female French writers, performers and academics who wrote an open letter deploring the wave of “denunciations” that has followed claims that the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein raped and sexually assaulted women over decades.

They claimed the “witch-hunt” that followed threatens sexual freedom.

“Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not – nor is men being gentlemanly a macho attack,” said the letter published in the newspaper Le Monde.

“Men have been punished summarily, forced out of their jobs when all they did was touch someone’s knee or try to steal a kiss,” said the letter, which was also signed by Catherine Millet, author of the explicit 2002 bestseller The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

Men had been dragged through the mud, they argued, for “talking about intimate subjects during professional dinners or for sending sexually charged messages to women who did not return their attentions”.

The poor, put upon men..  Apparently Deneuve et al, consider "sexually charged messages which women elsewhere don't return" include groping, other physical forms of assault (some with violence) intimidation, threats, indecent exposure, being ejaculated on and, yes, being raped.

I would go farther into what was said, which you can read in the many articles about it online,  but I've got to go take an anti-emetic. 

While reading the several articles I read on it all I could think was that France was the country that invented the absolutely, disgustingly misogynistic Danse Apache, most gratifyingly and intelligently presented cinematically in the movie Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation in which Ma Kettle intervenes, beating up the man to protect the woman who is being brutalized as entertainment in a night club.  Other than that it's pretty much pure misogyny in which all involved takes the liberté for the fraternité and says fuck all to the égalité.  From my understanding, occasionally such a dance is reenacted for the benefit of those who would like a deeper understanding of the great French cultural tradition, even now.

It's also worth remembering that France was a country where women didn't get the vote until 1945, which isn't that much worse than in the United States and other countries but it would seem to still lag way behind other countries in really believing women have a right to personal autonomy and integrity.   Again, that's not something that we can take much pride in, here.  American pop culture is full to the top with stuff as bad as any in French culture.   And, to tell you the truth, I remember hearing Brits complaining that Americans took such things "too seriously" as well.  Though generally that's more about race when they say it, but misogyny, too.

I really can't say the extent to which this petition for the right for men to harass and, apparently, to ejaculate on women, or perhaps to rape them - since men being held accountable for that is what the manifestation is complaining about, is a product of the secular side of French culture, something which is a major division of society there since the revolution.  It would be interesting to know more about the famous women who are signing onto something telling other women they should just take it in the interest of "liberty" in terms of that.   Paris has issues.  While there are many wonderful things in French culture, that isn't one of them.


It's been a long time coming that a Democratic Senator did something so unprecedented and so necessary as she did in breaking the Grassley imposed embargo on the transcript of the hearing with the head of Fusion GPS which reveals Grassley, Graham and a host of other Republicans in Congress and the media have been lying about the origins of, the motivations of and the rest of the Steele dossier into the Trump crime gang and Russian ratfucking of the 2016 election.   In my fondest dreams, especially the likes of Grassley and Nunes in the House, Graham and other Republican obstructionists would become the focus of a special prosecutor but that's something that historians might have to address, it's likely that Grassley will never pay any consequences for what he did except, perhaps, realize that his behavior in this national crisis, his aiding and abetting treason will be the only mention of him in the history books.  

If for nothing else than her courageous act in releasing the embargoed transcript, Dianne Feintein will go down as a hero of democracy.  I don't alway see eye-to-eye with Senator Feinstein but what she did would make the reputation of anyone who acted as she did in the moment she did.   Let's hope it's catching. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Geesh, they were right about that update slowing down Intel based computers.  I feel like I'm back in 384 k days.  Kind of makes you wish they'd test things before they release them. 

On The Origin Of The Racism Of A Befuddled State Legislator

Of course it was Charles Pierce who led me to the story in the Kansas City Star about the abysmally racist comment from one of the most reliable of sources of idiocy, a state legislature where "The lawmaker, Republican Rep. Steve Alford of Ulysses," said at "a legislative coffee event" :

“What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas (and) across the United States, what was the reason they did that?” Alford said at the event. “One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, the African-Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off those drugs just because (of) their character makeup, their genetics, and that.”

which we can be thankful that even though such things can be said by a state legislator they can still be made to feel it's necessary to apologize for having said them.  I'm not singling out Kansas because I doubt there's a state legislature in the country where such things don't get said informally and on the floor.  

The mention of "their character makeup, their genetics, and that" that kind of scientific racism would normally, in polite company, be called "pseudo-science" but it's a pseudo-science which a lot of the most eminent of scientists have spouted over the years since 1859, though not invoking "genes" to promote their personal racism until the discoveries of Gregor Mendel were rediscovered and applied in ways that I have a strong feeling Fr Mendel may have objected to.   I could provide quotes which I've already posted here and a large number of examples in my background research,  even from eminent Nobel laureates, Shockley, Crick, Watson,  other luminaries as R. A. Fischer and a myriad of lesser known scientists who were quite influential and prominent in their day who say and the same thing in more highfalutin language, though some of it, especially from the likes of James Watson isn't that much different from what the rightly disdained racist legislator said.  You can find similar things all down the line since the publication of The Origin of Species.  The question is why is it OK when a scientist says it.  I know why it isn't when a state legislator says it but science gets a pass.

One of the most interesting things I found out in my researching eugenics and scientific racism and the use of biological determinism to prop up atheist-materialist claims is that much of what I was taught in high school and university about genes and genetics is in deep trouble and a lot of it was never really established in physical evidence.  Though I would bet if it were possible to survey the population on their understanding of things, it's that half-century and older faith that is the basis of most peoples thinking on this, certainly of most journalists.  Take for example this exchange in an interview between Susan Mazur and Dennis Nobel. 

Suzan Mazur: University of Chicago microbiologist Jim Shapiro, whose work you cite, told me in our 2012 interview that he no longer uses the word “gene,” saying:

[I]t’s misleading. There was a time when we were studying the rules of Mendelian heredity when it could be useful, but that time was almost a hundred years ago now. The way I like to think of cells and genomes is that there are no “units”; there are just systems all the way down.

New York Medical College cell biologist Stuart Newman said he thinks the gene is “down but not out.”

But only a week or so ago the science section of The New York Times ran a piece touting “de novo genes” and their appearance and disappearance.

What is the status now of the gene in your view?

Denis Noble: First of all, I go along largely with Jim Shapiro’s view of the difficulty of the definition of a gene. I think it’s actually even more difficult than Jim says. My argument is very simple. Wilhelm Johannsen in 1909 introduced the definition of “gene.” He was the first person to use that word, although he was introducing a concept that existed ever since Mendel. What he was actually referring to was a phenotype trait, not a piece of DNA. He didn’t know about DNA in those days. We now define a gene, when we attempt to define it, as a particular sequence with “start” and “stop” codons, etc., in a strip of DNA. My point is that the first definition of a gene — Johansen’s definition as a trait, as an inheritable phenotype — was necessarily the cause of a phenotype, because that’s how it was defined. It was, if you like, a catch-all definition of a gene. Anything that contributed to that particular trait — inheritable, according to Mendelian laws — would be the gene, whether it is a piece of DNA or some other aspect of the functioning of the cell. That we define “gene” as a sequence of DNA becomes an empirical question, not a conceptual necessity. It becomes an empirical question whether that particular strip of DNA has a function within the phenotype. Some do and some don’t.

It’s interesting that many knockout experiments don’t actually reveal the function of the knocked-out gene. In yeast, for example, there’s a study that 80 percent of knockouts don’t have an obvious phenotypic effect until you stress the organism. What that tells me is that we have progressively moved from a definition of a gene which made it a conceptual necessity that the defined object was the cause of the phenotype — that’s how it was defined — to a matter which is an empirical discovery to be made, which is whether a particular sequence of DNA plays a functional role or not. Those are very, very different definitions of a gene.

So I go further than Jim. Not only is it difficult, as he says in his book, to now define what a gene is; one should be thinking more of networks of interactions than single and fatalistic genes at the DNA level. It’s also true that the concept of a gene has changed in a very subtle way, and in a way that makes a big difference to how the concept of a gene should be used in evolutionary biology.

The reason for that is very simple. It is that many of the definitions used by modern synthesists, including Richard Dawkins, are actually the Johannsen definition of a gene — that is, the trait as the phenotypic characteristic.

And after a short and interesting passage about how the neo-Darwinists aren't really Darwinists (Darwin believed in the inheritance of acquired characteristics, one of the things we learned was verboten in the real, right way to believe these things happen).  this is said: 

Suzan Mazur: There’s also natural selection, which became a catch-all term. As Richard Lewontin has pointed out, it was intended as a metaphor not to be taken literally by generations of scientists. The range of views about what natural selection is is staggering — a brand, a political term, a political and scientific term, failure to reach biotic potential, physicists are seeing it as part of a larger process now, etc. etc. Things are being majorly redefined.

Denis Noble: You’re putting your finger on a very important point here. And what I just said about the definition of a gene is only one example where I think some philosophical clarity is needed.


I think an excuse could be made for the racism of  Mr Alford, certainly the scientific part of it, anyway, because natural selection will inevitably give rise to Just-so stories and scientific excuses for racism, and it will give rise to eugenic claims and proposals that is the way that it has been used since the 1860s up till today.   There are people working as scientists in accredited, even world renowned universities that use it in that way and as an excuse for economic, political and social discrimination against women and other groups.  That said, it's likely Alford was just looking for an excuse for his already present racism, I think it's pretty clear that's not an isolated use of Darwinist and neo-Darwinist claims of the sort, it's more the rule than the exception.   

Much as I admire him in may ways, I disagree with Lewontin on one thing, it's obvious from reading Darwin and his disciples from the earliest days and years after he invented natural selection, that they intended it to be taken literally and they were among the first to propose classifying people according to racial hierarchies of intelligence and "fitness" and to even propose that the extinction of entire races was inevitable as they would be replaced by their superiors.  Darwin specifically named the Brits as one of the groups which would supplant "inferior" races around the world.  And it was not only used in that way, it was used to support the subjugation of people in lower economic classes, marking them as biologically inferior and their elimination from the human population was held to be a boon for the survivors.  Eugenics, which was the direct result of the doctrine of natural selection, with Darwin's approval, did not consider natural selection to be a metaphor, you don't base proposals for policies eliminating people from the future on the basis of metaphors.   I think that Mr. Lewontin's laudable habit of speaking uneasy truth failed in on that count. 

Update:  I erred, R. A. Fischer has had praise and honors heaped on him but he was not a Nobel Laureate, he was, however, a man who dedicated his life to coming up with mathematical excuses for racism and who was entirely opposed to racial equality on the basis of his understanding of natural selection.  He is one of the chief architects of the neo-Darwinian synthesis which has been biological orthodoxy right through today, though, as such eminent biologists as Margulis, Shapiro, Nobel and a number of others have said, it's time to put it aside because it doesn't really work. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Hate Mail

I'm asking it now,  why, if the Constitution works, is Trump still in office?   That he is in office, today, is proof that the Constitution doesn't protect us from what we are seeing, when the Congress is a corrupt prop to an actual, known traitor to the country who was installed after losing the election because the Constitution sets up the Electoral College.  

The U. S. Constitution has failed the test, it installed Trump.  When it has done that once, it can be used to do it over and over again as long as it isn't changed to prevent that.   That's the ugly truth, not the comforting bromide.   The uglier truth is that people like Madison and Hamilton set it up to empower oligarchy, not to prevent it from overt rule instead of doing so behind the scenes.  

Update:  Off Topic Hate:

Anyone who has ever read my blog would be unsurprised to hear that I consider Raymond Cardinal Burke to be a right-wing thug and a gangster and no kind of example of the teachings of Jesus, the Law and the Prophets.    I'm trying hard to think of a single thing I've ever supported that he would support or a thing that I've condemned that wouldn't apply to him, within relevant categories.   If Francis were more like Benedict XVI he'd have sent Burke to a life sentence in a monastery.   That he hasn't done so is a testimony as to the character of the current Pope as opposed to his immediate predecessors who did such things. 

Any President Who Doesn't Understand That The Constitution Allowed A Trump To Destroy Us Is Just A Hospice Nurse

I am being told that people are talking about Oprah running for president.   After thinking, Oh, dear heaven, no, I thought, why not?  She's certainly better qualified than Trump in that she's neither obviously insane, isn't a racist, a misogynist or an LGBT basher, is in no known way a traitor on behalf of the Putin crime regime, probably has entirely more impulse control and, well, in every way she's more qualified than Trump.

And the business-woman side of it bothers me.  If there's one thing that seems to be really bad in a president it's someone used to being the head of a business, though Oprah is certainly 100% more successful at that than Trump has been.  She would divest herself and I suspect that her name brand wouldn't turn into instant poison as soon as she started making appointments and issuing executive orders.

That said, I'd rather have an experienced, clear headed, clear-eyed, honest politician who holds no romantic view of the U.S. Constitution and the extremely mixed history of that, the opposite view of things than that which is common among show-people. 

But I doubt any of it matters in the long run as long as the conditions that created and brought  us to a Trump and which has permitted him to stay in office past last April 1 are changed.  Any president we elect, even the best of those, unless they appoint members of the Supreme Court who will undo the damage past courts have done - and the Supreme Court is the branch of government most responsible for producing dysgenic billionaire oligarchy governance of the united states - we're only buying ourselves and American democracy a little more time. 

Any presidential candidate who doesn't realize what the past eighteen years of American dystopia means and how the Constitution as interpreted by courts over our entire history have led us into this is just a caretaker of a dying democracy, a dying country. 

We haven't even done anything to require hard to ratfuck voting methods in this country, with the problem of Republican-Russian infiltration of that being on full display in many states.  Democrats haven't even talked about getting rid of the goddamned anti-democratic caucuses or holding its own nominating process through secure means without Republican legislative interference.  I'm not convinced that anyone's taking this seriously, at all.   Relying on the U.S. Constitution to fix these things would have worked by now if it were going to, it's only been used to make things steadily worse.

Materialism Is An Emotional Commitment That Always Leaves You Saying This Can't Be Happening!

Well, having to think about it, a good metaphor would be the various collections of numbers into sets and the capabilities you're restricted to if you insist on limiting the ones you can use to inspect reality.

If you take one out of all of the various sets of numbers, the natural numbers or counting numbers, you can do some useful things but you're stuck if you need the idea of zero, even the set of whole numbers which includes it leaves you with things you can do that just one through the often useless fantasy infinity* leaves you unable to do.

If you go to the integers, including negative numbers, you do algebra and use that to look at the physical world and to understand a larger number of things, events and relationships.

If you further extend that you get the set of rational numbers and even more is available to you.  Especially when you combine arithmetic and algebra with geometry and include all of those in a construct of coordinate relationships, which you can do in a crude form  with the set of whole numbers (needing zero for that) but which is far more useful when you use a more complete set of numbers.

Going on to more inclusive sets of numbers such as the complex numbers, including the widely misunderstood idea of  the imaginary numbers, you can make useful observations about more of reality, associating those numbers and their relationships with phenomena in the physical world and, probably somewhat less securely, more hidden events and experiences in real life.

Materialism, and let's be frank about it, atheism, makes an emotional commitment to using only the most restrictive of means of dealing with reality.  I would say that they insist on something like trying to explain it all with the set of counting numbers, the "natural numbers" but in the logical end of their radical reductionism, it's the equivalent of limiting all consideration of everything to the number 1, insisting that all of reality is comprehensible and only real if you limit your consideration to the 1 thing which you insist encompasses all of reality, which is why it is a monist system, one substance, one entity added to itself over and over again and anything that doesn't fit within their ultimate reductionist ideology is declared to not be real.

The numbers system and its application is an adequate metaphor for understanding materialism, if you take into account that it really is an emotional commitment, which accounts for why so many of atheists are addicted to being pissed off that lots of people don't agree with them. You can say the same thing about some religious people, that THEIR chosen commitment or their traditional or family beliefs aren't universally adopted but they don't start out by claiming scientific methods and its mathematical foundation are the basis of their belief.  All belief, all of what we choose to differentiate from that as being "knowledge" is based on the choice to believe it, it's not something that happens automatically because of some rule that when the percentage of scientists decide to adopt an idea that that makes its adoption compulsory.  Look at what was once supposedly a physical science, cosmology, and the myriad of sects and denominations in that, and don't get me started on psychology and the other so-called sciences in that regard.

But any sophisticated consideration of a belief in God would have to be like including all of the possible sets of numbers and far more than that in the possible compass of what constitutes reality because it has to a. take into account the limits of human knowledge and intuition because we are not Gods and b. take into account that there must be realities that we can't know due to our limitations.  You've got to have a level of maturity and humility to accept that reality. 

Maybe, at least in some of the really hard cases, that's what it comes down to, that materialist emotional attachment to the number 1, maybe in a lot of cases that "1" is the materialist trying to reduce everything to them.  It was certainly the case for the tin-pot dictator in her own family,  Madelyn Murray O'Hair, for the far more accomplished examples of that mindset such as Stalin,  Mao, etc.  You tell an emotional solipsist that they're not the center of the universe and they don't like it.  You tell them they have a moral obligation to treat other people as they'd like to be treated and it really pisses them off.  I believe it was Marilynne Robinson who speculated on that as the origin of the opposition to religion among the affluent elite in Europe, they didn't want to be burdened with the moral obligation to help the least among us.   I think it certainly accounts for the worst features of the "enlightenment age" United States Constitution and legal lore.   I think you have to be something of the sort to keep other people in slavery or in wage slavery and just about all of the people who have created those things certainly didn't include the golden rule in their legal system.  Slavery would never have happened, women would have been emancipated, there would be no destitution if that were the law.  But you can't find that in materialism.  Especially when you put natural selection into the mix.

* I haven't gone through the whole argument carefully but I'm at least provisionally convinced that an infinity of discrete objects doesn't actually exist.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Consciousness Is Not A Hard Problem Unless You Choose To Wear Ideological Blinders And Insist Free Thought Is Not Possible

There is an objection that theism is a monistic system - which it arguably is not- and so what I said about materialism isn't any worse than the logical consequence of theism.  But the fact is, materialism puts all of its bets on a very limited, reductionist program confined by the most limited of physical phenomena that requires the most limited of possibilities, theism does the opposite of that.  That difference not only defines the range of the possible under them, it has the most consequential of results in real life.

Putting all of your bets on not only the material universe but the material universe as treated by the very human invention, science, which is a method of excluding things from consideration in order to discover a limited range of general aspects of material phenomena, ideologically imposes limits on what is allowed as possible for consideration.*  For example; consciousness is only a "hard problem" if you:

a. insist that it must be a material phenomenon because your ideological commitment to materialism (even under the euphemism "naturalism" or the even more dishonest "physicalism") can't account for the human experience of consciousness,

b. insist, on the basis of ideology and not the practice of logic, that anything that can't be discovered through science can't be real,

c. insist, instead of on defining it as something that matches the human experience of consciousness insist on defining it a something with doesn't match that experience or account for its efficacy.

d. even worse, proposing some physical origin for the experience of consciousness which physically can't match that experience (one of the most popular of those is to magically chant "natural selection" or "DNA" based on a total misunderstanding that natural selection has nothing to do with the range of human consciousness - especially the range of logical and mathematical activities that comprise, among other things, science and ideological assertion - and the action of DNA couldn't possibly account for the speed with which new thoughts - many of them arising for the first time in human and certainly animal history - arise and become effective.

e. Given that such proposed mechanisms can't even account for how the brain, which is supposed to generate the physical structures, could recognize the need to even begin to make such an idea-structure or what it was supposed to make in order to be the right idea-structure and to know that it has made the right, instead of the myriad possible "wrong" idea-structures BECAUSE THE IDEA IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MAKING WASN'T THERE TO INSTRUCT IT, the whole thing couldn't be more irrational, superstitious, generative of pseudo-scientific assertions and, lacking any foundation, could only be imposed on the basis of authoritative dictat not logical persuasion. 

All of that and other huge ranges of materialist-atheist assertions in science**  has to be resorted to because the materialism it really has as its first commitment is limited by the most banal characteristics of materialist reductionism.

Thinking that starts out without having to insist on those self-imposed shackles on thought isn't bound in the same way, it doesn't have to believe that all reality has the characteristic limits that define physical causation as discerned by science.  The belief that God created the universe and sustains it already allows for a far wider range of what is real than materialism does.  And the idea that God is free to maintain aspects of reality that aren't covered within the limits that human choice defines as scientific method can account for the existence of minds which are capable of freedom of thought, something which materialism never can.  The fact is that something which exists but which is non-physical might be expected to have qualities and abilities that transcend what we perceive and define as physical causation.  Such a "ghost" could not only run the machine, it could be the only reason for the machine to exist (though the metaphor comparing animal bodies to machines is obviously a ridiculous and inadequate limiting of what our bodies are in service to ideology).

The Bible, actually, contains all kinds of clues and outright statements that conscious living beings are not merely physical objects.   As early as Genesis 9 God talks about making covenants, not only with the representatives of the human species, Noah and his family, but with all of the animal kingdom.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 

God doesn't say he's making a covenant with atoms and subatomic particles and forces such as gravity, or rocks, or mountains, the implication of making a covenant is that God acknowledges that animal life doesn't have the same status because it is capable of coming into something apart from physical causation, that it has qualities that inanimate physical objects don't have, it has a mind capable of entering into a covenant.  And as the rest of the Bible shows, people are quite free to violate that covenant but when they do, by their actions, not God breaking that covenant, they'll reap the consequences, in our time up to and including destroying ourselves with global warming because we choose to drive and allow evil incarnate to drill for oil off shore to do that with impunity.

All of the full range of human thought and action based in that thought is entirely compatible and an easy fit into a belief that God created the universe and us and administers to its regular order and can transcend that regular physical order if so chosen.  That is because a belief in the Creator and the universe the Creator made in God's freedom is not a monist system.  God gave us freedom to disobey and an equal freedom to obey, to be foolish and weak or wise that is definitely not a claim of monism. The monist-materialist-atheist system must insist that minds are not free but entirely a product of regular physical law acting on physical objects (of the kind which modern physics has pretty much dissolved, anyway) which is why it can't account for the human experience of consciousness or even come up with a plausible physical mechanism for how that could be explained.

Materialism is the natural philosophy of fascism and the red-fascism of Marxism or the idiocy of anarchism which will naturally devolve into gangster fascism and the dystopian collapse of moral obligation.   A belief in God is the natural philosophy of human freedom, of moral obligation as well as the equal endowment of rights and a right to justice.  That's what my years of study of how liberalism went from its highpoint in mid-1960s when the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, Medicaid and Medicare were all passed to the point where it can't even prevent or remove Trump and the rest of the Republican fascists, the thuggish and vulgar putrescence of vulgar materialism comes down to.  Vulgar materialism is no different from what the supposed high-brow versions of it bring, look at the Soviet and Maoist versions of that held up as shining examples by those who hijacked and wrecked American liberalism.

*  That is the source of the idiotic positivist tactic of declaring questions "meaningless" when material causation can't deal with them but when the question and its possible answers are entirely meaningful and comprehensible.  That blatantly dishonest tactic - it really isn't an argument but a means of shutting down uncomfortable questions that materialism-atheism can't deal with.  It's also behind the even more childish tactic of the eliminativist-materialist fad of derision for such concepts as consciousness - the ultimate in intellectual and academic decadence because it discredits the very thing that its practitioners make their money and win their fame with the stupid from.

**  Cosmology would seem to have been led out of science and into science fiction through it with no need for consensus, just a good story in line with materialist ideology with no physical evidence confirming it even looked for.