Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Lucy Prebble - The Effect

Award-winning chemical romance - "I can tell the difference between who I am and a side effect." Connie and Tristan are taking part in a clinical trial for a new psychoactive drug. So when they start to feel attracted to each other, can they really trust how they feel?

A profound, and funny, play about love, depression and selfhood, winner of the Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play when it was performed at the National Theatre in 2012.

Dr Lorna James .... Christine Entwisle
Connie .... Jessie Buckley
Tristan .... Damien Molony
Dr Toby Sealey .... Samuel West

Composer, Richard Hammarton
Director, Abigail le Fleming

Lucy Prebble is a writer for film, television, games and theatre. Before THE EFFECT she wrote the hugely successful ENRON (2010). Her first play, THE SUGAR SYNDROME (2003), won her the George Devine Award and was performed at the Royal Court.
Lucy is an Associate Artist at the Old Vic Theatre.
For television, she is the creator of the TV series SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL. She is Co-Executive Producer and writer on HBO's media mogul drama, SUCCESSION. 

Richard Hammarton is a composer and sound designer for Theatre, TV and Film. His work has been heard throughout the UK and Internationally. He was part of the design team that won the Manchester Evening News "Best Design" award for DR FAUSTUS in 2010 and was Sound Designer for the Olivier Award winning play, THE MOUNTAINTOP. He also worked on the Ivor Novello winning RIPPER STREET for TV.

The play raises the issue of how we can be talked out of trusting our own perceptions. 

It reminds me of the time a member of a psychological cult,  I think it was "est," told someone that their program would make they happy.  When they said they were already happy, the estie, or whoever, told them they only thought they were happy.   To which the question is what is the difference between thinking you're happy and being happy.  And, more so, how are you supposed to know if there is one. 

Sometimes I think talking people out of trusting their own experience is one of the worst general effects of such pseudo-science. 

Pretty effective use of music-sound in this one, I thought.

Reading The Entrails of Atheist Faith

The other day I posted an excerpt of Elliot Sober's critique of Alex Rosenberg's contention that natural selection was the only biological law.   That passage shows much if not everything that is wrong with the kind of science which is pushed by materialists, atheists and the faithful of the atheist ideology of scientism.

Start out with this passage which claims for the vitally important component of one of their most prized of doctrines, natural selection, prized because it so often supports, in those who don't think about it very hard, their scientistic materialism, the predominant faith holding of their religion.

Consider, for example, what we can know about fitness.  Fitness is the supervenient biological property par excellens.  What do a fit zebra, a fit dandelion, and a fit bacterium have in common?  Presumably, nothing much at the level of their physical properties.  However, this has not prevented evolutionists from theorizing about fitness.   I have already mentioned Fisher's theorem and there are lots of other lawful generalizations that describe the sources and consequences of fitness differences (Sober 1984). 

In the extreme position which the monistic, reductionistic faith of materialism logically necessitates, our ideas MUST be an expression of specific physical representations of what those ideas denote, manufactured in our brains, when those correspond to other physical entities in the universe, they are "true" the extent to which any idea we have can be true. 

Alex Rosenberg, in his semi-popular book The Atheist's Guide To Reality made such a claim to divert attention from his claim that our minds, even our sentences can't carry meaning of significance.   He claimed what his book would do to the reader - and presumably in many cases buyer -

This book isn't conveying statements. It's rearranging neural circuits, removing inaccurate disinformation and replacing it with accurate information.

In order for his ideology to be "accurate" it would have to "rearrange neural circuits" so as to represent actual physical entities in the physical universe, nothing else being real, in his religion.

But, get back to "fitness" as the devotees of the doctrine of natural selection as a scientific law require to even construct the idea of natural election.  If, as Sober reasonably, I would say obviously points out, there is no physical structure, no physical correspondence of "fitness" of a zebra, to that of a dandelion, or a bacterium, there is no physical structure that constitutes "fitness" as one thing.   In order for "fitness" to be one thing that could have any meaning in the scientific theory of natural selection "fitness" itself has to have a transcendent meaning apart from the actual physical structures of the organisms which are said to possess that quality.  If there is any accurate meaning to the "information" called "fitness" that could meaningfully take its place in any statement about "natural selection" it would have to be non-physical. 

If you want to make the claim that fitness is known to be a real thing which can fit into a scientific theory because it is an expression of survival of organisms that is problematic also.  Natural selection doesn't claim that all "unfit" organisms die before they can reproduce, though that is one of the means by which it defines "unfitness." it also covers those organisms which leave fewer offspring in a population within a species, subspecies, variety, tribe, family, etc.   Which is one more complication for the idea of "fitness" as a scientific concept. "Fitness" doesn't have a specific physical character, it doesn't describe one state of physical being.  It has not actual physical character except in its end point and that, itself is varied, no offspring, fewer offspring, more offspring, perhaps every whole number over countless generations could be held to be that meaning.

And to fit in with the neo-Darwinism that is the current faith of such people as Rosenberg and Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, every instance in which such variable reproductive rate is not the product of genetic differences between individuals and groups its physicality cannot either be ascertained as relevant to the results or it cannot be accounted for by "fitness" and so escapes the universal faith of Darwinism as the triumph of monistic materialism which Ernst Haeckel was only the first to claim it was.  That faith is the predominant one held by such scientistic atheists, today.

Sober goes on to, in essence, anticipate the criticism I made of Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow,  their demand that science dispose of the requirement of theories being held up against the physical universe, empirical demonstration, to test its accuracy or even reliability as a representation of something real instead of merely wished for. 

 It might be objected that these generalizations are a priori, and so are not laws, properly speaking.  This raises the question of whether laws must be empirical, but let us put that issue aside.

Well, let's not put that aide.  Any such laws which are not held up to physical verification cannot be known to be "accurate information" any such law has an unknown probability of  "rearranging neural circuits, removing inaccurate disinformation and replacing it with accurate information,"  Putting aside the rather stupid and untested metaphor of "neural circuits" which such materialists don't understand is an untested metaphor and so likely constitutes inaccurate information. 

That demand made by such scientists, and I've never heard it made by any scientist except those who have a great emotional investment in atheism, is, itself, a demand that "truth" that information must be held to be transcendent of the physical universe, or why else should anyone who holds their faith accept such a demand that their theories be held to have such a super natural status?    That they want to violate some of the requirements that constitute one of the highest prides of science, that its ideas are so tested against the observation and measurement of the entities they claim they represent, shows how decadent this effort it. 

That such a claim must be made for natural selection is a consequence of only a very small percentage of the organisms, their physical remains and the all important life histories, environmental conditions, interactions with their changing or stable environments, other members of their kind (especially in those specie with sexual reproduction) with other organisms of other species,  chance events which have no genetic significance, etc.   Isn't surprising.  The entire theory of natural selection, for which all of those in all of life would have to be entirely relevant, can never have such rigorous testing because what you would need to test it is so unknown, the largest majority of that information is, effectively, as lost to science as Hawking used to think "information" lost in a black hole would be.  That Hawking and Mlodinow made that demand in relation to multiverse conjecture for which that information will never be in hand is also no great shock.   They are asking to be exempted from doing science but calling what they produced science and it having the prestige and status of science.

The same is as true for psychology which has seldom to never practiced that, coming up with absurd pantomimes of "study" and making absurdly grand and general claims for what that shows.  As I mentioned, the history of psychology is a study of ideas put up as reliable science but, one after another, not only the details, but entire intellectual framings falling into disuse.  But holding not only a status as "truth" but also having even legal power in the meantime.*

All such "science" especially when cited by such ideological scientists and the kind of philosophers who are more groupies of scientism than rigorous thinkers, are merely demonstrating that they don't really believe their own professions of faith in materialism, in scientism, themselves as they demand exemptions for their faith holdings from being held up to the harsh light of critical examination of them by others not of their faith.   That remind you of anything?   Lots of religious people have left that stuff behind, in many cases centuries ago. 

* Even today, more so than in the past, Rorschach testing is ordered and is held to have evidentiary value in criminal trials, under "expert" testimony.   It would be interesting to know how many times that crap-science has gotten people convicted or maybe even a death sentence. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

More Hate Mail

To a truly stupid person who is also lazy, all sentences are too long and all ideas escape their understanding.   That's also true of a dishonest person who can combine all of them, you Stupy, are such a person.  

I don't think anyone is in any real doubt as to what I mean, even your own misunderstanding is a ploy to pretend I've said what I haven't.  That's the difference.   

Update:  Oh, Simpy, you're getting as whiny as Jordan Peterson gets.   Considering your characterization is spot on for Duncan's Den of Dementia and Geritol Bar, could you be more clueless?  

Hate Mail

Jordan Peterson is the man that Camille Paglia has always wished she could be.  

Hear Also, the irreplaceable Sam Seder with Nathan Robinson 

The Intellectual We Sould Expect

Back before Ted Kaczynski was identified as being the Unabomber, as the unknown package bomber was insisting that if the New York Times and Washington Post  would publish his 35,000 word manifesto he would stop killing people, the tech-skeptic Kirkpatrick Sale was approached by the F.B.I. to see if he had any ideas as to who the serial bomber-killer might be.  When he wrote about it in The Nation he said:

The F.B.I. has said it believes he was a student of the history of science, but on the evidence here he was a social psychology major with a minor in sociology, and he shows all the distressing hallmarks of the worst of that academic breed.  He spends twelve pages, for example, on a strange and somewhat simplistic explanation of “something that we will call the power process,” consisting of four elements “we call goal, effort and attainment of goal,”  plus “autonomy,” all in an effort to explain why people today are unhappy and frustrated.  Only someone trapped in the social sciences would talk that way.

I thought of that while reading Nathan Robinson's article about the current celebrity super-star "public intellectual"  psychotherapist, bullshit artist, Jordan Peterson.   It's a detailed and excellent exposé of the method of spinning out verbiage that is so vague that, as Robinson points out, will inevitably lead to people trying to pin Peterson down as to what he means will inevitably have to do what Cathy Newman was condemned for doing, "putting words in his mouth" because the words that come out of Peterson mostly denote nothing in a string of connotations without any actual meaning.  It is tempting to list some of them here but Robinson does such an excellent job of exposing Peterson's crap as crap that it is best to read his article.

Robinson calls Peterson "The Intellectual We Deserve" noting the many "serious" journalists, opinion scribblers, academics, and what these days pass as intellectuals who have praised the imperial nudity of Peterson's verbiage, correctly finding in it a symptom of the seriously awful state that intellectualism and thinking are in in the West.  And Peterson is only one of a string of such alleged intellectuals, "public" or not who could serve as such examples of snake oil intellectualism that have risen and fallen into the large boneyard of discontinued intellectualism, much of it reputed to have been science, some of it still waiting to fall into it.   That he holds a university position in a respected university in the field of psychology is not any kind of surprise, the history of psychology as an academic subject called science  has contributed more than just about any other so-called science to that graveyard of once prominent and temporary "truth".

As serious as Robinson finds the danger of such a degraded replacement for an intellectual life nowadays, I think it's going to get worse and for obvious reasons.   In the criticisms of Alex Rosenberg's position of scientistic atheism and the logically necessary result of that, nihilistic eliminativism, declarations that our minds, our consciousness, our ideas, our words even the content of our logical discourse are devoid of meaning or significance, it is pointed out that it inevitably means that the kind of nonsense that Peterson spouts is equivalent to the soundest, most evidence supported and even empirically verified holdings of history, science, mathematics in that none of them can have the ultimate status as the truth. 

One of Rosenberg's most exigent critics, the conservative Catholic philosopher Edward Feser, has paid him the compliment of acknowledging that a debunking of Rosenberg's claims on that count*, since they are made philosophically are not easily disposed of, at least in the context of philosophical discourse, but when someone makes those claims Rosenberg does, anyone who asks him why that doesn't apply to what he just said is fully justified in pointing out that his own claim is covered under his debunking.

 An obvious self-contradiction doesn't need to go through the formal exercise of a philosophical discourse when the internal contradiction of a statement is so obvious.   It is exactly like the central formulation of scientism, that science is the only means of attaining truth, which isn't, itself a scientific statement, science being unable to ascertain the truth of that claim, so it not only might be false, it is obviously false.   If it were true it would disprove itself.   A professional philosopher needs to go through all of the steps necessary to do it philosophically but for the rest of us, when something so clearly contradicts itself and provides the means of knowing it is false, we don't need to do that.  Though reading it might help in an argument.

And the same is true for the widespread holding of 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century western intellectuals in the so-called "enlightenment" tradition of scientism, among whom Nathan Robinson point out, where some of his supporters put Peterson .

If science is taken as the only means of discovering truth and only material objects and the forces operating on them are true, eliminating all other explanations of things, it eventually forces the conclusion that our minds are incapable of attaining any transcendent meaning, our ideas being mere manifestations of chemical processes without any inherent truth or falseness, that any such idea will be derided as "folk psychology" or some other term of dismissal, any freedom of thought an illusion.  That is an inevitable result of materialism, it has been pointed out for about as long as people thought about the idea with any rigor, there is nothing shocking about any intellectual culture which adopts materialistic scientism falling into a state of such decadence as ours has.   There are other means of falling into decadence, that is merely the one which has resulted from a surrender to the hegemony of materialism.

That someone like Kirkpatrick Sale used the typical habits of writing of some of the worst of such materialists who allegedly study the mind that is so debunked in an alleged scientific form to try to diagnose the Unabomber doesn't surprise me.  I remember reading that article when it was first published and being struck at how true it was of the writings of those in the social sciences.  That Jordan Peterson comes from that tribe of academics is no surprise either.   Materialistic scientism is an inevitably corrosive ideology that will inevitably lead to that, even when found in a field such as philosophy which should require a sufficiently rigorous logical apparatus to prevent it.   Clearly you can hold an academic position in a respected university, even in philosophy, while you pump out the acid that corrodes all academic discourse into a decadent puddle of insignificance.   Is it any wonder that the stuff has flooded into the mid-brow professions of journalism and lower, that such "public intellectualism" where it would do the same? 

Most of those who want to be taken as an intellectual, especially since television and entertainment have taken up so much of our attention, want to do it on the cheap and to do that, in the present milieu, one of the shortest of short cuts is to adopt the scientism, the materialism and the atheism of the big time intellectuals of the recent past and today.  Once having done that the mid-brow smarty will be entirely ill-equipped to understand any critique made of it or to really think about any consequences arising from which species of such stuff they find emotionally appealing.  I think that is why so many ignorant boys and men have adopted Peterson's crap.  And there are even more ignoble reasons for adopting the fashion for him, even among celebrity priests.  Riding the waves of fashion and the fashionable.

So, the likes of Peterson aren't necessarily the intellectuals we deserve, but they are the intellectuals we should expect because of the degradation of any culture which adopts an ideological position that leads to such decadence as we find ourselves in.  Any ideology which leads us to believe truth is relative and even our capacity to achieve the transcendent level where we can discern it and differentiate it from what is false will generate such intellectuals.   They might do a lot of damage, even kill tens of millions, in their worst cases [Nazis, fascists, Marxists] but they won't last.  I give Peterson maybe five years.  Another false prophet will take his place, as Robinson points out, probably another white male.

*  Feser also did a ten part take-down of Rosenberg's The Atheist's Guide To Reality.   I'm certainly no fan of Edward Feser's politics or even of much of his other thinking but he does do a good job of debunking some of the worst of decadent scientism.   I'd wish that some less conservative philosophers would make those attempts, there is far more reason for someone holding to the traditional American meaning of liberalism, as opposed to the "enlightenment liberal" stuff that is neither liberal nor incompatible with the decadence of materialism or Anglo-American conservatism.  I wonder if such liberal philosophers feel cowed by the academic hegemony of materialistic scientism.   If that's the case, their cowardice is shameful.

Update:  Can someone tell me how to turn off the automatic spelling correction that is screwing up my posts?  I can't even find the feature. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Steve Nelson - Samba d'Blue

Mulgrew Miller, composer

Steve Nelson - vibes
Danny Grissett - piano
Peter Washington - bass
Lewis Nash - drums

Fifteen Years Later

Read Also:  The Estimable Charles Pierce wrote a great article too.

Wanting It To Be So Doesn't Make It So - Or Why It's Important That Zebras, Dandelions and Bacteria Are Different

It is absurd to pretend that a scientific law is any stronger than the reliability of those components that are are involved in it, than the extent to which the supporting contentions that comprise that law, are reliably described and match the other claims of reliability made for science.

If you want to make a law about x, and anything you can know about x is dependent on, not only u, v, and w, but pretty much everything you could symbolize by all of the letters that precede x  then your contentions about x are only good to the extent that your knowledge about all of those other things is good. Not to mention their validity as truth connected to actual physical observation and measurement.   And that's only a very simplified description of what goes into making a scientific law reliable.

Natural selection is different from many, all really,  of the most reliable of scientific laws in that most of scientific law is drawn on observation of very simple phenomena about non-living things.  Those things behave in far more reliably repeatable ways.   Living things are not so simple and cannot even possibly be considered in the same way because the phenomena of life are far more complex, far more variable and often happen over a far longer length of time, the varied and complex events of the lives of organisms being entirely relevant to what is studied.   Compared to the movements of an electron, the aspects of variable reproduction rates in organisms is of effectively infinite variability.  It is nothing like the laws of physics and chemistry because what it purports to explain is a far more complex phenomenon.

Natural selection as not only one but THE supreme law of biology is fraught with such problems.   It purports that some force called "natural selection" comprised of not only why some organisms are successful in a. surviving long enough to reproduce, b. other organisms not surviving long enough to reproduce, c. the success in those who reproduce in leaving more descendants than others, d. the factors which go into the reasons that some leave more descendants than others, those reasons of many varied and often entirely dissimilar reasons. . . and, after you've accounted for all such variable factors in why that happens over all of the different species, subspecies, varieties, tribes . . . in the parts of the taxonomic ranking they don't generally mention in high school or intro to biology courses but which is where natural selection is alleged to operate, you get to the fact that most of the actual events that would have to comprise many of those variables not only is not available to look at in the kind and amount of detail you would need to really know the problem, the largest part of that will never be available to be looked at scientifically and so will forever be unavailable to a genuinely scientific study of it 

If you think I'm making this up, here is what I think is the central problem that Elliot Sober found with Alex Rosenberg's claim that natural selection was the only valid law of biology.

One gap in Rosenberg's argument is that he does not tell us how complicated the living world is, or how complicated it has to be to elude our search for laws.  I am not asking for a precise measure of complexity, but for a reason to think that the complexity of nature puts biological laws beyond our ken.  Consider, for example, what we can know about fitness.  Fitness is the supervenient biological property par excellens.  What do a fit zebra, a fit dandelion, and a fit bacterium have in common?  Presumably, nothing much at the level of their physical properties.  However, this has not prevented evolutionists from theorizing about fitness.   I have already mentioned Fisher's theorem and there are lots of other lawful generalizations that describe the sources and consequences of fitness differences (Sober 1984).  It might be objected that these generalizations are a priori, and so are not laws, properly speaking.  This raises the question of whether laws must be empirical, but let us put that issue aside.  If the multiple realizability of a property makes it “complicated,” then fitness is complicated.  And if the complexity of a property makes it impossible for us to discover qualitative, counterfactual supporting, and explanatory generalizations about the property, then we should have none available about fitness.  But we do, as Rosenberg concedes.  The human mind does not slam shut in the face of radical multiple realizability.  Understanding the sources and consequences of fitness differences is not rendered impossible by the fact that fitness is multiply realizable.  It is therefore puzzling why the multiple realizability of other biological properties should mean that we will never know any laws about them.

I would disagree with Sober in that what he lays out as the variability of "fitness" renders its inclusion in any purported law of science sufficiently problematic to weaken the reliability of any conclusions drawn under any such supposed law that includes it in its realm of consideration.  Including Fisher's.   Wanting to skate over the problems because you want biology to have laws like physics and chemistry doesn't do anything to negate the significance or importance of such problems.  It really does matter that when you talk about the "fitness" as a thing that the "fitness" of a zebra, a dandelion or a bacterium are not the same things.  You're using one word to talk about quite different states of not only being, but living.  Pretending that you're describing one, static condition of being when you're not.  And the same thing would be true about the "fitness" relevant in natural selection, of the "fitness" of one zebra as opposed to another zebra, what that really means and what effect that really does and did have in the variable reproduction rates of those zebras or their entire line of ancestry, right back to the beginning. 

The problem he points out would have an impact on natural selection that would impeach ITS status as a law, but not all aspects of biology include such extravagantly broad and variable components.   I would think any proposed law about just about ANY more modestly scaled biological problem, even a very complex one, would be more complete and likely more reliable than any general claim about natural selection.

The extent to which the story telling of Darwin and his disciples has been just accepted, choosing to ignore the problems of pretending the component aspects of the problem, extending back more than three billion years of evolving life don't matter, in order to pretend that their claims about among the most complex of all problems has general explanatory power seems more illusory to me every time I look into it.

If you were able to do a general survey of all PhDs in just properly biological topics as to how they would define natural selection, the most sophisticated of those definitions, taking into account the scope of the problem would seldom if ever actually match each other.  What does such a scientific "law" actually mean if there is not something approaching a universal understanding of what it means?    I don't think you would run into the same problem with many of the longer standing laws of physics and chemistry, even those of the same vintage as Darwin's theory which I doubt anyone actually holds as he set it out.    I would think there are many less ambitious holdings in biology that are more successful in describing observations and predicting things because they don't include such ideas as "fitness".   I wonder if that had something to do with the fact that Darwin's attack dog, Thomas Huxley, seldom taught his students anything about Darwinism, insisting that they concentrate on physiology. 

I think natural selection functions far more as a required framing of the language and thinking of biologists than as a law of science, a required way of thinking about biological problems than a scientific law.  It functions far more as a mandatory dogma than most of the doctrines of mainstream religion are alleged to,  in that it is more accurately seen as a doctrine than a dogma.

And that's before we even get to the ideological use of Darwinism in pseudo-scientific fields, evolutionary-psychology,  the pseudo-scientific part of anthropology, etc. pretty much all of the parascientific academic fields, now including some sects of philosophy, in which all hell breaks loose.   In the popular use of the term "natural selection" it functions as a magic spell or charm which is accepted, unthinkingly, as an explanation when no explanation has been produced.

I think it is retained because of its alleged power in attacking religious belief, not because of its reliability in explaining the evolution of species. I think that' Alex Rosenberg's real motivation in his claim for it. And a lot of that power is more alleged than real. There are people who maintain a non-ideological belief in conventional Darwinism while still believing in Christianity and don't suffer in the least from the psychological or intellectual damage that atheists insist they must.   The fact is, most of the people who believe in evolution also believe in God, in the United States, most of them probably Christian or some other monotheistic belief in God.

There are other reasons for maintaining the status of natural selection, one of the strongest is the desire of people studying evolutionary biology to pretend they have a completeness of knowledge of it that they never will have,  I think a lot of that is about status and glamor, which accounts for why most of what most people know about Darwin and his theory these days is based on costume dramas on TV and other vastly simplistic presentations about it.   I think the actual status of the theory in science isn't all that much more sophisticated than that.   These days, it's more like sports fandom, rooting for the Snobs, or the Yahoos.   Only the real situation isn't like the cartoon presentation of the problem.  Lots of those Snobs aren't as smart as they think they are and lots of the Yahoos aren't as stupid.   Lots of the Snobs don't know why they believe in Darwinism and lots of the Yahoos don't reject science and some of them are a lot more sophisticated in their knowledge of it than a lot of the Snobs like to believe they are.   I would bet if you asked most of the fans of the Darwin cult for an explanation of natural selection, a good number of them wouldn't be able to differentiate between that and evolution, I would suspect a lot of them couldn't give you anything like a definition of natural selection, nevermind have a complex understanding of it or the issues it generates.   It's about choosing a side, not science.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Beethoven - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61

Henryk Szeryng, violin
Concertgebouw Orchestra
Bernard Haitink, conductor

Once in a while you've got to go back to one of these pieces to remember how they became over-played.   Szeryng was one of the greatest soloists of the 20th century. 

This MP4 doesn't do the recording full justice but it gives you a good idea.

When A Philosopher Centers His Act On Scientistic Atheism The Results Can Be Ridiculous

Having recently slammed big name scientists who diss philosophy even as they prove their incompetence to have such an opinion because they, then, engage in philosophical arguments without understanding that they're doing some, generally very bad, philosophizing while believing they're doing science, I thought I should present an example of a really bad philosopher doing the opposite.

A few years back I found it entertaining to listen to formal debates between atheists and apologists for religion, though I've largely moved on to other types of fun.   One of the most lopsided of those - which didn't have Lawrence Krauss as William Lane Craig's atheist opponent - was the one at Perdue University with the Duke University philosophy professor Alex Rosenberg.   I'd been largely unaware of Rosenberg before listening to it.   I can only remember coming across him while reading a paper about Elliot Sober refuting  his claims about natural selection being the "only law" in biology.

Rosenberg's argument that the phenomena of biology consistig of large numbers of physical vectors and so mathematical representations,  precludes there being biological laws makes any claim that the among the most complex if not the actually most complex of all claims made in biology, those made for some thing called "natural selection" being a "thing" about which you can state an actual scientific law even more unlikely than defining laws concerning phenomena consisting of far fewer variables and physical components.

The idea that natural selection, which consists of the lives of, literally ALL of all of the organisms that have ever lived, all of the species, genera, phyla, etc.  not to mention, on the other end of the ranking of species, subspecies, varieties, .  . . right down to those individual organisms, all of the physical aspects of their bodies, all of the environmental aspects of their lives, even right down to the accidental random events that killed them or led to them reproducing could be construed as being  the only biological law based on Rosenberg's criterion based on the number of vectors of any phenomenon is incredibly stupid. 

Alex Rosenberg might hold a faculty position at Duke University but he is a very, very bad philosopher.   You can hear that in the debate he had with Craig.   Relistening to it last night, the most interesting thing for me wasn't Craig's arguments, except his debunking Rosenbergs intellectually nihilistic claims, it was the absolutely wretchedly bad arguments of Rosenberg which are so bad I don't think a smart talk-show guest from the show biz world would try to push them.

From his first non-argument that William Lane Craig had made arguments he previously had made in other debates you can listen to on You-tube,  Rosenberg came up with a string of the mouldiest of old mouldy arguments of atheists going back through the 19th, 18th centuries,  . . . all the way back to Plato.  Rosenberg's claim that Craig's arguments had all been refuted was just a claim because he didn't present any refutation to them.   He depended on a series of the cheapest debate tactics AFTER decrying the practice of formal debate. 

Craig's use of Alex Rosenberg's claims made in his  book "The Atheist's Guide to Reality" - I don't believe he brought it up until Rosenberg pushed it, himself - was masterful.  Rosenberg's argument debunking the significance of minds, of ideas, of thoughts is what I've said is the most decadent position ever taken in the history of academic discourse.

I am recommending listening to the debate, though you can skip the c. 14 minute long intro, because it is such a good example of the decadence that the ideological faith of atheism in its most common modern form of scientism forces any area of academic study into. 

Rosenberg also is a good example of how atheists who are losing an argument will inevitably turn pissy and nasty, replacing argument or even statements of arguments with sarcastic bullying.  You can hear that in his response to an audience question about why his cog-nero-sci based debunking of everything about human minds and even the significance of sentences doesn't render his arguments meaningless was typical of the lowest level of atheist debate tactics.  His handling of even the best argument available to him the problem of pain or evil, was really poorly done. His use of the Holocaust, misrepresenting what Craig has said about such issues, was disgusting and dishonest.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness - Hate Mail

The Onion:  At times as funny as it's supposed to be, quite often seriously not funny and a manifestation of total assholishness.   

At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. 

Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behaviors.

In a large national study of college students, 3.5% sexual minority women and 2.1% of sexual minority men reported having an eating disorder.

16% of transgender college students reported having an eating disorder.

In a study following active duty military personnel over time, 5.5% of women and 4% of men had an eating disorder at the beginning of the study, and within just a few years of continued service, 3.3% more women and 2.6% more men developed an eating disorder.

Eating disorders affect all races and ethnic groups.

Genetics, environmental factors, and personality traits all combine to create risk for an eating disorder.

Update: Eschaton, never as smart as the Eschatots tell themselves it is.  After 2006 it's been mostly a coffle of asses, all pointed in one direction. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Dusan Bogdanovic - Early To Rise

Dusan Bogdanovic, guitar.
Charlie Haden, bass
Tony Jones, percussion

Hate Mail - Stupy's Lying, Water Is Wet, Dog Chases Cat, Duncan's a trustafarian douchebag, . . .

I've never said I "outgrew" Bob Dylan, I don't think I've ever said a bad word about him.   You can see what I said about him, including supporting him getting the Nobel Prize for lit. by checking out the archive of this blog

Maybe I should write about his "born again" period that alienated so many of his fan boys.  I thought his Christmas album was a hoot, wonderfully bad at times.  

Simps is just pissed off that I won't post his lies here till after Easter.  Not that he needs any special occasion to lie, it's his one talent apart from stealing other people's' material. 

Update:  Apparently Stupy doesn't understand that in order to quote someone they have to have said what you claim they said.  I'm not surprised his college major would have left him ignorant of that little fact nor that he lacks the moral probity to have even the slightest sense that attributing a false quote to someone makes him a liar.   Nor is it any surprise to me that his fellow Eschatots don't have any appreciation of that, either.  It was quite a revelation to me how thoroughly dishonest people tend to become when they don't believe in sin and that it's a wrong to lie.  I didn't know that before hanging out way too long at Eschaton. 

Update 2:  There's a difference between lying and satire.   You do lying.  We went through this before, you're too stupid to do satire.  When Dorothy Parker says she's not up to it, I know you never will be.   Neither was Mort Sahl.  I listened to some clips of his last show, what a sour old asshole he is. 

Her Eminence St. Brigid

Reading through what I just posted, I remembered that it's very possible that an early Woman priest may well have been St. Brigid of Kildare, who, according to an old Irish tradition, was ordained by Bishop Mel who by divine inspiration pronounced ordination on her while she was making her vows as a nun.  There is some evidence suggesting that she was considered to be the equal of a bishop in early Irish Christianity as the leader of monasteries,  which, in the Celtic tradition had both women and men as members. 

Modern translation of the text in Leabhar Breac [Life of Brigid]

Brigit went, with some other young women, to Bishop Mél, in Telcha Mide, to take the veil [= to become a religious sister]. The Bishop was happy to oblige.

Brigit stayed behind out of humility, so that she might be the last to whom the veil should be given. A beam of fire rose from her head to the ridgepole of the church's ceiling.

Bishop Mél asked: 'Who is that woman?'

MacCaille answered: 'She is Brigit.'

'Come, O holy Brigit', said Bishop Mél, 'that the veil may be imposed on your head before the other women.'

Then it happened, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the prayer that was read over Brigit was the form of ordination for a bishop.

MacCaille said: 'The order of a bishop should not be [conferred] on a woman.'

But Bishop Mél declared: 'This lies outside my power because it was through God's doing that this honour that transcends every woman was given her .'

That is why the men of Ireland give the honour of bishop to Brigit's successor.

Should have remembered on the 1st of February, her feast day, but didn't.  I think she deserves to be honored as one of the patron saints of Ireland as well as Patrick. 

NOTE:  Before the tireless little spell checker has a fit,  all of those spellings seem to be used interchangeably for the same Woman.

"I am a sinner" - Deeper Currents In The Papacy of Pope Francis And Women's Ordination

I missed James Carroll's piece in the New Yorker about the fifth anniversary of the beginning if Pope Francis's appointment to be Pope.   It is one of the few things I've read that seems to really get to what his papacy is all about and what he's all about.   This passage leading into two issues, one the Chilean bishop that has caused a serious scandal in Francis's time in office.   It doesn't read like your typical news story about it,  Carroll leads into a wider and deeper context as to the issue and what both him getting into it and dealing with the aftermath of scandal tells us about Pope Francis and sin in general:

“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” he was asked early in his pontificate. He replied, “I am a sinner. That is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” The Pope’s detractors—from the right, where he is derided as a moral relativist, and the left, where he is seen as an instinctive defender of patriarchy—were thus put on notice right at the start.

The language of sin comes naturally to Francis, but he might equally have cited Montaigne’s dictum “I feel oppressed by an error of mind. . . . I try to correct it, but I cannot root it out.” What the world has witnessed since 2013 is nothing less than Francis’s great struggle with the Church’s monumental error of mind. That error boils down to a preference for the traditionalist worldview, which sees existence as complete, ordered, and in harmony with unchanging divine purpose, over what might be called the historical worldview, which assumes change, contingency, and randomness—all the lessons of evolution. Clericalism, enshrined in the defensive, all-male mores of the priesthood (notwithstanding the many selfless priests), defines this error, and Francis, despite having railed against clericalism, showed himself to be stuck in it when, earlier this year, he defended Juan Barros Madrid, a Chilean bishop who has been accused of covering up sex abuse. After hearing the outraged objections of survivors, Francis promptly backed off his position and ordered a new investigation, demonstrating that he knew he’d been wrong. He didn’t say, at the time, “I am a sinner.” But he might have.

Among the most important things about that, one which would be left out of most news reporting on it is that he listened to and took seriously the reaction of The People to his lapse in judgement.  At the same time, by ordering a new investigation into the accusations against the bishop he signaled that he wasn't going to just take that into account but takes seriously the rights of the accused.   If the experience will lead to him giving up more of the habits of clericalism which are so deeply embedded in clerical institutions, we'll have to see.

Carroll also pointed out how this has a direct effect in another issue, the equality of Women and their ordination:

The most potent instance of the traditionalist error is the unrelenting relegation of Catholic women to a position of inferiority, embodied in the prohibition of female ordination. The Vatican justifies the ban with absurdly literalist readings of Scripture (there were no women among the twelve apostles), which are wholly out of synch with the Church’s otherwise ample commitment to accommodating the theological contradictions and inconsistencies found in the four Gospels. In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, this sanctified discrimination can finally be seen for what it is—less an error of mind, perhaps, than a willful error of soul. Though Francis sided, early on, with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an association of American nuns, in its fight against Vatican interference, he has shown no readiness to root out the deeper prejudice.

But if this blatant papal blind spot does not disqualify Francis as an avatar of post-religious possibility it is because he has clearly set in motion positive currents of change that run deeper than anything he might himself intend. He has made spiritual imagination—faith that goes beyond the material and the established; goodness that can be striven for and accomplished—seem consistent with secular preoccupation. It is toward that larger significance that his narrow institutional role points. Change is coming to the Catholic Church, and if it can happen there it can happen anywhere.

That became clear when, early on, the Pope insisted—again, in both word and deed—that experience takes priority over doctrine, mercy over rules, which is a pious way of affirming nothing less than the scientific method, the testability of truth. The Pope may not actually be changing doctrine as such, but emphasizing experience over doctrine changes the way that doctrine is regarded. To cite the most discussed example, divorced people should feel free to receive Communion, whatever complications result for “the tradition.” This principle may ultimately transform the way that many Catholic teachings are applied. The Church’s firm opposition to birth control, for instance, could be softened by an acceptance of condom use to protect health, or by a practical preference for contraception over abortion. Similarly, the Vatican’s absolutist stance on euthanasia could be mitigated by a refusal to promote “extraordinary” efforts to prolong life in the face of pointless suffering. As revolutions in biology and genetics change techniques of human reproduction, so the meaning of reproduction changes, too—and, after Francis, the Church can find ways to adjust to that. The conservatives, in other words, are right to warn that this Pope is altering the anatomy of Catholic life and thought.

Which brings to mind something I wrote about,  Sr. Simone Campbell of Nuns On A Bus, who was asked about Pope Francis's intentions for change.

MR. GILLISS: Over the next five years, how do you see the Catholic church evolving in its role for women?

SR. SIMONE: Alright. Any crowd that took 350 years to figure out Galileo might be right is not noted for rapid change. So let's put it in perspective. But what is happening is that some things that people aren't hearing about — Pope Francis appointed a woman to head one of the pontifical theological schools in Rome. This was fairly earth-shattering in theological realm — those studies areas because it was always thought only boys had big enough brains to do that or something. I don't know. And so — and women have been appointed to this council that's working on the issue of abuse. Women are gradually getting more positions. But here, Pope Francis is not going to change the rules. He's trying to build peace in a church that’s been so divided, so hurt, so split apart by certitude and turf, by preferring the fight as opposed to — not hearing the stories of real people and not having everybody at the table. He’s trying to do the opposite. And so that, to me, is way more important than some juridical edict about women. Because it's a better building for the future, I hope.

Just as the real meaning of what is done by this pope won't fit into the x number of words and column inches of journalistic convention, the clock and calendar of time for change doesn't fit into the conventions of TV reality in the United States.   Things don't get wrapped up in a half hour or an hour - minus the many minutes of commercials - or even in the length of a mini-series.   Neither does it fit into the conventions of fiction in which there are good and bad guys,  especially the absurdly unrealistic convention in which a hero must be infallible.   I find it really funny how those who are quickest to deride the claims of papal infallibility are the first to jump on a Pope when he demonstrates himself to be what they claim to believe he is, anyway, fallible.   Not that they really understand that even the claim of papal infallibility never meant everything a Pope did or said was fallible, which I would say Francis and others who claim what John Paul II said about Women's' ordination is settled.  It doesn't even pass muster as something that fits the definition of an "infallible" teaching. 

The childish notion that good guys must always be good or they're shit is rampant among the secularists of the internet, you see the same thing in their rejection of even genuinely liberal politicians who from time to time act out of either pragmatism or within the realm of the possible instead of purist nonsense which has failed to produce much of anything. 

Francis will not be anything but the Catholic Pope, as Sr. Campbell said he's not going to do anything to damage the unity of the Catholic church which his predecessors did so much to damage, knowing that any change as monumental as acknowledging women as priests and bishops would likely split the church.   If that change is going to come it will come gradually.   Too gradually for us today.   In the mean time I would recommend the ideas and work of the Roman Catholic Women Priests for your consideration.   I find most of what they say quite credible and foresee a time when their ordination, now, will be accepted as legitimate, probably long after all of those in the movement, now, are dead.

Our minds are deceived by watching too many shows into believing that all change can be effected immediately and our ignorance of the real history of change makes some of the changes of the past seem deceptively rapid.  Even in science, as Max Planck famously pointed out, no matter what the claims of science romantics hold, progress in science depends on the old guard dying before people with new ideas can take over.  The same is as true in religion.  James Carroll's point about the deceptively slow rate of change under Francis is, actually, quite radical in that context.  I see it as of a piece with the far longer history of advocacy of Women's ordination which was an issue in the life of St. Teresa of Lisieux and which started as a formal movement in 1911 when the St. Joan's Alliance struggled for both Women's' suffrage and the ordination of Women. 

See Also:  Bridget Mary's Blog.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Night Radio Drama - Harold Brighouse - Hobson's Choice

This is a radio production of the play that was made into a really good movie with Charles Laughton playing the outwitted Hobson.   I don't have a list of the cast. 

Oh, I just noticed a mistake I made.  I'm tempted to correct it but I'm wondering if someone will bother to notice it, so I won't until someone mentions it.   A prize for the first one who does will not be given. 

But . . . But, He Wrote Another Paper!

Hate mail informs me that Stephen Hawking wrote a last paper, which is being touted in the popular press as his greatest evah! - it hasn't been published yet so that's a bit premature.

A final theory explaining how mankind might detect parallel universes was completed by Stephen Hawking shortly before he died, it has emerged.

Colleagues have revealed the renowned theoretical physicist’s final academic work was to set out the groundbreaking mathematics needed for a spacecraft to find traces of multiple big bangs.

Currently being reviewed by a leading scientific journal, the paper, named A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation, may turn out to be Hawking’s most important scientific legacy.

Fellow researchers [which ones?] have said that if the evidence which the new theory promises had been discovered before Hawking died last week, it may have secured the Nobel Prize which had eluded him for so long.

The new paper seeks to resolve an issue thrown up by Hawking’s 1983 “no-boundary” theory which described how the universe burst into existence with the big bang.

According to that account, the universe instantaneously expanded from a tiny point into a prototype of what we live in today, a process known as inflation.

But the theory also predicted an infinite number of big bangs, each creating their own universe, a “multiverse”, which presented a mathematical paradox because it is seemingly impossible to measure.

The extent to which all of this is based on unfounded scientific speculation, not on verification in the physical universe, would seem to be a secret not to be generally shared.    Here is Sabine Hossenfelder's point 2. that came before point 3. which I gave you this morning.

2. Ok, so it’s not falsifiable, but it’s sound logic!

Step two is the claim that the multiverse is a logical consequence of well-established theories. But science isn’t math. And even if you trust the math, no deduction is better than the assumptions you started from and neither string theory nor inflation are well-established. (If you think they are you’ve been reading the wrong blogs.) 

I would agree that inflation is a good effective model, but so is approximating the human body as a bag of water, and see how far that gets you making sense of the evening news. 

But the problem with the claim that logic suffices to deduce what’s real runs deeper than personal attachment to pretty ideas. The much bigger problem which looms here is that scientists mistake the purpose of science. This can nicely be demonstrated by a phrase in Sean Carroll’s recent paper. In defense of the multiverse he writes “Science is about what is true.” But, no, it’s not. Science is about describing what we observe. Science is about what is useful. Mathematics is about what is true. 

Fact is, the multiverse extrapolates known physics by at least 13 orders of magnitude (in energy) beyond what we have tested and then adds unproved assumptions, like strings and inflatons. That’s not science, that’s math fiction. 

So don’t buy it. Just because they can calculate something doesn’t mean they describe nature.

Which I have to say,  I found extremely gratifying when she said, "That’s not science, that’s math fiction."   Which was exactly my first reaction when I read Hawking and Mlodinow's demand that science be exempted from verification through observation of nature.  It was so shocking to me that I can remember the exact moment it occured to me and where I commented about it.

Anthony McCarthy says:
September 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm
After reading here and other places, I went to my sister-in-law the aquatic biologist, with the happy news that now that physics has been freed from the requirement of actually being tied to physical evidence that she didn’t have to go out this winter to do her sampling anymore. She wasn’t as happy about it as I thought she would be, though she did take the opportunity to vent about theoretical physicists and cosmologists, their politics, their dirty politics and their hogging of funding. I think she might have felt better after that.

Being a complete outsider I have to say that the idea of an entirely artificial physics generating an entirely artificial mathematics to service it gave me a lot of entertainment while I was doing my chores this weekend. It came to me that the results might be a science that has has more in common with fan fiction than it does the natural universe. But that’s only a musician’s view of it.

I know I've described the same demand for exemption as writing science fiction in equations instead of purple prose.

So, does Hawking come up with how much money the Lords of Creation are going to demand to fund this quest for the Unholy Grail?

Hate Mail - The Odd Experience of Defending Someone I Really Don't Like

It's kind of odd, me defending Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) who I didn't like as a Cardinal and didn't like as a Pope.    The fact is he didn't voluntarily join the Hitler Youth, in 1939 membership became mandatory for German boys after the age of 14, he was conscripted into it when he turned 14.   His brother said that he didn't like it and skipped a lot of the meetings.  Which, considering that about the same time the Nazis took away his cousin and murdered him along with other disabled people, I believe.   Also supporting that is the fact that when he was conscripted into the anti-aircraft corps, he deserted as soon as possible and returned to his home, where the Americans having occupied it, they interned him in a prison camp for several weeks.  He ran from the Nazis, to the Americans.   

I can't imagine the 14 year old Simps would have resisted such a conscription, depending on the government that drafted him, I'd imagine he might be an enthusiastic little thug.  

But why let facts get in the way of a nice little bit of bigotry.  

Update:  Depending on the persistence and type of resistance, refusal to follow the law on the part of the 14-year-old Joseph Ratzinger could have led to his arrest perhaps that of his parents.  

By the time the Hitler Youth became compulsory, perhaps only 10 per cent of its members were diehard National Socialists;  the rest were a mixture – some bored, some annoyed, some seething on the inside, but most of them willing to go along with whatever their society seemed to demand.  And yet, like the White Rose to come, there were those who few who took a stand, not only as teenage rebels, but consciously, as political dissidents.  Between 1940 and 1945, 1,807  inmates were executed in the Brandenburg prison alone for political reasons,  some after years of forced labor.  Of these, 75 were under twenty years of age;  22 were high-school pupils or university students.  In Hamburg between 1933 and 1945, for all of those sentenced for political “crimes,” 11 percent were youths

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose:  Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn 

It's a while ago since I read it, as I recall all of the members of the White Rose who were guillotined had joined the Hitler Youth and the female equivalent before it was compulsory, so membership in it was not necessarily an indication of mature political ideology or moral judgement.   When the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, Joseph Ratzinger had been 18 years old for about three weeks. 

It's so easy for someone who has had their ass planted safely on North America for their entire life, as a member of the privileged class, white, upper-middle class male, to make casual judgements about people who live under a totalitarian dictatorship.  But, then, everything has been easy for you.  You're so like Donald Trump.  

Hate Mail

Bob and Ray were geniuses, the people who produced even the early MAD magazine were merely clever.  

I wasn't a constant reader of MAD, though I found it entertaining when I was a teenager and young adult, then I outgrew it.  As I remember reading one of those who were involved in producing the magazine, there was constant turn-over in its reader base as people outgrew it only to complain it used to be better (reportedly they got their first such note after they published the second issue). You don't outgrow genius.  Which is one of the ways to tell you it is genius.  I remember looking back at some of what I found somewhat amusing and saw it just upheld a slightly different POV on what Brueggemann calls out as the Modern-Industrial-Scientific Model of thinking about life.  It's not really radical, it's merely snarky.  

I don't think my grandparents ever saw MAD magazine and I'm sure my parents never read it, while it wouldn't have been banned from my house we wouldn't have left it around to be found.   They didn't need comic scrawlers to tell them Freud was bunk.   

Update:  He didn't start writing for MAD until 1957, you're whining about the first issue, which was years before that.  I'd suggest you make up your mind what you're whining about but I know that's hopeless.  

You might want to look at what what people said about one of MAD's better writers, Harvey Kurtzman and his most widely known, but hardly his best work "Little Annie Fanny" and how the venue that published it, Play Boy, influenced what he did in that for the worse.   Hack writers do different quality work for different customers.   MAD was good, it was, on occasion great, but it wasn't a venue of genius.  You can say the same thing about National Lampoon, which was very uneven over the years.   Needless to say,  I outgrew that, too.  

Bob and Ray were geniuses and I imagine they inspired people who wrote some of their material.  

Bayesian inference doesn’t mean there must be a planet Earth for each fraction of curly-haired people.

Speaking of communicating complex issues in science well,  Sabine Hossenfelder's post on what's wrong with the multi-verse theories is the best I've ever read, especially this, her third point about why Sean Carroll's resort to Bayesian probability doesn't do a thing to promote the reality of the multiverse.

3. Ok, then. So it’s neither falsifiable nor sound logic, but it’s still business as usual.

The gist of this argument, also represented in Sean Carroll’s recent paper, is that we can assess the multiverse hypothesis just like any other hypothesis, by using Bayesian inference. 

Bayesian inference a way of probability assessment in which you update your information to arrive at what’s the most likely hypothesis. Eg, suppose you want to know how many people on this planet have curly hair. For starters you would estimate it’s probably less than the total world-population. Next, you might assign equal probability to all possible percentages to quantify your lack of knowledge. This is called a “prior.”

You would then probably think of people you know and give a lower probability for very large or very small percentages. After that, you could go and look at photos of people from different countries and count the curly-haired fraction, scale this up by population, and update your estimate. In the end you would get reasonably accurate numbers.

If you replace words with equations, that’s how Bayesian inference works. 

You can do pretty much the same for the cosmological constant. Make some guess for the prior, take into account observational constraints, and you will get some estimate for a likely value. Indeed, that’s what Steven Weinberg famously did, and he ended up with a result that wasn’t too badly wrong. Awesome. 

But just because you can do Bayesian inference doesn’t mean there must be a planet Earth for each fraction of curly-haired people. You don’t need all these different Earths because in a Bayesian assessment the probability represents your state of knowledge, not the distribution of an actual ensemble. Likewise, you don’t need a multiverse to update the likelihood of parameters when taking into account observations. 

So to the extent that it’s science as usual you don’t need the multiverse.

I can't help but cite that quote beloved of atheists, when Laplace answered Napoleon's question of where God fit into his theory,  "I had no need of that hypothesis." 

Pope Francis Talks About Evolution And The Big Bang

The surprise that Pope Francis has endorsed the reality of evolution and the validity of the Big Bang theory only goes to show you that most people don't have any idea of what not only he but his predecessors said about it.  The Church was never opposed to the theory of evolution in any big way and hardly any official way.   As I recall Cardinal Newman supported the idea.  There isn't any contradiction in what Benedict XVI and Francis said about it, there might be a slight difference of emphasis but, really, both of them are expressing a view that evolution was the mechanism by which God created the diversity of life on Earth and that it works according to God's design.   Even the ID industry contains people who accept that evolution is real, though some of them are forced to refute the scientific evidence that our species is a part of it.  The extent to which they won't accept the science is the extent to which they're wrong about that, but that has little to do with the acceptance of evolution, in general. 

Pope Francis noted that God gave creation full autonomy while also guaranteeing a constant divine presence in nature and people’s lives. The world comes not from chaos but from “a supreme Principle who creates out of love.”

The pope continued: “The Big Bang theory, which is proposed today as the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of a divine creator, but depends on it. Evolution in nature does not conflict with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

What Francis doesn't appear to have been saying is what people get confused over, he doesn't seem to have been asserting the neo-Darwinian claim that all of evolution is guided by random mutations weeded out by some ill-defined force called "natural selection" without any intelligence having a role or even a controlling role on the process.   The large majority of people who believe in the validity of evolution believe in that,  what might be called a "soft" form of intelligent design.  And when looked at hard, the idea that life processes could have originated in or changed by random events under the laws of probability look preposterously unlikely.   That imposition of probability on, not the actual processes of evolution - which we can't observe, anyway - but on what people in science are allowed to say and think about it, was always ideological, which you can read in the writings of the early Darwinists and in Darwin, himself.  It was an ideological imposition on what was allowed to be said about it, though it was always covering up the incredible complexity of the issues involved.  That is especially true of the forever to remain unsolved issue of the origin of life on Earth.   As biologists look ever more closely at the biology of cells and their component bodies, the more complex that seems and the more improbable it seems that it happened by random chance events seems ever more improbable with ever new level of complexity.  And that's only getting to the chemistry of it.

Rafael Vicuna, professor of molecular genetics and molecular biology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, told academy members that the actual origin of life remains a perplexing question.

In a newspaper interview, he later added: “I can know perfectly what a cell is made up of, but how it works deep down, what really is the dynamism that makes it move—that is, life—I don’t know. A refrigerator and a car are complex structures that move, but only with an immense amount of energy from the outside. Life, in its deepest essence, remains something that escapes us. Life is more than molecules.”

One of Benedict's faults was he had a tragic inability to communicate ideas, even those he understood.  In addition to having no obvious pastoral talents, he had no talent to communicate outside of the realms of academic theology which was his specialty.   Richard McBrien called him probably the foremost academic theologian in the history of the papacy.   And some of his closest confidants were as bad if not worse.   The man simply had no idea of how to talk to people outside of academia or the Vatican.  Perhaps that inability was related to his obvious inability to have much sympathy for the realities of the lives of lay people or even the necessities of parish priests.  Benedict's papacy is certainly one of the least successful since Pius IX.

The modern Popes have all been highly educated, most of them have had deep training in philosophy that leads them to think more completely and clearly than many, though not all,  celebrity scientists*.  Even those scientists who have had some training in philosophy aren't that good at it.  They are not, as almost all of us are not, specialists in the complexity of evolutionary theory.  But you don't have to be conversant with those complexities to understand that if something doesn't logically cohere or if it is not supported by evidence that its scientific validity is rightly questioned.   The crude version of evolutionary biology most of us carry around as our scientific faith, largely based in an already thread-bare framing of neo-Darwinism, has always relied on a good deal of hegemonic coercion to maintain itself as the dominant ideology in science and the popular understanding of science.  And even within academic science, leaving out the Intelligent Design industry, these questions are the farthest thing from settled and, from what I can see, there is every reason to believe they are ever less settled with every new discovery or asserted theory within the scientific study of evolution. 


The other day the idiot who most often trolls me made a comment that I had, somehow, said there was no reason to believe in the Big Bang when, if you look at this blog,  almost every mention I've made of the theory was to point out that it was atheists, from the time of its promulgation in the 1920s, right up to today, who have rejected it because, as Arthur Stanley Eddington, commenting on the new theory of an expanding universe,  said in the 1930s,  "The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural."    I don't know if the Big Bang theory will last or be any more successful than the various schemes atheists [including several of those mentioned in the footnote] invent to try to save their ideological position that God "isn't necessary" to explain the origin of the universe, why there is something instead of nothing, how the universe came into being at a specific time - that event also being the beginning of time, if not the origin of time, itself - without the intentionality of a non-physical, extra-physical being.  None of us has an ability to tell what the future will bring in the way of scientific discovery, though all of the evidence I've seen is that if for mere practicality, the kind of physics we got used to in the 20th century, might have reached limits in such things.

The primary attack on the Big Bang has been from atheists and their ideological motives are baldly stated in their attacks.   It's incredible how often atheists bring up God when the topic is that or the fine tuning of constants observed in our universe or the various schemes such cosmologists and physicists invent to try to get past an absolute beginning of time and the universe as forced by modern physics.

If you want to read more about that, this recent article by Sabine Hossenfelder about that and the prospects of physicists and cosmologists to sell us another, more massive collider (which, if George Ellis is right, would be ridiculously inadequate to tell us much of what such scientists want to know)  is a good place to start.   Her article on the death of Stephen Hawking is worth reading, too.

I don't think my most persistent troll knows enough to understand what I just wrote about this.  I doubt he spends much time reading or listening to Russell, Hoyle, Eddington, . . . Maddox, Sean Carroll or Lawrence Krauss, Ellis, Woit . . .   Neither do most of those who know no more about this than what side they're supposed to be on because . . . well, atheism.   It's sports fandom, for them, nothing deeper, nothing more substantial.   It's certainly not a question of science.

*  I love to read about the brawl between those who want to junk the requirement of verification in the real world in science and those who insist it must be retained for science to have any claim to reliability and even truth.   It was interesting to read this in a recent piece by Massimo Pigliucci, the day before Stephen Hawking died.

Let me begin with two caveats: first, there are many people involved in the controversy, including Sean Carroll, Peter Woit, Sabine Hossenfelder, George Ellis, and Joe Silk (not to mention astute commentators such as Lee Smolin and Jim Baggott). Refreshingly, almost all of them have respect for philosophy of science, unlike ignorant (of philosophy) physicists like Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking. So, who knows, some of them may even read the following with some interest. Second, I actually know most of these people, obviously some better than others. I like and respect them all, even though — as we shall see — in this post I will come squarely down on one side rather than the other.

The disdain and disregard for philosophy was apparent in Hawking's book,  The Grand Design and it is obvious in Krauss's debate appearances with people who are competent philosophers.  And in neither case did it make their case stronger, it was the primary reason that their critics were able to blow huge holes in them.  You can see in Pigliucci's article that even with his knowledge of philosophy, Carroll's argument was seriously weakened by not knowing it sufficiently.    I've been amazed at what some of them figure they can get away with in that regard, sometimes "doing philosophy" without even realizing that's what they're doing. 

I Hope He Loses Money On The Hat Sales

The idiot, Donald Trump, isn't unique in not knowing the first thing about shamrocks and why they became associated with St. Patrick.   Which is why, in addition to many such mistakes he put this on the back of his green hat

 You used to see four-leaf clovers put up in association with St. Patrick and general evocations of things Irish sometimes even by members of the Irish diaspora, even around Boston, though more often by WASPs.   

Apparently Trump et al. are as ignorant of the Trinity as he was that the Presbyterian church that went through the motions of confirming him when he was a child was Christian (he had to ask the pastor that when he went there on a campaign stop, probably the first time he'd been their since his confirmation).  

The shamrock being associated with St. Patrick isn't a good-luck charm, it's an analogy of how there can be three entities in one being.   In this case though, I think as used by Trump, it is a good example of how one head can be empty.  

I hope he loses money on the hat sales.  

If You'd Told Me Forty Years Ago I'd Be Looking To A Former CIA Chief To Save Democracy I'd Never Have Believed It

I have never followed anyone's Twitter feed before but after yesterday and the prospect that his book's impending publication,  I think I'm going to start checking in on John O. Brennan's Maybe I'll even spend the time to figure out how the thing work (and how to post images from it).

 23h23 hours ago
More John O. Brennan Retweeted Donald J. Trump
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will  not destroy America...America will triumph over you.

@ John O. Brennan
‏Leadership of House Intel Committee has traded last vestige of integrity for politics. With other investigative shoes yet to drop, legislators who try to protect @realDonaldTrump will face November reckoning. Hopefully, bipartisan effort in Senate Intel Committee will endure...