November 26, 2016 § 21 Comments
There is a struggle going on to define the soul of the United States of America, because modern people are under the impression that reality can be controlled by controlling the contents of the dictionary. This is because modern people are nominalists; though like the dead people in Bruce Willis movies, they don’t know that they are nominalists.
The soul of a thing is, roughly speaking, what unifies it and animates it as the kind of thing that it is.
What we might call the actual soul of the United States of America is what actually unifies and animates the USA in reality as a real community. This can’t be reduced to a formula or definition, but we can say things about it. It involves primarily shared religion (fundamental beliefs about reality and our place in it) and the shared history and historical connections of particular people.
Communities are a kind of fractal of the family. Modern people have the conceit that we can destroy the family and recreate its benefits, but subject to supreme human reason and will rather than to a nature which places inherent limits on what we can choose. So modernity is always trying to destroy natural family-fractal community and replace it with daycare-fractal community. Tending a garden and raising your children are out; food and children manufactured in a laboratory are in. If we control the owner’s manual and the design specifications we control the soul in the machine.
So there is a war on over the contents of the magic dictionary which defines the soul of the USA, and there are three main competing definitions: the proposition nation, economic nationalism, and ethnic nationalism. The first of these has dominated recent history in the USA, but conflict with actual reality has produced a perceived need to revert to other magical definitions while still preserving unifying worship of the god Liberty. We are by definition either a nation of anyone and everyone who professes fealty to the intoxicating horror of liberal principles, of liberal Walmart whales with citizenship papers united by our common love of Black Friday stampedes and murder over cheap consumer goods, or of disparate groups of inbred genetic stock who need to be segregated into corrals by an emperor where we can be free and equal among our own kind.
This battle is futile and self destructive, because any ‘soul’ which can be captured by a dictionary definition is not a living soul. There is just enough truth in the views of dictionary tyrants, of positivist reductionists, to make them dangerously stupid. It is true that communities tend to share religion (beliefs about the fundamental nature of reality and our place in it); it is true that communities tend to have common economic interests; it is true that mostly unforced intermarriage within communities produces a unique and particular ethnic and racial character.
But these are all natural products of community. Treating them as the controllable parameters of a big civilization machine always leads to unspeakable horror.
October 11, 2016 § 10 Comments
September 23, 2016 § 53 Comments
“Given an arbitrary world and arbitrary fitness functions, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but that is just tuned to fitness.”
Now we are getting somewhere. If evolutionary theory is true, as opposed to merely sophistry which has evolved as a political defense of metaphysically naturalist hubris, then the humans who evolved to become evolutionary theorists ‘see none of reality’.
Or, alternatively, it might just be time for some folks to check their metaphysical premises.
August 25, 2016 § 40 Comments
Like all dynamic things which persist over long periods of time, evolution has had to adapt to survive.
Darwin: Very gradual change combined with natural selection sufficiently explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Falsified by scientific evidence).
Neodarwinian synthesis: Random mutations in the genome combined with natural selection sufficiently explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Falsified by scientific evidence).
Stanley Miller: Lightning strikes catalyzed the production of amino acids into ponds of primordial soup, which organized themselves into the first cells. (Cool story bro).
Haeckel: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. (No it doesn’t).
John Scopes: Teaching kids evolution forms them into better and more critical thinkers. (This is far from clear).
Gould: Gradual changes plus selection cannot explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (True). Radical and fast changes – saltation – actually occurred and this occurrence is supported by the fossil record. (Probably true: see e.g. the Cambrian Explosion. However, what is descended from what in the fossil record is not established either by fossil or genetic methods).
Margulis: New cell organelles originate when one life form colonizes another. Example: mitochondria are the vestigial remains of ancient prokaryotes which colonized host cells. (Makes a nice story. Might even be true in some cases).
Dawkins: Material cause and effect alone explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Statement of religious/metaphysical faith).
Behe: Mutation and selection are insufficient to explain the origins of irreducibly complex biological structures such as bacterial flagella and the blood cascade. (True). This leads us to conclude that these were the product of ‘design’ understood as something at least analogous to human beings designing artifacts. (Metaphysical/religious claim).
Kenneth R. Miller: Legitimate practice of science requires the adoption of methodological naturalism in order to demarcate scientific knowledge from other knowledge. (False). Methodological naturalism is not incompatible with belief in God. (Keep telling yourself that). Methodological naturalism is rationally coherent. (False). If we are critical of evolution we won’t get invited to cocktail parties with respectable people. (Probably true: ask Michael Behe).
Bioinformatics: Database driven statistical correlations in gene sequences strongly imply similar protein structures (could be), biological functions (also could be), and phylogeny (cool story bro).
Evolutionary psychology: The stories we tell about how certain human behaviors might have supported the successful reproduction of previous generations of human beings explain the psychology of human beings today. (Probably belongs in the literary class ‘historical fiction’).
My comment: One question is whether anything important about evolution has survived other than the label and its associated self-congratulatory attitude.
April 24, 2016 § 12 Comments
I’ve expressed before why I am not concerned that some artificial intelligence is going to take over the world and turn humans into slaves any time soon. Computer scientists have been yammering on about how AI was just around the corner since before I was typing rudimentary game programs into Hewlett-Packard calculators in the 1970’s. The pinnacle of what all of this massive human effort has produced is smart phone autocorrect.
Computers don’t have intelligence and they will never have intelligence. They do just exactly what they are told to do, nothing more, nothing less. Because they can do so very, very quickly, and because human beings are telling them what to do, they can be used to do some astonishing things. But they are just mindless tools, and that is all they will ever be.
However, computer-infected objects have managed to become quite narcissistic, at the instruction of their programmers. It is astonishing how many inanimate objects are constantly nagging me for attention, not because of something they can do for me but because they need me to attend to their own special needs.
Of course if humans continue on our current trends Alan Turing may turn out to have been prescient after all. As human society approaches the Narcissism Singularity it may ultimately become impossible for a third party observer to distinguish between the nagging narcissism of circuits and the nagging narcissism of meat.
January 26, 2016 § 23 Comments
We shall begin with the words of the Prophet Rush:
When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance
Many modern people are waiting in joyful hope for the coming of artificial intelligence. I’m not especially worried about Skynet taking over the world any time soon given that the current state of the art in AI, with all of the best minds and the most resources behind it, is the autocorrect feature on my phone. But many people seem to actually crave the emergence of AI.
Now that we’ve well and truly said farewell to kings, no man has the right to rule over other men. If another man has a genuine right to rule over us that makes us less than fully human. The justification of political power is that legitimate exercise of political power makes sure that nobody can tell anyone else what to do.
Nature and basic rationality beg to differ, so human authority does not disappear: it merely becomes sociopathic, ‘justified’ by consequentialism and other lies, as we attempt to replace human authority with neutral mechanical procedures. The telos of rule by neutral mechanical procedures is all nations kneeling before the great AI singularity.
Whether the superman will actually succeed, for certain values of ‘succeed’, in creating his god is I suppose open to debate. The future is not set, there is no fate, blah blah blah.
But adopting modern teleology does guarantee one thing: the results for those who adopt it will be inhuman.
January 16, 2016 § 108 Comments
Without getting into a full blown theory of language – as something expressed in language itself, a full blown theory of language may be intrinsically problematic, at least qua something expressed in language – I will simply observe that we often use words to refer to things out there in reality.
When we refer to a thing out there in reality using language, what we are doing is similar to pointing our finger at a bird, or a rock, a tree, another person, some numbers in a ledger, a book, a diagram, etc. We are concretely acting, using our material corporeal faculties, in order to assist another person in seeing or perceiving the objective thing to which we refer.
In this sense it is manifest that Christians and Mohammedans are both referring to God when we use our various words for God. The notion that monotheists refer to two different gods when they each use their various words for God is self contradictory. Referring to a thing is not the same as asserting a complete or even partial theory of the thing to which one refers. When I say “What the Hell is that?” I am referring to something or other by ‘that’: something or other about which I may know very little, and about which I may well have very mistaken beliefs or perceptions.
The question ‘do we worship the same God‘ is therefore malformed, because the emphasis is on the objective referent of ‘God’ not on the meaning of ‘worship’. The phrase ‘the same God’, understood as a reference used by monotheists, contains the contradictory notion within it that there might be more-than-one only-one God. Every monotheist necessarily refers to God when he uses his word for God.
So asking ‘do Christians and Mohammedans worship the same God?’ asserts a contradiction and then asks what follows from that contradiction. It is no surprise to find that people disagree over what follows based on their own extrinsic commitments and biases. Anyone who reads here regularly should realize by now that a contradiction implies everything and its opposite all at once, and when people reach various conclusions from contradictory premises what they are really doing is rationalizing: presenting a putative justification for something which they believe or assert for reasons entirely extrinsic to the doctrine which they are invoking to justify that belief or assertion.
To rationalize is to present arguments for a belief or assert rhetoric in favor of a belief apart from the actual reasons for a belief. Rationalization is a kind of lie: it proposes that we should believe Q because of P when P is not an actual reason to believe Q; or that we did Q because of P when P was not actually the reason we did Q. Rationalization proposes, as true, an actually false causal relation between P and Q.
A truthful, non-rationalizing answer to the question ‘do Christians and Mohammedans worship the same God’ is that the question is self contradictory. A more interesting question is ‘do both Christians and Mohammedans actually worship God?’
Modern people are post cartesian subjectivists/materialists, so when we use a term like ‘worship’ we tend to retreat to the purely subjective. What defines ‘worship’ in these discussions tends to be the purely subjective intentions (begging the question in favor of strict post cartesian dualism) of the person doing the ‘worshiping’. If the person thinks that his actions, including his acting by praying in a certain manner, constitute ‘worship’ in the requisite sense, well then that is ‘worship’.
But there is only one sufficient way to worship God: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Other people, including non-Catholic Christians, may well ‘worship’ God in a sense. And if they are baptized they belong to the communion of those actually worshiping whether they themselves believe it or not — there is that distinction between subjective belief and objective reality, again.
However just because something is labeled ‘worship’ it does not follow that it has the objective qualities essential to worship. Defective worship may still be worship in a sense, just as a play-acted wedding is a wedding in a sense. A merciful Father may well generously treat something that is not actually worship as though it actually were worship. Or He may not.
But there is certainly a sense – the most important sense – in which play-acted worship is not really, objectively, worship.