Class Warfare Blog

August 14, 2018

More on Social Control of Society

Filed under: Culture — Steve Ruis @ 9:36 am
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I commented recently that “Societies that do not control their own member’s behavior do not survive.” Obviously I am no expert but it is clear that certain memes are fed to us with our mother’s milk that are used as levers later to control what ether happens or can happen.

One of these is tradition. We do things traditionally or because of a tradition. This is basically a brake upon change. A tradition is simply a different way to say “the way we have always done this.” In a culture, this is a way to not forget important things, but how are these traditions created? They are created by people creating them … out of any sort of motivation they want. This is how an annual golf tournament is first staged. How a memorial service is begun (just do it and talk about doing it again next year). Many things are just done in the course of events and become “the way we have always done it.” Coming to my mind are things like harvest festivals and mid-winter fests. As a tradition Christmas, which seems so entrenched now, had a very tough row to hoe (look up the history of Christmas and you will see how many ups and downs it has had).

Another such cultural construct is “honor.” The concept probably stemmed from less experienced hunters being trained by more experienced hunters. It morphed into a code of conduct (actually many such codes) that we applied in militaries, secret societies, etc. In some cultures, honor is prized above many things more real. In a number of countries now there are still honor killings (India?). A young woman gets raped and thus brings dishonor to her family (WTF?) and so her family kills her. Presumably her “reward” will be in whatever afterlife is made available to her.

A third concept is pride. This has both positive and negative connotations. “Have you no pride?” is an admonishment of an underachiever. “You need to take pride in what you have accomplished!” is a compliment. “Pride goeth before a fall” is a warning to not become too prideful. It seems as if there is a pride economy out there in which you can accumulate credits. Could we live without this concept? I suggest, yes, very well.

We are social animals. We have controls on individual behavior to benefit the whole group. Gossip is one such … yes, gossip. By “telling” on everyone, no one in the tribe will be unaware of a miscreant’s misdeeds. Of course, too much of a good thing is always possible and always a mistake. Think of the opinion we have of gossips and scolds. The list above shows others.

So, why do we not educate our people as to these controls and how to function well under them? Is great puzzlement.

Postscript I had a student I was mentoring about what he could get from college. He shared some of his poetry with me. It was not even sophomoric (he was as yet a freshman) but was characterized by lacking any capital letters. I asked about this and he told me it was because of E.E. Cummings (or e.e. cummings as many like to award him) a poet who often used no capitalization. Obviously what was being copied was form and not substance. This is a common mistake of the young (I sure did it a lot). So, since copying is a major source of learning, maybe we need to educate all as to how we control anti-social behavior in our culture. We already teach about the rule of law and law enforcement as a societal control, maybe we need to look into the other founts of such control, including religion.

 

 

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August 12, 2018

Thank God for Dennis Prager

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:09 am
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Since it is Sunday once again, I suppose a religion post is appropriate.

In a column entitled “Pope Francis Rewrites Catholicism and the Bible” the religious apologist Dennis Prager takes on all of the leftists in the Catholic Church, Judaism and, well, everywhere else. Here is an excerpt:

“Regarding the latter, the biblical commandment to put premeditated murderers to death is unique.

“First, it is fundamental to biblical morality. The injunction of putting murderers to death is the only law found in each one of the first five books of the Bible (the Torah).

“Second, all other sins involving the death penalty were only applicable to Jews (and for thousands of years, Jews regarded those death penalties not as literal but as pedagogic — to teach the seriousness of various offenses in an attempt to create a moral and holy nation).

But the Bible makes it clear capital punishment for murder is applicable to all of humanity. It is the first law God gives Noah after the flood, after commanding him to be fruitful and multiply. Putting murderers to death is therefore the first moral law God gives the world. Why this draconian penalty for murder? Because the penalty is a statement about the seriousness of a crime, and the God of the Bible deems the wrongful, deliberate taking of a human life the pinnacle of injustice. Allowing all murderers to keep their own lives diminishes the evil of murder and thereby cheapens the worth of the human being. In God’s words, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6).

“It is precisely to preserve the unique worth of the human being that the Bible mandates putting murderers to death.”

As with all of the other freewheeling apologists, Prager deftly includes and excludes the Old Testament from his thoughts. First he states “all other sins involving the death penalty were only applicable to Jews” because, well as he states elsewhere, Jesus changed the covenant. He goes on without taking a breath to say “But the Bible makes it clear capital punishment for murder is applicable to all of humanity.” So, Mr. Prager apparently gets to decide which rules in the OT apply to us all (therefore including Christians) and which apply only to the Jews. In this manner he avoids the long, long (Long!) list of Biblical infractions of the rules that merit the death penalty. Got a teenage son who sasses his parents? Kill him! Got a bride who isn’t sufficiently virginish on her wedding night? Kill her! And, I can’t imagine the Jews getting stoned for these infractions last words were “Let this be a lesson to you all.” (“Jews regarded those death penalties not as literal but as pedagogic” … right, there was no vengeance or hatred or maliciousness or self-righteousness involved.) Oh, and old Yahweh did his thing selectively. Look up the story of David and Bathsheba and tell me that murderers get killed outright in the OT because it is “it is fundamental to biblical morality.”

He offers no support for the “kill the murderers” command applying to everyone on the planet, even Buddhists and Hindus, other than it got repeated a lot … in the OT … that only applies to Jews, except where Mr. Prager says otherwise.

He concludes (the first half of his article anyway, I didn’t have the stomach to keep reading) with the fantastical “It is precisely to preserve the unique worth of the human being that the Bible mandates putting murderers to death.” So, apparently, his god is not powerful enough to transform a murderer into a repentant good citizen. A murderer needs to be dealt with right away, even though everyone else gets a “you’ll get your comeuppance or reward when you die.” Mr. Prager seems have no faith that his god will take care of such miscreants when they die, since he claims it is necessary for us to do something now. (Expedited delivery for the real punishment?)

He also is saying that the Pope is no longer infallible when it comes to church policy. This is not surprising in that Mr. Prager was brought up an orthodox Jew, but what he claims as his religion now is unclear. The Pope is supposed infallible in such policies when it comes to Catholics, of course, so the Pope is re-interpreting the Bible dictates for them. Instead of the Kill, kill, kill! of the OT, he is basically saying “let god sort them out later.”

Mr. Prager cannot accept this as he is an uber-conservative, which I guess is his new religion.

The Phenomenon that is “Q”

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:26 am
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Apparently there is a new belief sweeping Trump supporters that goes by “Q” or “Qanon.” It appears to be the belief that there is a “Deep State” operative behind the scenes who is pulling the strings of a great many politicians and other public figures. And the motivation behind the string pulling is … pedophilia.

Again, the malfunctioning brain cells of Trump supporters have missed their mark. This time they seem to be confusing the Deep State with the Catholic Church.

August 10, 2018

Why Worship?

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:51 am
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Not contesting the claims that a god created this planet and sun and everything else and created human beings, why would one want to worship that god? Worship always seemed odd to me, the justification for it weak, and it really, really seemed demeaning. I recall Michael Palin’s “prayer” in The Meaning of Life, “Let us praise God. Oh Lord, oooh you are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here I can tell you. Forgive us, O Lord, for this dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.”

Dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. Exactly. To whom else does such flattery go? Only to despots and the like.

I have asked some about “worship,” and the answers all seemed to take it for granted. I see phrases like “Well, he created us and we are grateful.” Really? In the Jewish and Christian tradition, their god didn’t create us, it created Adam and Eve and then Adam and Eve created the rest of us. Granted, according to their scriptures, he created Adam and Even with the capacity to create the rest of us, but they did the work. The story starts to break down when Adam and Eve slough off the high handed restrictions of what they could and could not do in the Garden. The next thing we know, the god curses Adam and Eve and every last person that is to be gotten from them. So, we should be grateful that this god created us and willy-nilly curses us?

Plus, this god was so inept at this human being creation process that he decides to wipe out millions upon millions of people, animals, and plants and “start over.” And for this, worship is appropriate?

I suggest another interpretation. Think of two brothers in high school, one is a freshman and is puny and the other is a junior and humungous. The little brother gets into a scrape and the older brother flies in and not only rescues his little brother but he severely trashes the miscreants that thought that picking on his little brother was a good idea. Now, do you think it entirely out of reason that the little bro might not leverage this situation into a bit of status and power. “Yes, big bro isn’t here right now, but he will find you and thrash you … unless….”

Now, what big brother is more powerful than a god? But, of course the threat has to be made manifest, but this is not hard. Bad things happen daily. To place these at the feet of a god, little bro only has to step in and “interpret” what happened as retribution for not doing what little bro wants. And what does little bro want? Little bro wants control, because he doesn’t know what he might want in the future. For now, it is important to reinforce that control by getting his “flock” to do small things: the more meaningless, the better. Asking people to do things they ordinarily would do for themselves or their community doesn’t show any control being exerted. Instead, getting them to take valuable animals and kill them senselessly to appease the “Big Brother” is very cool. Getting people to throw away their wealth is a real power display. (Thanks for your lunch money; see you next week,” says Little Bro.)

So began, in my humble opinion, worship. It began as a ploy to “appease the gods,” I am sure, at the behest of a wimpy shaman. Strong muscular tribesmen do not need help, they have personal power. Physically underdeveloped tribesmen need to use their wits to get what they want. (It is a common trope in theater to have a small clever character “outwit” a much more powerful enemy or even ally.)

So worship is a manifestation of control. If you can get people to express “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” with any sincerity at all, you have reinforced the Little Bro’s authority and control. In theater, again, you never see clerics portrayed as physically imposing. They are, in general, weak and effeminate. As they get older, they get larger but generally by becoming fat, again emphasizing their physical weakness which underlines their actual power.

Getting people to give away their wealth, to destroy their treasured goods, are all things that reinforce the power of the unseen Big Brother. And the reason for doing this? It is only to use that power to serve the interests of the secular and religious elites.

Of what use would an actual god have for “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” and the scent of burned animals rising into the atmosphere?

August 9, 2018

It Is All About Control

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:18 am
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Imagine a government agency that required you to show up at a certain place at a certain time for weekly indoctrination sessions? Or another government agency that required you perform a meaningless act every day upon rising. Sounds like 1984 Gone Wild, no?

Mechanisms for controlling human behavior are well known in psychology. They were well known before psychology was invented. Take, for example, the military, which was invented sometime near when civilization began. Prior to the invention of full-time soldiers, ordinary tribes people were enrolled in defense of the tribe or raiding parties for cattle or “wives.” (Might as well leave it as just cattle for all of the respect “other” women were treated with.)

But as soon as civilization rolled around, the labor of the masses was coerced to provide a number of societal positions that did not have to be employed in acquiring food. One of the most prominent positions was that of “soldier.” The first soldiers were needed to keep the slaves, er … citizens, in line and working their asses off to have the bulk of what they grew/captured confiscated. Soldiers were also employed in recapturing runaway slaves, er … citizens, and then most prominently in slave raiding in nearby villages. (Why oppress your own people when you can oppress the people next door?) Thus were militaries born.

History (which is only 5000-6000 years old) is rife with stories of turncoats, soldiers who were bought off by the “other side,” who then helped overthrow their own “rulers.” So, it became necessary to treat one’s soldiers well. (There are more than a few countries right now that are in danger of a military coup taking over their current government. We even have a term for the action it is so frequently observed.) Along with making sure one’s soldiers were happy there were various attempts to train them to make sure they were loyal to the right people. This led quite rapidly to extensive training schemes such as the Spartans employed.

The heart of controlling someone’s behavior is getting them to do something you want them to do. It doesn’t matter quite what. Consider the complicated rules for saluting a superior officer in the various militaries. This is a substantially more involved process than the tugging of a forelock required of peasants standing in front of “lords,” but it is much the same thing.

Standing straight with feet together. Wearing the same outfit. Sharing various accommodations such as sleeping quarters and eating quarters and … the list of the things done to indoctrinate soldiers is quite long. And what is true for controlling the behavior of soldiers applies to others. (Our militaries are “all volunteer” and I do not mean to say all such “reprogramming” of behavior is made with evil intent. In the case of soldiers, getting them to act without hesitation (obeying orders promptly) can contribute to their ability to stay alive. (If their commanding officer is grossly incompetent, it can get them killed. This is why no few officers have died due to “friendly fire” in combat.)

Now if you will think back to the examples at the top and substitute “churches” for “government agencies” you will see what I am highlighting. Church members are to report to their church weekly for reinforcement of their programming. If one fails to report, they are wheedled upon by clerics and other church members to make sure they show up next time (“I didn’t see you in church on Sunday, Marie. The pastor said he was going to call on you to make sure everything was all right. Are you okay?” implying that if you were okay, you would have showed up.)

Muslims are expected to stop, drop, and pray five times a day. Obviously a god which needs such adulation is one sick puppy, so I assume this is part of their indoctrination. By getting them to reinforce their own programming (five times a day!) it saves wear and tear on their clergy and creates a situation that makes the religion hard to sell out. To admit you were a fool and wasted so much time and effort for so long is a big jump … and, well, they kill apostates, don’t you know.

Societies that do not control their own member’s behavior do not survive. But the basics needing control are getting the society’s citizens to live harmoniously, at least with a minimum of strife, within certain bounds. In what society is it okay to kill people willy-nilly? Ever hear of such a thing? That it is okay to steal from your neighbors if they aren’t looking? Ever hear of such a thing? If such things are occurring, we take them as signs of a society that is breaking down.

Beyond the basics, look to see the ways in which you are being controlled and consider whose benefit this is for? If your parish priest is beseeching you to not blow the whistle upon a cleric for sexually abusing an altar boy, who does that act serve?

The first Christians had no temples. They met in people’s homes for centuries. Under the influence of the Romans, they created buildings (temples and church buildings) and adopted clerics and clerical behaviors. We even refer to those buildings as “churches” when in the early days a “church” was a congregation of people, not a building. Now look at what happens when church buildings fall into disarray. Funds are “raised” and repairs are made, restorations are contracted for. Various churches own multiple buildings, some very, very large and grandly appointed. Many churches own commercial properties that they use to create income (tax free even though the buildings and uses are secular, of course). Many churches have oodles of employees now, for which funds are need to pay salaries and benefits.

You have been lead to believe that this is proper and necessary and are urged to commit funds to such churches to support them. Republicans are always complaining about runaway government but never seem to apply this to churches (the third rail of politics). I wonder who controls the politician’s behaviors in this arena? The webs of control are extensive and deep. Most of us do not even see them, if we ever have.

But just because you do not see them doesn’t mean they are not there.

August 7, 2018

A Religious Freedom Smokescreen

The concept of religious freedom is being used as a smokescreen for something else. Just as the act after the events of 9/11 was called the Patriot Act when it had nothing to do with patriots, the religious freedom movement of today has actually nothing to do with religion per se nor freedom, other than freedom from anti-discrimination laws.

Most famously we had a county court clerk in Kentucky who refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. Her job was to make sure that all applicable state and county laws were abided by in the issuance in the license. Since the local polity had authorized licenses to be issued to gay couples, she had no recourse but to do her job and issue those licenses. There was no part of her job description that allowed her to insert her personal feelings into the process. There were no exceptions for issuing licenses to ugly people, or short people, or gay people. She just decided that there was to be one more step in the process of getting a marriage license, the approval of the county clerk, aka her.

The same can be said for the baker in Colorado who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, on artistic grounds as well as religious. What was being purchased was a wedding cake, something this baker did often. On top was to be a groom, something the baker did often, and a second groom. Whoa, Nelly, that’s offensive to his religion! Not the customer’s religion, but the baker’s religion! WTF? There is a religious test for doing business? “I will only serve Muslims” or “I will only serve Christians” is okay?

The baker was being asked to do something that was ordinary and not a stretch of his “artistic” skills. In fact, he could have taken a wedding cake that was not picked up and plucked the bride off of the top and added a second groom and ta da! Nothing extraordinary was being asked here. But his religious sensibilities were inserted into his business when they were not required. His claim was that by making the cake, he would be endorsing the wedding. WTF? Do the florists know this? The people who rent halls for receptions? The people who sell wedding gowns? (Buy a gown and we will personally endorse your marriage! Come with this cool certificate!)

The Trump administration is gearing up to use a “religious freedom” excuse to discriminate against anyone of whom they do not approve. The term religious freedom sounds like preserving the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is not being infringed upon anywhere I know of. What they are talking about is practicing their religion on people not of their religion, in other words, in my religion I can’t do this, so you can’t do this either. What we really need is a “Freedom from Religion” for the secular sphere.

People who do not want to sell cakes to gay couples should probably find another line of work. People who do not want to do their job as county clerk, should be fired, as Kim Davies should have been for refusing to do her job.

Even if you open a Christian bookstore, you cannot refuse service to atheists. I have been in a few of these stores and even made purchases and they had no idea who they were serving. (Bwah hah ha hah!) There needs to be a simple statement that if you open a business, that you cannot deny service to a law abiding customer. This is not currently the case, but it should be. Our federal administration is working in a direction opposite to this right now. If they get their SCOTUS nominee placed, expect a landslide of such religious freedom cases. Soon it will be acceptable for stores to not serve Muslins or Catholics or Scientologists and we will soon be immersed in religion wars that the Founding Fathers tried like crazy to avoid, to which end they created a secular state that protects religion but does not participate … until now in any case.

The Deliberate Mischaracterization of the National Debt

Republicans and even a few Democrats are fond of characterizing the National Debt as if it were akin to your household debt and claiming that the size of that debt is a big, big problem.

And I respond with: how do you know when a politician is lying about the National Debt? Answer: when his lips are moving.

Most of the “debt” incurred by the federal government is in the form of Treasury bonds. If one thinks of this as a piece of paper (rather than the electrons they are made of now) printed by the government, it is in effect a promise to pay. If the nominal value of the Treasury bond is $1000, the promise to pay is that $1000 and a smaller amount more. Easy peasy. This is, in effect, the government printing money. What would be the difference between this procedure and the government printing that $1000+ in the form of currency? Answer: there is no difference.

But, but the government has to pay off that debt, doesn’t it? Sure, it issues a new series of bonds and pays off the old bonds with the sale proceeds from the new ones.

But, but … that’s something we cannot do as individuals. Yep, that is why what we have is called a sovereign currency. As a sovereign country we can make as much or little of it as we want.

Consider this, in 1964, the year I graduated high school, the national debt was $312 billion, which constituted 46% of GDP. What do you think people would have said then that in 2018 it would be $21.5 trillion and 108% of GDP? I am sure some would have set their hair on fire and run about, claiming this was disastrous, that the American economy would be in a “failing third world country” state with rapid inflation and that we would be in a severe decline economically. Have you noticed any of this? No? (There are a great many things I do not like about our current economy; that is not my point, my point is that we are not now a banana republic because of our yuge national debt.)

Oh, by way of creating a little perspective, the National Debt in 1946, my birth year, just 18 years earlier, the debt was $216 billion, which was a whopping 119% of GDP.

As another point to ponder, realize that the U.S. Federal Reserve, aka “the Fed,” created $2 trillion out of thin air to fund its purchases of stock and creation of bank “reserves” and whatnot to “save the economy” during the recent Great Recession. Did you notice all of the inflation created by the injection of that much “new money” into the economy? No? Neither did I. Inflation was virtually nonexistent. In fact, many were worried about deflation. So much for the claim that printing money causes inflation. Printing money can cause inflation, but it doesn’t have to.

The country’s budget is not like a household budget, not even close. The country’s debt is not like a household’s debt, not even close. If the National Debt really bothers you, the government could print $21 trillion in currency (now done with electrons, not paper) and pay it off entirely. This is not desirable for many reasons; I won’t go into them now. (Whew, I had you worried, didn’t I? But just a teaser … would you make war on someone who owed you a lot of money?)

In an era of “fake news” the claim of there being a “big, big problem with the national debt” is among the fakiest of bits of news. Of course, there is no such thing as fake news, we have had lies in the news since the beginning of the country; those lies are still news. Think of the news as a court transcript; people lie in court all of the time and the transcripts can be used to convict them of that; they are not automatically true, just a record of who said what, just like “the news.” This is why lawyers tell their clients to shut up and not talk about their cases, something President Trump would be wise to do.

This claim of a “big, big problem with the National Debt” is pure propaganda, playing on the general public’s ignorance of national economics to push political agendas that have no good basis otherwise. For example, if you look back in history, if you had a large problem with debt, the last thing you would do is … cut taxes. Think of a corporation which is struggling with a large amount of debt, the last thing they would want is a reduction in income such as you would get if you cut prices. Cutting taxes creates a large reduction in income for the government. If spending stays near the same, a larger amount of debt is created. Have you known of any administration, Republican or Democrat, which has reduced spending? No? Neither have I. This is why Republicans can cut taxes dramatically and not worry. No matter what happens, it will not affect what they want to do. Reagan, Bush 1 and Bush 2, and Trump spent/spend more money than they took/take in, which was fine by them as long as their wealthy sponsors got wealthier, their prime objective. After all, these are the people that claim that they want to “get the government off of the people’s backs” and then create legislation pushing the government into our private lives ever deeper. Pay no attention to what they say, watch what they do.

August 5, 2018

Politics is Never Having to Say “I’m Sorry”

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:50 am
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A commentary at The Guardian blared “Democrats can be ‘party of white and black working class’, says Elizabeth Warren”

A good place to start is to explain why it is that the Democratic Party used to be that party but is no longer.

Free Will and Neuroscience … at Odds?

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:13 am
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I have written quite a bit about Yuval Noah Harari, who is an Israeli historian who has written the bestselling book Sapiens, which examined the course of early human history. Now that he is a public intellectual of some note, what he says carries weight. In a recent interview in The Guardian, he is quoted as saying:

This is why your feelings are the highest authority in your life and also in politics and economics – the voter knows best, the customer is always right. Even though neuroscience shows us that there is no such thing as free will, in practical terms it made sense because nobody could understand and manipulate your innermost feelings. But now the merger of biotech and infotech in neuroscience and the ability to gather enormous amounts of data on each individual and process them effectively means we are very close to the point where an external system can understand your feelings better than you. We’ve already seen a glimpse of it in the last epidemic of fake news.

I do not want to address the topic he is zoned in on, just one of his toss off lines, namely “Even though neuroscience shows us that there is no such thing as free will.”

I would hope that this is something an historian might say and a scientist would not. (Actually I hope that an historian would be even more circumspect than a scientist, but that is just me being an eternal optimist.) There is an argument one can make, a fairly strong argument, that free will isn’t free, that we live in a deterministic universe, one full of just causes and effects. But the line Harari uses sounds like a fact, like something proven that we should accept.

I believe that any conclusion, at this point, regarding free will is premature and I offer an example for your consideration.

In the recent conclusion of this year’s World Series of Poker, the finalists played “head-to-head” for ten hours. There were 199 hands of Texas Hold’em played this way. The final nine players played 300 hands to reduce the field to the final two. So, ask yourself: was every decision of the two finalists made deterministically? Did the cards and the situation determine every decision made? If you answer “yes” you are a determinist who believes there is no such thing as free will.

I cannot accept this explanation right now as I have seen a top player throw away the winning hand at one point (he had a flush) because he missed seeing it. So, was the hand determined by the fact that he didn’t see the flush in his own hand? His hand was, I suggest, but what pray tell is the cause of that effect? I think you can speculate for days and not really answer the question. He was fatigued? Maybe. Was he was focused on other things? Maybe. Did his eyes have a glitch in visual processing in his brain? Maybe.

I think the identification of the cause and the effect is at the crux of making a claim of a deterministic universe and I still see this as an inexact procedure.

Most determinists conclude the universe is this way because of problems with the “other way,” the way of free will, being able to decide “otherly.” But that doesn’t automatically make determinism the correct way by default, not unless you can show what determines what in an unbroken chain leading to decisions over and over.

Poker players get the same hand (roughly equivalent to exactly equivalent hands) quite a number of times. Occasionally they get the same hand two or three times in a row. (In Texas Hold’em, the player’s hand is only two cards.) I have seen players play the same hand completely differently, one time aggressively and one time passively. They change their playing persona from time to time (from being “tight” and only playing premium hands to ATC, Any Two Cards will do). They change the conditions they will play hands from time to time. One player of note changes his approach based upon what time it is. There are many subtle things going on, but my point is how to answer the question “what are the causes for each of these decisions?” Is there no room for “the fog of war” in which decisions get made haphazardly? Why are some of the decisions made perplexing even to the players who made them (they cannot explain why they did what they did)? What role does fatigue play? Frustration? Hope?

I am not saying that all of these decisions (200 hands, each player makes 6-10 decisions per hand in the final stage alone) cannot be deterministic but I do not yet see that they have to be.

A basic problem I have is with the microscopic slicing of holistic processes. Consider a golfer’s swing. Coaches, using their eyes and high speed video, have broken down golf swings into finer and finer bits. They talk about the bits ad nauseum. But really, what real difference is there between a back swing to 90° from the ground and one that is 89° from the ground? Each golfer’s swing is unique with common elements, but none of the fine slices is necessary as some very accomplished golfers do without them. If you look at finer and finer slices, you get farther and farther away from things that really affect the outcome.

The same is true for determinists. They talk about neuron A being connected with neuron B and if A is stimulated, then so will be B … see determined. This is too simplistic. Individual neurons in the brain have, on average, 1000 connections to other neurons, even as many as 10,000 connections. This is not like an electronic device in which we can trace the pathways of electrons through the conductive paths. The number of paths for neural impulses is completely mind boggling. The number of connections in a human brain (synapses) is a thousand or more times the number of stars in the Milky Way. One neuron does not lead to the next in an easy to describe chain, it leads to many, many nexts.

So, while arguments can be made that our decisions are determined, that argument hasn’t been completely made yet.

And I really wish public intellectuals would not state hypotheses as if they were facts. Instead of Harari saying “Even though neuroscience shows us that there is no such thing as free will …” he could have just as easily said “Even though neuroscience seems to be telling us that there may be no such thing as free will….”

August 2, 2018

Evolution Disbelief: Understandable … But Why?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:36 am
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It is clear that a rejection of the theory of evolution, the cornerstone of all of biology (and other sciences) stems from religious beliefs. The question I have is: why? There are some who put all of their chips on the table (All in!) regarding this issue. They say that “if evolution is true, then Christianity is false.” This does not necessarily follow but clearly if the theory is correct (and it is as correct as a theory can be at this point in time 150 years after its first exposition) then parts of Christianity are incorrect, but there are more than a few biologists who use the theory almost daily and are also Christians.

In this argument, I think they flaw is in the “all in” attitude, making much more at stake than there really is. (This is a common ploy—over exaggerating the danger of <fill in the blank> to. Consider the early environmentalists claiming that we are destroying the planet, which is ludicrous; we are just destroying the ability of our planet to support a large population of human beings. The planet will be fine, no matter what we do. [Hint: Subduction cures all damage to the crust over time.])

In reality, most of the religious do not know enough to understand the theory in order to have an opinion. Their opinion was handed to them by their religious leaders.

But do you go to a car mechanic for medical advice? To a dentist for financial advice? Why would anyone take science advice from a cleric?

I think there is a healthy dose of wish fulfillment involved her. As much as some Christians go around preaching Christianity as the way to eternal life, according to them, everyone gets an eternal life! The only question is do you want to got to Heaven to spend all of that time or do you want to go to Hell?

Most Christians have only the vaguest idea of what Heaven will be like. I haven’t yet met one who could talk on the topic for more than a minute or two, even though they could describe their most recent vacation for hours if you would let them. So, I don’t think it is the attractiveness of Heaven that is involved, rather the fear of Hell.

Here’s the conundrum. If, as the clerics are saying is true, that the Theory of Evolution directly contradicts divine scripture, that if that theory is true, then scripture is false, why hand only scripture. The motivating factor is the avoidance of hell and you could avoid it big time … if it just didn’t exist.

I suspect that the idea of pursuing those thoughts is just too scary for most, that the warm, fuzzy ideas of Heaven and Hell (Warm?) are too familiar and besides everyone assumes they are going to Heaven, so everything is cool.

A moments thought would dispel such myths. Think back on the most pleasurable five minutes of your life. Now think of an eternity of that feeling. Boring bordering on torture! (Realize that the logical extension of just getting “some peace and quiet” is called solitary confinement which is coming to be recognized as a form of torture.) Variety is the spice of life, no? I suspect many people think their life will just continue as it has but will be much, much better. Your kids will be good looking, do well in school, taxes will be low, etc.

If you think about it, both Heaven and Hell sound like places of torture. (I just remembered the episode of The Twilight Zone in which a gambler thinks he has died and is in Heaven. There are casinos in Heaven (of course) and he wins easily when he plays. What a life. Then he twigs to the fact that not only does he win easily, but he never loses. There is no skill involved, no risk, no reward, and no pleasure. He questions his host as to why Heaven would be this way and his host comes back with (I am working from memory here) “Why do you think this is Heaven?” (Bwah, hah, hah!))

Any pleasure, ecstasy, carried to extremes creates dullness and apathy … at best. But Heaven will be different … right? Let’s ask the guy who gave us the good science advice!

 

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