Class Warfare Blog

February 23, 2018

Pascal’s Wager 2.0

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:26 am
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If you haven’t heard of Blaise Pascal’s (1623–1662) famous wager (published posthumously in his book Pensées), here it is in short:

Mr. Pascal

l. God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.
2. A Game is being played … where heads or tails will turn up.
3. You must wager (it is not optional).
4. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
5. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
6. But some cannot believe. They should then “at least learn your inability to believe …” and “Endeavour then to convince” themselves.

Many holes can be shot into this argument and if you are interested in the flaws of this argument, a simple Google search will provide you with many examples. Pascal was polite enough to not point out that if you wager wrongly (that his god is not): there is nothing to gain and you face an infinite period of excruciating torture. Also if you choose that “God is not” you will face persecution and torture from those who bet otherwise. Small details but the erudite reader could fill in these between the lines.

What Pascal did not include in his famous wager is a justification for “you must wager,” since he was embedded in a very Christian culture, this was assumed to be a premise that would be recognized to be “true.” Also not justified, for the same reasons, was that there was but one god. We now know different.

So, let us update Pascal’s Wager a little.

Pascal’s Wager 2.0

l. God is, or God is not. The same can be said for all of the other gods. Reason cannot decide between the many alternatives.
2. A Game is being played … where dozens of dice are tossed and a combination of their results will turn up for you.
3. You might want to wager (it is optional).
4. Let us weigh the gains and the losses in wagering that any one of these many gods is. Let us estimate all these chances. If you wager correctly, you gain all; if you lose, you lose everything. The number of choices is large, so the odds you will choose correctly are small.
5. Do not wager, then, that your choice is correct as the odds of losing everything are much too great. There is an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain if one is very, very lucky, but only one chance of gain against a large number of chances of loss and so our proposition is of simple force, when there is a game where there are small risks of gain and large ones of loss, and infinite pain when losing.

Pascal’s Wager, the original one, only makes some sense when it has been proven that there is but one god (there is not, even the Bible says this) and that you must choose. Pascal made this argument being aware of the Crusades and the Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation and various religious wars. There could be no fence sitters in his world.

In other words, Pascal’s Wager only makes sense when the game is rigged (and it is).

 

 

 

 

 

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February 21, 2018

Running Jesus Memes

I just saw a blurb for the book “I, Judas” which was “The story of Judas Iscariot and the stunning betrayal that changed the course of history.” Why do these stupid memes keep coming up? Christians believe that their god controls every aspect of our lives. They believe “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son …” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). Clearly without the death of Jesus and his resurrection Christianity is nothing. The whole thing was set up; it was a plan! If you want to pull something like this off, you can’t leave it to chance. So, why was Judas’ “betrayal” so stunning, why is it considered a betrayal when it was all part of “the plan?”

Yet, Christians still say that “Judas betrayed Jesus,” and that “the Jews killed Jesus.” Surely there is no better examples of Christians using their religion as a cover for their own prejudices. The Bible clearly shows that their narrative is the Romans trying, convicting, and executing Jesus. But even this is hardly believable because the Bible also says that Jesus rose from the dead and his tomb was empty and he walked around for weeks and weeks and nary a Roman investigation of these clearly illegal activities. Then in the fourth century, when Rome is about to adopt Christianity as a state religion, it becomes politically inconvenient to claim “the Romans killed our god,” so who could they blame? Who was despised enough already that a little more shit thrown their way couldn’t hurt? Who had a version of Christianity competing with “the Church” of the gentiles? (Hint: it rhymes with “chews.”)

The narrative should show that Judas was Jesus’ best friend forever. None of the other disciples, pantywaists all, would have had the stones to do what was needed to be done. If Jesus hadn’t been fingered, what would the Romans do? I mean, you couldn’t expect them to have a soldier hanging out at the temple waiting for Jesus to show up, which he had done day after day. (If you want to control events, you need to control their time and place.)

Until Christians actively campaign against and punish their fellows for claiming “the Jews killed Jesus,” I must consider them anti-Semites of the first order (the Holy Order of Mel Gibson).

There is not much that can be done to correct Judas’s legacy, but some effort in that direction would be nice. Maybe an acknowledgement that Judas probably didn’t want to do it, but Jesus plead with him that the others were too incompetent to pull it off. So, Judas eventually agreed, knowing that he was incurring the wrath of the others as a betrayer (they weren’t all that bright apparently and even if Jesus explained the plan to them, they would probably forget it).

He deserves better.

Follow-up on the 99.9999+%

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:41 am
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I have commented recently (and before) that 99.9999+% of the universe is outside of our reach. A consequence of that is a question for creationists: why all of all that when it has no effect on what is happening here?

An enterprising scientist has determined how far radio waves have traveled away from Earth since the invention of the radio (1895, actually radio waves were created before the invention of the device). Remember that these waves travel at the speed of light and it would take us or aliens much longer to physically achieve that same range.

The illustration (see below) is only shown against our own galaxy, which is just one of several hundred billion such galaxies.

Enjoy!

I don’t need a god to make me feel small … it comes naturally.

Addendum Actually that is not our galaxy as I could get far enough back to snap the photo. It is of another galaxy that has a similar size and structure to our own.

February 20, 2018

Two Responses—Which Would You Choose?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:45 am
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In an article in today’s NY Times (Doctors Said Immunotherapy Would Not Cure Her Cancer. They Were Wrong) there is a report of an unorthodox cancer treatment and cure:

“No one expected the four young women to live much longer. They had an extremely rare, aggressive and fatal form of ovarian cancer. There was no standard treatment.

“The women, strangers to one another living in different countries, asked their doctors to try new immunotherapy drugs that had revolutionized treatment of cancer. At first, they were told the drugs were out of the question — they would not work against ovarian cancer.

“Now it looks as if the doctors were wrong. The women managed to get immunotherapy, and their cancers went into remission. They returned to work; their lives returned to normalcy.

The tale has befuddled scientists, who are struggling to understand why the drugs worked when they should not have. If researchers can figure out what happened here, they may open the door to new treatments for a wide variety of other cancers thought not to respond to immunotherapy.”

So, there are two common responses to these events:
(a) declare them to be miracles, and
(b) scramble to understand why the drugs worked when the scientists involved had no reason to think they would.

Which of these would you choose? Which of these has future benefits? Which of these helps us make sense of our world?

February 17, 2018

Misuses of Science?

Filed under: Economics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:37 am
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There is a term being bandied about, scientism, to describe the intrusion of science into fields where it is felt to be inappropriate (ethics, for example). I think this “defense” is unnecessary as science is experimental, it either proves useful or it does not. The real problem, I believe, lies in a misunderstanding of what science does and is useful for.

Obviously, science applies well in “scientific” fields: physics, chemistry, biology, etc. So well, in fact, that these areas of study are called “sciences.” The application of scientific methods to other areas is more “iffy” for a good reason. Take the analysis of financial markets, for example. In recent years, college graduates who used to go into scientific fields have been attracted into the financial world. They even have a nickname, “quants,” because of their application of quantitative tools previously only applied in scientific pursuits. The inherent problem here is, even though markets watchers refer to “the market” in phrases like “the market was calm today” or “the market was perturbed today” as if it were some sort of exotic animal, unlike the sciences, there may be no controlling behaviors built into the system. A physicist doing a scientific investigation believes there may well be a fundamental behavior of matter underlying the patterns he/she is studying. That belief is well-founded as such have been found so often in the past. In finance or economics, the belief there is some underlying structure or principles is an open question as such have not been established as fact.

It is a little like Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; the apprentice waves a tool around and mutters incantations hoping to invoke powers he clearly doesn’t understand. He is not even aware what those powers are, except he has seen his master do similar things and get some results. So, in finance, people who mutter incantations and get results are the new masters (by seeming to understand things at a fundamental level others do not) and because it is assumed they have found the underlying structures that create success. Clearly they have not and their results are not attachable to any underlying truths, but they look good to those hoping to find success. (People are still talking nonsense about financial markets as if they were truths.)

Economics is another “science” (it is not) that has adopted the trappings of science without there being much, if any evidence, there are fundamental structures underlying economies. But, by making economics “scientifical,” it has the appearance of being more founded in reality, even though there is no evidence of that.

If the people applying scientific methods to their fields are serious, they need to establish whether there are, indeed, any underlying structures that can be discovered, that help us to understand their fields. Just waving scientific tools around in the air may make one’s studies look more prestigious, but in the end they will just look foolish.

The sad thing is the general populous can’t tell the difference between science rooted in reality and speculative science being employed in the hopes it will work. This, using science speculatively, seems to be a handle that the science deniers are using to discredit solid science. And that will not help us make progress.

February 16, 2018

The “Right-to-Try” Scam

There seems to be a movement to disrupt or remove “regulations” on pharmaceuticals. I mean why should those poor companies have to jump through all of those hoops to get a drug to market? This is called the “right-to-try” movement. Even President Trump has heard of it (ergo Fox (sic) News reported on it).

So, would people who are in need of some medical help be given the right to try unproven pharmaceuticals? This has been on option for richer citizens for quite some time. At the peak of the AIDS epidemic, people who could afford the effort were heading for Asia and Mexico to try all kinds of “therapies” to save their lives. I am unaware if any of these proved a source of drugs that ended up actually helping people so afflicted.

Or, is this just a cynical scam of “let’s try out drugs on desperate poor people?”

I’ll guess I’ll believe it when these assholes suggesting this shortcut to the clinical trials needed to verify a drug’s effectiveness line up to test out those drugs themselves. I suggest that what they see in this future is unproven pharmaceuticals are “tried” and then anecdotal evidence of cures is available (or fabricated) and sales soar through the roof. When problems occur (ineffectiveness, horrific side effects, deaths, etc.), the companies can pleas “How could we have known? They had a “right-to-try” and exercised it. We thought it would work. It is sad; our thoughts an prayers go out to the afflicted.” Typical of plutocrats it is: heads I win, tails you lose.

Assholes.

(Try a key word search for thalidomide.)

 

 

More on Civilization

In recent posts I have been parsing the claim that, if I may use Karen Armstrong’s words again, “… historians argue, without this cruel arrangement that did violence to the vast majority of the population, humans would not have developed the arts and sciences that made progress possible. Civilization itself required a leisured class to cultivate it, and so our finest achievements were for thousands of years built on the backs of an exploited peasantry.

If one accepts this argument as being valid, then I must ask: why is it necessary that the coercion and exploitation of the masses continue as it has? Isn’t it time to say, well now that we have civilized societies all over the globe and extended the benefits to all people, poorer people should no longer be exploited.

Basically, I am asking if this coercion/oppression is the driver of civilization, will it ever end?

Will it? Will we say “Enough!” loud enough to get the elites to drop the whip? Or do we need to, as Charleton Heston once inferred, “Pry it from their cold dead hands.”

The answer to this question may revolve around crafting a new role for the elites. If we, for example, were to laud “Stewards of Humanity” enough, might it become attractive enough to elites to have them stop the exploitation and start helping people instead or would people, like the Koch brothers, think “that’s what we have been doing all along.” Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt any more, and I suspect that we would need to be very, very clever to pull something like that off.

Have any ideas about what attributes someone would have to have to qualify as a Steward of Humanity?

February 15, 2018

Why Fundamentalist Christians are More Likely to Be Political Conservatives

I won’t be coy here; fundamentalist Christians and Conservatives find themselves in bed because they share an ad campaign. There are areas in this country in which Christians cannot believe one of their fellows is a registered Democrat, that is how closely the two categories have become entwined. This is not an accident either. This also tends to go unnoticed by the coastal elites who are in pretty much the opposite polarities.

Both fundamentalist groups, Christians and Conservatives, proffer a “the world is going to hell in a hand basket” worldview and blame their fictitious accelerating slide into mediocrity, immorality, and doom on the failure of us, their audience, to embrace their values and beliefs.

There is only one thing wrong with this: they couldn’t be more wrong … both of them. Not just wrong, but Titanically wrong. (Unfortunately, there is no iceberg to show them how off course they are.)

The thing I find amazing is how willing these people are to lie to establish that these memes of theirs are true. Lying and politics go hand in hand, so I guess that is not surprising, but the religious lying through their teeth, when the message is a slackening of morals, is rather jarring.

A recent book by Steven Pinker shows that violence has been declining for centuries … not total violence because the population has been increasing, but per capita violence. The earliest memory I have of a mention of the U.S. population was when I was in high school and the number was 148 million. Currently we are somewhere near 325 million, so I suspect everything has more than doubled since then. The number of cars on roads has doubled, the number of miles of roads has probably doubled, too. The number of postal workers, the number of pet dogs, all of those must have grown substantially. But when we are talking about social issues, the frequency is more important than the absolute numbers because of this population growth. The incidents of per capita violence have been dropping for centuries … even including the world wars and killing fields and all of that. This is one of the main topics of Professor Pinker’s book.

Crime in the U.S. has diminished substantially over the past 50 years, even in absolute terms. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, there is just no support for the declining morals/values whine from these two groups.

If you want to read more about the state of the world as it actually is, I recommend Dr. Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature. I am about to open his most recent book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, which is in the same vein. You can continue to listen to the utterances of President Trump, but I consider them to be worse than noise at this point and only pay attention to the official actions of his minion horde, drawn from the dregs of the Republican Party. Those actions aren’t noise and should be kept on lists so they can be reversed (better: improved upon) as soon as the clown and his circus are out of office.

There is one message and one message alone that the election of Mr. Trump demands be heard: people are fed up with the status quo. Mr. Trump is acting against that state, but in the direction opposite to how the people want to go and in the direction dictated by the wealthy elite in this country.

Addendum R.I.P. GOP, there seems to be nothing left of that party’s integrity, morals, and values.

February 14, 2018

Did Civilization Have to Be the Way It Was (Is)?

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:59 am
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This is a follow-up to my recent posts on civilization, whether it has been “driven” by a desire for immortality (I think not) or greed (I think so). The basic story of civilization shows elites coercing the mass’s labor at agriculture (first), skimming the benefits off for themselves. Karen Armstrong, author of many really good books on religion, says it better than I can:

But robbed of the fruits of their labors, the peasants were little better than slaves: plowing, harvesting, digging irrigation canals, being forced into degradation and penury, their hard labor in the fields draining their lifeblood.” Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence

Here is the scholarly argument, then, that it had to be this way, again from Karen Armstrong (same source):

Yet, historians argue, without this cruel arrangement that did violence to the vast majority of the population, humans would not have developed the arts and sciences that made progress possible. Civilization itself required a leisured class to cultivate it, and so our finest achievements were for thousands of years built on the backs of an exploited peasantry. By no coincidence, when the Sumerians invented writing, it was for the purpose of social control.

This is not just this simple argument, there is quite a bit of scholarship behind this position. Again from the same source:

But the (Sumerian) aristocrats had begun to study astronomy and discovered regular patterns in the movements of the heavenly bodies. They marveled at the way the different elements of the natural world worked together to create a stable universe, and they concluded that the cosmos itself must be a kind of state in which everything had its allotted function. They decided that if they modeled their cities on this celestial order, their experimental society would be in tune with the way the world worked and would therefore thrive and endure. The cosmic state, they believed, was managed by gods who were inseparable from the natural forces and nothing like the “God” worshipped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims today.”

But I note that various justifications are also being put in place. Again from the same source:

For these pioneers of civilization, the myth of the cosmic state was an exercise in political science. The Sumerians knew that their stratified society was a shocking departure from the egalitarian norm that had prevailed from time immemorial, but they were convinced that it was somehow enshrined in the very nature of things and that even the gods were bound by it. Long before humans existed, it was said, the gods had lived in the Mesopotamian cities, growing their own food and managing the irrigation system. After the Great Flood, they had withdrawn from earth to heaven and appointed the Sumerian aristocracy to govern the cities in their stead. Answerable to their divine masters, the ruling class had had no choice in the matter.

Aw, they had no choice! The poor, poor, elites.

Here is her summary of the whole magilla.

“It seemed like an iron law because no society ever found an alternative. By the end of the fifteenth century CE, agrarian civilizations would be established in the Middle East, South and East Asia, North Africa, and Europe, and in every one— whether in India, Russia, Turkey, Mongolia, the Levant, China, Greece, or Scandinavia— aristocrats would exploit their peasants as the Sumerians did. Without the coercion of the ruling class, it would have been impossible to force peasants to produce an economic surplus, because population growth would have kept pace with advances in productivity. Unpalatable as this may seem, by forcing the masses to live at subsistence level, the aristocracy kept population growth in check and made human progress feasible. Had their surplus not been taken from the peasants, there would have been no economic resource to support the technicians, scientists, inventors, artists, and philosophers who eventually brought our modern civilization into being. As the American Trappist monk Thomas Merton pointed out, all of us who have benefited from this systemic violence are implicated in the suffering inflicted for over five thousand years on the vast majority of men and women. Or as the philosopher Walter Benjamin put it: ‘There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.’”

Okay, do you buy this? That “Had their surplus not been taken from the peasants, there would have been no economic resource to support the technicians, scientists, inventors, artists, and philosophers who eventually brought our modern civilization into being.” That you owe your refrigerators, iPhones, TV sets, bath tubs, etc. to the elites who were basically forced by the gods to do what they did?

I have no qualms with the “Had their surplus not been taken from the peasants, there would have been no economic resource to support the technicians, scientists, …” part, but there are some holes in the argument. The concern that the masses would breed out of control and eat up the surplus is based in science (biologically, populations expand up to the limits of their food supply) but not history. These early civilizations were always, it seemed, starved for labor, resulting in widespread slave raiding to acquire it.

I also do not accept it was necessary to be done the way it was. Every step of the way, the elites lived better than the masses, usually very much better. Some might argue that using the greed of the elites was the only reliable pathway to get to where we are, but that is just a justification. The elites were interested only in creating civilization for themselves and this is the flaw in this whole process.

Was there ever a time that even just one elite chose to live as his/her “subjects” did? Was there ever an elite who worked harder to improve the lot of his subjects lives harder than his/her own? Was there ever an elite who didn’t husband his/her own power for his/her own sake rather than for the “good of the people”? If there were, it is hard to find evidence for it and it was, I suspect, very temporary. So, the argument distills down to basically the elites operated out of greed, using secular and religious power to make their lives better: more secure, healthier, better fed, housed, clothed, etc. And civilization for the masses … happened by accident.

I wonder how scholars, like Karen Armstrong, determine that “Answerable to their divine masters, the ruling class had had no choice in the matter.” How can you read intentions from 5-6 millennia in the past distance. Were their written records, diaries perhaps? She is writing about a time when writing was a rare thing. The elites basically invented writing as a method for accounting for their confiscations. Writing was not a skill widespread in early civilizations. Scribes were trained to work for the elites. Ordinary people did not have the wherewithal to afford the services of a scribe, not did they have the wherewithal to deliver a message once written. Only the elites had the capacity to place things into written records. So, I think it is no stretch of the imagination that the earliest non-accounting forms of writing were done at the behest of the elites, to serve the interests of the elites, and that those writings would be “self-serving.” Only much later did writing become something that could actually serve to undermine the interests of the elites (usually in the form of plays that conveyed messages to a largely illiterate population). So, how do these scholars “know” that the elites felt that they had “no choice in the matter” of how they organized society?

Isn’t it just like us humans, that “shit happened” and later we determine the “meaning of it all.”

To too many people, religion is a real thing in their lives. (Karen Armstrong flunked out of nun school.) They seem to think that religion is more than a tool, a vehicle to move some into the elite column of society and to keep others out of it. Some are inclined to give religion a pass as the religious elites were just trying to satisfy the dictates of the gods.

I do not.

I see very greedy people on the make for anything they can use to advantage them and their immediate family and disadvantage everyone else, especially those who competed with them for their oversized share of the pie created by the coerced labor of the masses. There was an uneasy alliance between the secular elites and the religious elites; sometimes these were merged but often enough they were not. (Why? Because their separation allowed for more elites and more elites allowed for more coercion.) The secular elites used religion’s rules to control the masses. The religious elites used secular force to enforce religious authority. Hand meet glove.

This is still the case, even though some of the benefits of civilization have “trickled down” to the masses (to the great profit of the elites who consider the masses to be “consumers” now).

As to the question “did it have to be this way” I answer, well it was that way (and still is), but it could have been different. Imagine a society in which the “aristocrats” consider themselves to be stewards of the lives of the masses (in democracies we call them “public servants”). These stewards spend all of their time trying to improve the lot of the masses, while simultaneously urging the masses to do the labor necessary to support that work. These stewards earn the trust of the masses by sharing the surpluses in ways unforeseen by the masses and by living austere lives themselves. Ordinary people saw the benefit of these wise leaders and bought into the better lives they could organize and didn’t begrudge their labor to serve the whole effort.

Under such, albeit imaginary, leadership civilization could have been something done for the people rather than to the people.

It still could.

 

 

 

 

 

February 11, 2018

The Reason for All of It (Hint: Why Is Civilization As It Is?)

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 10:04 am
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I asked the question in my previous post: is the “driver” of this process (civilization) a desire to live forever? Is this what has caused civilization to be what it is?

Behind this question is another: I wonder whether civilization has to be the way it is. It pretty damned well has been the same for the past 5500+ years. Some scholars claim that all of the inherent misery associated with civilization is necessary, that there was no other path forward than through the oppression of a majority of the human race to create the leisure for the elites who then could go on to create politics, religion, science, philosophy, etc.

I find that position hard to take and also hard to refute.

I took a step back to look at the basic elements of civilization: which are oppression and conflict, with a firm understanding that we, meaning all of us, had absolutely no idea as to how to proceed. I assume that we were all doing the best we could, under the circumstances … aka we were making it all up as we went.

My first inflection point to unpack is the moment some of us decided that agriculture was a good thing to do at a much larger scale. As hunter-gatherers we had fairly good lives, but how would we know? The appeal of “better” is always there if one possesses the tool that makes us Homo sapiens … imagination. Presumably, we slid into this rather than some proto-genius led us there (“Hey, gang, I’ve got an idea…!) So, we started by doing a little seeding of plants and harvesting what we sowed. This could have taken place before we settled down, but civilization only started up when sedentism was possible. Civilization only began on river plains, which had reliable flows of fresh water including aquatic food streams (fish, eels, lampreys, shellfish, etc.) The soft soils deposited by the rivers were rich in nutrients and the combination of rich soils and reliable fresh water sources made agriculture doable. If you lived up in the mountains or in the desert, well fugedaboutit.

Certainly agriculture began as just a supplement to what could be hunted and gathered. Living near a river meant that game came to you as all animals are drawn to fresh water sources. So, these sites had “seasons” in which various sources of food came to them or became harvestable. People settled down meaning that they built shelters out of available materials and were invested in their locations.

But we ain’t civilized yet. To be civilized we have to live in cities. (Yes, it is just a matter of scale.) The little villages we lived in before we became civilized didn’t count.

But to create a city as we have come to know it, larger scale agriculture was needed. There is no “chicken and egg” paradox here as to which came first. Cities could not exist without plentiful food to feed the large number of people involved. Food first, then population. (Agriculture preceded cities by thousands of years.)

Once cities began to form, do realize that most were less than stable. Archeologists excavating early cities always talk about the city in stages (e.g. Ur I, Ur II, Ur III, or Troy VII, Troy VI, etc.). Cities failed all of the time and people died and retreated back into hunting and gathering. New cities were built atop the old (often the building materials were recycled as well as the site; well, if a site is good, it probably continues to be good unless the water dries up or an earthquake buries it).

Large scale agriculture, however, requires large scale mobilization of workers. Canals to move water had to be dug, fields planted, weeded, harvested, stored, etc. Who was to do this work … far more work than people had to do as hunters or gatherers (remember their food came to them; villages were often located next to migratory routes of game, etc.). People had to be coerced into becoming full-time farmers and physical force as well as psychological force, typically using religious coercion, were put into play. When the locals got worn out or, more typically, snuck off to regain the easier life they had as hunters and gatherers, replacement workers were needed and thus larger scale slave raids were put into play.

Conflicts, skirmishes with other tribes, slavery, all of these things, like agriculture, existed before civilization, there was just a change in scale. Whole villages became subject to slave raids by forces from larger cities, whereas before it was just an individual or two, now dozens were involved.

If we make a quick jump forward to historical times we see the evolved forms of such conflicts: widespread slavery and war, large scale conflicts of all kinds (physical, economic, etc.).

Is all of this because a few at the top were seeking immortality?

I do not think so.

I think all of these manifestations of civilization were about who is going to be in charge.

To me this is all about what drives elites to become elites and it is not a process driven by a search for immortality. I suspect the first elites were more than willing to press whatever issues they had to press to establish themselves as elites for the direct benefits: better food, better mates (more mates!), better clothing, better housing, etc., what we refer to as the trappings of wealth. (Think Donald Trump and his gold-plated apartments.)

But wherever such city-states grew, similar city-states grew nearby (there were only so many river plains that were suitable). Then you have two sets of elites staring at each other across the back fence and … well, what do you think they felt? Realize these elites were almost exclusively male. Because they were “rich” they had sycophants pumping their opinion of themselves, e.g. They were favored by the gods. They were better looking (a manifestation of better clothing, personal hygiene, better diet) and smarter and … well, you know the drill. They were obviously better suited to “rule” than the idiot next door, so…? Add to this normal human insecurity, e.g. what if they were to attack us?, and animosity can be assumed.

Large scale conflicts are not started by peons, serfs, slaves, or guys from Jersey. They always begin because of the elites and I say they are driven by a desire to be in fucking charge of things.

Consider the Koch Brothers … how’s that for a segue? They have so much wealth that were they to retire today, they would be hard pressed to spend all of their wealth before they died. Hell, if their wealth were in the form of paper bills they would be hard pressed to burn it all before they died. There is nothing they want they could not have. So what are they doing in their golden years? They are waging a massive campaign to dictate to others how they will live. Are they driven by a desire for immortality? Do you believe they think that we will recognize what they are doing for us later and love and “immortalize” them for their actions?

I don’t. I do not for the simple reason that everything they are doing reinforces their role as masters and our role as slaves/serfs/drones/salary men/etc.

It is all about who gets to be in charge. It is ego driven, not immortality driven. Immortality is just an intellectual toy to the elites, something that tests the boundaries of their power, their power to control the behaviors of others.

This is the driving force of civilization … and it will be what brings the whole house of cards down, unless the masses (us) figure out a way to break the grip of the elites.

The American Experiment in democracy was a step on that path, but it is clear now that the elites have figured out how the rein in those impulses and are back in complete control of the USA.

 

 

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