Uncommon Sense

December 3, 2022

Science and Truth

I was reading a work of philosophy and the author objected to the categories of writing: fiction and nonfiction, in that “fiction” implied imaginary and so not true and non-fiction implies fact-based and therefore true. He had many interesting things to say, but they were mostly based upon this false interpretation.

When I read a work of non-fiction, I accept that the author tried to get the facts straight but I know how bleeding hard that is, so I don’t expect it to be 100% “factual” and certainly not a “true account” whatever that is. Writers of fiction often display more insight into things like the human condition than “fact-based” writers. When I read a work of fiction, I don’t expect it to be fact-based, so if a dragon shows up, I am okay with that. The two categories say something about how the authors went about creating their work, but nothing whatsoever about their veracity.

The problem here is with the word “truth.”

Truths are absolutes, and therefore, as far as I am concerned, they are mythical. I have written about absolutes before, so I won’t dwell on that topic, just to say they are extensions of things we see beyond any evidence for their existence.

I have often read that science cannot discover “the truth,” often by religious apologists, and this is obviously true as a statement. Science, in fact, is not looking for truths and never pronounces things as truths. We are smarter than that because what we think might be true today can be found to be false tomorrow. This is why all scientific findings are provisional. Scientists know this as it is beaten into them, but the lay public, looking over scientists shoulders, is often disturbed when scientists change their minds. What scientists think is a virtue, adapting to new data, the public finds alarming. This is because the public believes in the existence of absolutes, like truths, and when scientists announce a “discovery” the public think it is pronouncement of a new truth.

The best thing we could do educationally is to drum this into the minds of all citizens. Scientists are looking for what might work now so that they can continue to learn things, even though those new things may contradict what they have found previously. We in science call that progress. Religionists call that heresy. The public needs to learn to distinguish their religions from scientific “reality.”

As to what is “real,” just don’t get me started.

November 28, 2022

Farming Was Invented to . . .

In breezy accounts of human pre-history, agriculture was invented for all of its myriad benefits (or list of other bogus benefits to the farmers). And then . . .

But, really, people started farming in at least 14 different places, independently of each another, from about 10,500 years ago. And that story isn’t complete, since no stories founded in archeology are complete (or possibly even can be).

The best guess is that hunter-gatherers planted small plots of a number of plants that could be harvested before they packed up and left. And most hunter-gatherers didn’t stay in one place for long, so whatever was grown had to reach maturity rather quickly, so forget apple trees, grape vines, and other long duration efforts. Experiments quickly determined which crops could be both grown and harvested quickly and then utilized quickly. Soft fruits would spoil as would soft vegetables. Some roots would last longer, but grain turned out to be the superfood. It grew fast, could be harvested, and then dried and stored.

I can’t imagine any hunter-gather troop going “all in” on grain growing, though. These people were often in quite temperate or tropical environments, without harsh winters with their food acquisition difficulties. They were often on or near rivers which provided both food and transport. And, the hunter-gather diets was quite varied. Why trade a rich diet that included fish and shellfish, small game, fruits, nuts, and vegetables  for one that was almost all grain. (Archeologists have pointed out that as large scale farming took hold, humans shrunk in size and had worse health that before.)

The advantage of farming is that by farming storable surpluses of food could be set aside to provide sustenance in times of need, but that was the primary feature. The primary feature was that agricultural produce could be taxed! And, an “elite” class of people could do the taxing and so not have to do the work associated with food acquisition. As farming became more productive, labor became more specialized with some making clothes and little else, others making wood utensils and furniture and little else, etc.

But farming is labor intensive and farming is far more laborious that hunting and gathering. Many did not want to do the work, so the elites found “ways” to make it so. It is no coincidence that large scale slavery took root around the time of large scale agriculture.

To a hunter-gatherer the idea of plants to be harvested right outside of your hut’s door, rather than miles away, was attractive, hence the small plots and hence the multiplicity of times agriculture was “invented.” But only elites wanted large scale agriculture. It seems to me they go together. No large scale ag, no elites. No elites, no large scale ag. It is interesting the number of stories I have heard about Polynesian cultures in which the “king” could be ignored if he spouted nonsense. Food was available in abundance all around and in the sea. The “king” had no social leverage. For a starving people, an elite with stored grain has a lot of leverage. (Coming up—a look at how this played out in the Roman Empire.)

Postscript Shakespeare stated in Henry the VI, Part 2 “The first thing we do is kill all of the lawyers.” He should have said “The first thing we do is kill all of the elites.” But at that point that ship had sailed, the “kings” had stored up so much grain that they had wealth and armies and mini-me kings galore and Shakespeare needed patrons, so he couldn’t afford to offend those who possessed wealth, and thus the modern world was created.

November 26, 2022

Has Modern Physics Lost Its Way?

The title of this piece has been a common topic for physicists to comment upon for the past few decades. I am not a physicist, but during my training to be a chemist I took a great many physics courses and have continued to be interested in developments in physics over the past 50 years or so.

Here is a list of the things I find, well, questionable.

Space-Time This invention by Albert Einstein is passing strange. On one hand, time is claimed to be an illusion or to not exist and on the other time is not only real it can be blended with spatial dimensions to make something more than real.

Cosmic Inflation and the Expansion of Space-Time Erwin Hubble discovered a key relationship regarding the spacing of celestial objects in the universe and their redshifts. All stars produce light and that light has built in patterns. When those specific patterns are shifted towards the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum, they are said to be redshifted. When shifted the other way, they are said to be blue-shifted. For example, the galaxy of Andromeda is blue-shifted, but most are redshifted. The original interpretation of these shifts were likened to the Doppler Effect, you know, the cause of train whistles sounding different when the train is moving toward you from when it is moving away. From this we jumped to the idea that the universe is expanding, an idea Einstein originally rejected. But this is not the only explanation of those shifts. In fact, Hubble recanted that analysis.

(If the redshifts are a Doppler shift) … the observations as they stand lead to the anomaly of a closed universe, curiously small and dense, and, it may be added, suspiciously young. On the other hand, if redshifts are not Doppler effects, these anomalies disappear and the region observed appears as a small, homogeneous, but insignificant portion of a universe extended indefinitely both in space and time. (E. Hubble, Roy. Astron. Soc. M. N., 17, 506, 1937)

It should be pointed out that Hubble himself was not convinced that redshift was exclusively due to Doppler effect. Up to the time of his death he maintained that velocities inferred from red shift measurements should be referred to as “apparent velocities.”
(Mitchell, 1997)

There are, in fact, quite a number of other interpretations of the data that are in play. For example, currently the shifts are assumed to be happening to the light traveling through empty space. We now know that “empty space” is an extreme condition, almost impossible to find in nature. So, what would be the effect of light traveling through space that had some dust in it? An example, would be the typically red colors of sunset. Traveling through the atmosphere at an angle, rather straight(ish) down, causes the light to be read in color. Now this strictly is not directly applicable to the galactic light, but it is analogous. There is a distance-redshift relationship because the farther light travels through space, the more distortion happens via the mechanism causing the redshifting. If the red shifting were entirely due to the Doppler Effect, the greater the effect, the faster the speed, no? So, why should galaxies be moving faster, the farther away from us they are? If all such matter originated from one point, the faster galaxies should be farther away in space and time and not farther back toward their origins. The Webb telescope is showing us light emitted by the very earliest stars/galaxies and they are heavily redshifted, more so than much closer objects. That would indicate that those galaxies were moving faster then than the galaxies are moving now, which means things are slowing down. But we are told the nonsensical thing that the “expansion of space-time is speeding up.”

To explain these things we are told that in the beginning, there was even more rapid expansion of space-time, called “Cosmic Inflation.” So, the expansion of space-time sped up to be really, really fast and then slowed down. Right.

I was taught that the more nonsense that was postulated to make a theory work, the greater likelihood that theory was on its last legs.

There is a coherent explanation for everything, if we assume the universe was infinite and not expanding. In Hubble’s words “a universe extended indefinitely both in space and time.” Have you heard much about that “other” possible interpretation of the data? No? Neither have I.

Dark Energy and Dark Matter WTF? The bulk of the matter in the universe is invisible and we never new it was there. Okay, uh. . . . And Dark Energy is a form of energy we never knew existed. It is making the universe expand faster and faster. Okay . . . WTF? How does this energy affect pace-time? Has there been a form of energy that has been determined to affect space-time? These are cockamamie concepts that were cooked up to explain new observations. Note that the old concepts were insufficient to explain the new observations, so we don’t question the old concepts or our interpretations, we just pile new whatchamacallits on top of those. Sheesh.

The Failure to Find a Unifying Theory of both Gravity and Quantum Mechanics Physicists, for the last 100 years or so, have been trying to create a theory that incorporates all of the major forces of nature. The history of physics sort of leads to this conclusion, as when forces were identified (basically the creators of new motion in matter) we were just trying to catalog them. But there turned out to be just a few of them were fundamental, those explaining all of the others. Then electric forces (attractions and repulsions) were unified with magnetic forces (attractions and repulsions). Then nuclear forces were discovered and we had a list of just four fundamental forces in nature, which explained all of the others: the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, electromagnetic forces, and gravity.

But gravity wasn’t playing well. As quantum mechanics was developed, using quantum field theory, everything seems compatible, except gravity. So, the search for a theory of gravity compatible with quantum mechanics, quantum gravity if you will, went  on . . . and on . . . and on.

My question centers on the fact that gravity is the force that dominates in the cosmos. Yet, for us puny humans here on earth, chemistry and physics seem to be dominated by electromagnetism and nuclear forces. And if we peered down, down, down into matter, we encountered the strange behavior of quantum-level objects. Gravity plays almost no role in biology and chemistry and quantum phenomena and only a small one in earthly physics. Quantum effects exist where we live, but they are few and far between compared with what is going on in the realm of fundamental particle interactions, which don’t show any role for gravity at that level at all.

So, what is the basis for the expectations that a theory (which is just an explanatory description of some set of physical behaviors) would apply to encompass both of these realms—the very, very, very large and the very, very, very small. The only driving force for this search is “well, it worked in the past.” Maybe, just maybe, they are separate, only slightly overlapping realms of behavior and a single theory just cannot be stretched to cover both.

String Theory An ugly baby only a mother could love is the only analogy for string theory. Maybe we need a theory for why physicists would be attracted to an untestable conjecture. (Can’t really call it a theory when it cannot be tested. Theories have passed tests, many of them.) I suspect those who dove into this quagmire early on are now thinking “Have I wasted my career studying something of no merit whatsoever?”

My background, as I have said, is in chemistry. In that subject, there seems to be a life-cycle of theories which also is apparent in early physics. When a new theory is created, there is much enthusiasm, hope and excitement. The theory is built up, tested and becomes stronger. Then flaws appear. In some theories these flaws are tiny or irrelevant and don’t undermine the use of the theory in many, many situations. Other times the flaws widen and threaten the confidence people have in that theory. At that point proponents apply patches. These tend to be context specific and apply to just those instances in which the flaw makes serious problems. But over time, such theories can accumulate a great many patches and at that time, others create new theories that require no such patches. And theories do “fade away” and cease to be used. Some get resurrected in that they produce short-lived progress in new situations, but usually that zombie-like theory will also soon fade away.

Too many of these Big Bang patches seem to deny common sense and seem to be patches to make the damned thing work like we want it to. Dark energy, dark matter, cosmic inflation, the expansion of space-time, the existence of space-time, all seem to be unsupportable reaches. Time will tell.

November 20, 2022

The Crucifixion Quake

The title of this post is the title of a documentary I found on Netflix. It is about a geologist who felt he received a calling to try to establish that the earthquake mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew (gMatthew) which supposedly occurred when Jesus gave up the ghost on the cross actually happened. (This was partially because of a traumatic event in his life which lead him to read the Bible (for the first and only time). Interestingly, none of the other three gospels mentioned any quake (or the dead rising up from their graves and wandering around zombie fashion, and, and . . .).

In any case, this geologist set out to see if he could verify a quake happening at about the right time to confirm at least that aspect of the story. He did this at great personal cost to himself. And his search involved stratigraphy, carbon-14 datings galore, pollen grain studies, dust grain studies, and of course our boy wasn’t a seismologist so he had to do a lot of retraining.

Many good points were covered along the way about things that could not be determined, even up to linking the earthquake to the execution, which was a good thing, but as you might expect, the religious nuts won’t look at the fine points. They’ll just say, “See, see, I told you it was true!”

But much of the story was left out. While several mentions of gMatthew being mostly an embellishment of gMark, and those embellishments always injected more and more supernatural interpretations and events into the story line, they didn’t mention that gMatthew was written well after 70 CE, probably after 80 CE, and these events were supposedly placed in the early 30’s CE. Clearly the author of gMatthew was someone who could take a muddled account of their being an earthquake around that time and just link it up to the crucifixion. Where would he get an accurate date and time for that earthquake in any case; none of the accounts of the time we have available date it exactly? The author could have gotten an oral account of the earthquake, but considering the 50 year gap in time, it would probably be a story of the “I remember my grandfather telling a story . . .” type.

But then the shark gets jumped. Even though most of the experts are saying, on screen, you can’t do this, they take clues from the four gospels, and sleuth out a date for Jesus’s death. The only two people saying you could included a Catholic priest. The other expert likened the four gospels to being like four eye witnesses accounts of the same event, and their testimony would be expected to differ in the details. But eyewitnesses are there to see what happened at the same time. The writers of the gospels are writing ca. 70 CE (gMark), ca. 80-85 CE (gMatthew), ca. 85-90 (gLuke), and ca. 90-110 (gJohn). (Those dates are just educated guesses, of course.) None of them name their sources, a common practice of historical writers of the time, so we don’t know where they got their information, except that both gMatthew and gLuke contain extensive amounts of gMark text, verbatim, and have the same structure as gMark (order of events, etc.).

The “researchers” then take their Biblical clues and make assumptions as to how they could have happened scientifically. gMatthew mentions that the Sun when dark for three hours after the death and a speculation that a severe dust storm could have done that so they look for evidence of such a storm in the strata. And gMatthew also mentions a “blood Moon” which was interpreted as being due to a lunar eclipse. Since Passover is on a day on which the Moon is full, and full Moons rise exactly at sunset, why didn’t someone suggest that the dust that caused the Sun to “go dark,” also reached higher elevations and so was responsible for the Moon appearing to be red? (Rising moons always appear to be redder due to atmospheric refraction.)

The calculable dates for lunar eclipses, full Moons appearing on a Friday (the day Jesus died, according to the stories, etc. gave them a date for Jesus’s death of April 3, 33 CE at 3 PM.

Oh, the ironic part? The earthquake, the one called the Crucifixion Earthquake, the one this geologist was vilified for pursuing, was scientifically dated to from 26 CE to 36 CE, not exactly a confirmation of the earthquake that supposedly occurred to announce the death of Jesus.

 Some Science Questions
There are a few science questions one may ask to see if anything here links up at all. Here are a few I would like answered.

  1. How frequent were earthquakes felt in Jerusalem (especially first century Jerusalem)?
  2. Is there an earthquake fault that is the source of such quakes. (I would find it more miraculous if there were no fault. An all-powerful god wouldn’t need one, no?)
  3. Why were so many scientists and academics dancing around these questions? (I think I know the answer. Anyone who publishes anything going against the current story lines will get a 16 ton weight dropped on their heads, as did this geologist.)

The Major Theological Question Receiving No Attention
But the big issue is left out completely. If I were to grant that Jesus were a real, historical person and managed to get himself crucified, that is no big deal. Tens of thousands of Israelites got themselves crucified by the Romans, probably hundreds named Jesus/Yesua/Joshua. Roman records claim they ran out of wood to build crosses on, for Pete’s sake. But having Jesus crucified as an insurrectionist is overkill in any case. He could just have easily fallen under a Roman sword or spear in the Garden, an ignominious death for someone who qualified to be King of the Jews, no? His crucifixion and any shenanigans that occurred around it are basically irrelevant to modern Christianity, because modern Christianity isn’t built upon the embarrassing death of “the Christ” but upon his resurrection. And about his resurrection, there are no fancy miraculous weather or geologic events, no ballyhoo at all. He just walked back and said a few words and then fled the scene. (As I have mentioned, this is a grievous marketing error.) So, why did “the Father” do all of these miraculous things when Jesus died, when less than two days later, he was going to be resurrected. If you think the guy wanted to make sure people knew he had been killed, you’d think he’s also want to make sure people knew he was raised from the dead.

November 14, 2022

Ancient Apocalypse

Ever since I gave up on the Ancient Aliens show every once in a while I get me the feeling for some good old fashion scientific muckraking. And Netflix obliged by dropping a series called “Ancient Apocalypse.” The host is an author of myriad books on his conjecture, namely that there existed in our past an advanced civilization that was capable of great feats, feats beyond what more recent civilizations were capable of. Think of super Egyptians, back in or before the last ice age.

What is clear from the get-go is the host has a hard on for “academic archeologists” who have not given enough attention to his conjecture. He constantly bemoans the fact that the academic archeology community isn’t investigating the sites he thinks are telling.

I have only watched the first two episodes, in Indonesia and Mexico, but the pattern has been established. The two sites he says have been ignored by archeologists were discovered by archeologists and at least to some extent, investigated by archeologists. Apparently they just didn’t do it right.

The host keeps using phrases like “academic archeologists have turned their backs on this new evidence” and his conjecture is “extremely threatening to mainstream archeology,” his conjecture would “undermine the current paradigms the academic archeologists have invested their careers in.” That kind of stuff.

Now I haven’t gotten very far in the series, but it should be clear to anyone who understands how field sciences work and that is that archeologists who have found an interesting site to investigate spend years seeking funding to support those investigations. So, just because some academic archeologist wants to do a study is almost irrelevant. He needs to find a supporter who will pay for the process. So, really, if someone out in the general public wants an archeological dig to take place, all they need do is raise several million dollars and put out a request for proposals and they will have archeologists crawling up their ass.

If the Mexican or Indonesian governments want those sites excavated, all they need do is pony up some cash and they have archeologists in country that will be drooling to do that work.

But no, these sites aren’t being investigating because archeologists are turning up their noses on the possibilities. Archeologists are known for turning their noses. Or, maybe, just maybe there is personal animus between the academic archeology community and the guy who constantly excoriates them.

Now, as to the content. I can believe that in spots around the globe an isolated culture managed to marshal the manpower to perform amazing feats of construction. After all we are still arguing about how the pyramids were built, and Stonehenge, etc. and we haven’t discovered all of the sites in existence.

The show host uses pyramids as an example of why he believes that there was a global advanced civilization involved. I mean, look at the similarities! There are pyramids all over the planet, often oriented to the stars in much the same way. There must have been a global planning element involved! Oh. really?

First of all, pyramids are clearly symbolic and artificial mountains. They get the priests involved closer to the sky and certainly far above the hoi polloi down on the ground. In every case so far, the pyramid builders started from a sacred site, often a source of water in the form of a well or spring. Since water is needed for life, it is easy to see why such would be “sacred.”

Then a smaller construction was formed, then larger ones, often on top of the smaller ones. Gosh, do you think some of those priests were ambitious?

And, the question is asked in the show “How could a hunter-gather culture create such things?” Well, hunter-gathers have a lot of free time. Hunting and gathering take far less time to support a group than does farming, which is far more labor intensive. So, having far less time, they would just need to have leadership . . . oh, yeah, the priests. And then, people learned as they went. The history of pyramid building in Egypt showed how it was learned how to build a stable pyramid of their favored type. The task itself taught the workers and leaders how to do the task. Heavy materials were brought in from far afield. The tasks led to the creation of methods to perform those transport tasks. Oh, one of the similarities needing explanation is the connect of the pyramids with religions. (Really?)

As to the orientation, the host of the show pointed out (in the first two episodes at least) that the primitive cultures of the times were knowledgeable about the night sky and the repeating patterns one can observe regarding the positions of things like the Sun and Moon and various “constellations” of stars with various times of the year.

If you build an artificial mountain and it is round, it can’t have a particular orientation, so since we have eyes in the front of our head, we naturally orient things as being in front of us, behind us, off to the left and off to the right, thus the four points of the compass stem from the placement of our eyes in our heads. Building artificial mountains with four sides allows them to be oriented to the positions of things in the night or day skies and so they were. And it didn’t take global coordination for this to happen.

There is one thing I am really looking forward to in this series. Anyone arguing for a global advanced civilization has to explain how that culture was able to travel to all of the other spots on the planet. The Ancient Aliens people had either the aliens doing the information spreading or providing the transportation. So, aliens solve this communication problem, but create an even larger problem, you know, aliens.

And, if Indonesian people went to Mexico to teach them pyramid building and other advanced technology (or vice versa), the host country would want to show their benefactors a good time, no, so I expect a lot of fucking to have occurred during these visits, so DNA studies will show the mixing, no?

And while the host clearly needs no ego boosting, he did have a “celebrity” join him on the first episode for support . . . Joe Rogan. Joe Fucking Rogan? That was the best he could do? You know Joe Rogan, who blithely uses the n-word on his podcasts, denies the effectiveness of vaccines, and well, he doesn’t claim to be an expert on anything, but has an opinion nonetheless, on everything. His endorsement means nothing, except in that, like the Kardashians, he is popular and nobody quite knows why.

But Steve, surely this is harmless good fun. I wonder? Such shows denigrate the scientific establishments, portraying them as far more conservative than they are. Scientists, too. Most scientists I know would throw their grandmothers under a bus to prove their colleagues wrong in even a small way. And archeologists aren’t ignoring a tantalizing site because they have a stick up their asses, they may not be able to raise the funds, or they find working in some countries to be too arduous. Take, Israel for example. As long as you are supporting the company line, you will get decent service from the Israeli antiquities bureaucracy. But the minute you undermine the company line, they will get you fired from your university job and try to make sure you never get another one. (In Israeli, the company line is the one that supports Israel’s claim that their state was the proper territory of the Israeli people back in history, so that they have a right to that land. Undermine that in any way, and well I warned you.)

November 6, 2022

Even the Mighty Get Confused

Recently I commented here upon new experiments probing the interior structure of protons. One point was that to probe a proton, you have to fire a particle at it at high velocity and depending upon how much energy is employed you get quite different answers as to what is “inside” of a proton.

I then ran into a rather famous quote from Niels Bohr, a Titan of the study of the quantum realm. Here it is.

When we measure something we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not measuring the world, we are creating it. Nothing exists until it is measured.”—Niels Bohr (Quoted on TheCommonAtheist blog)

Taking a quantum confusion (created by the fact that a measurement is a significant interaction with the system) and applying that thinking to our layer of reality in which measurements are often less than trivial interactions, is a mistake based in confusing the rules that apply “down there” also apply “up here.”

Bohr’s quote just shows the state of confusion he was in at the time. Consider an ordinary object, a table, for example. Does it not exist until we measure it? And do we ever really measure “the table?” We measure the length of the table, its thickness, its mass, its composition, its volume . . . stop me when we have measured “the table.”

Quantum level events often involve the interactions of single particles. This is never the case where we live. At the quantum level, “measurements” are actually physical interactions, often involving very high energies (but sometimes not). This is not the case where we live unless you engage in experiments like finding the location of a ping pong ball on the floor of a completely dark room, using a shotgun.

As I said, I think it is a mistake to imply that the rules that apply “down there” also apply “up here.”

Bohr himself stated this as a principle, the Correspondence Principle, that hardly ever gets mentioned in ordinary discourse. Bohr’s correspondence principle states that the behavior of systems described by the theory of quantum mechanics reproduces classical physics in the limit of large quantum numbers.

Basically Bohr was saying that when you get “far enough” away from the behaviors that quantum mechanics describes, you get classical physics. In other words, there is a layer in which quantum mechanics applies and one where it does in only minute ways, with classical physics, Newton’s laws of motion, etc., work as well as they ever did.

November 3, 2022

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Sometimes More

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 1:14 pm
Tags: , ,

Take a look at this photo.

What do you see?

This is the iconic NASA photo from one of the first manned missions to the Moon. I have always called it “Earthrise.”

So, what do you see?

I see proof positive that the Earth is not flat. The Flat Earthers claim that the Earth is not a globe but it is a disk, a round flat disk. So, if the Earth has a disk shape and flat, how is the entire flat side facing us not evenly illuminated by the Sun? What could be casting that curved “shadow” on the lower half? Not the Moon as the curve would be the other way. So, what?

If any of you can make a Flat Earth argument that explains this photo I would love to hear it. (And please “NASA faked the photo” is not an explanation.)

It is clear that literally hundreds of proofs, aka pieces of strong evidence, of the Earth being a globe are available and I have already listed quite a few (the Foucault Pendulum, the Coriolis Effect, time zones, phone calls to the other side of the globe asking about the day-night status. the old disappearing ship over the horizon observation, and many, many more). This leads me to believe that the Flat Earthers are the Incels of the scientific community. They aren’t getting enough . . . in this case, attention. Let’s call it the Kyrie Irving Syndrome. A symptom is that when people feel they aren’t getting enough attention, they use social media to say something really, really outrageous.

In the aftermath of Donald Trump and NBA player wardrobes, it is almost impossible to wear something really outrageous or say something really outrageous, so the outrage bar keeps getting raised to new heights.

Flat Earthers have one message and that is “I am not getting enough attention!” The same is true for the QAnon folks, the MAGA crowd, and others. Like children acting out, giving them what they want will have very mixed results. This is kind of like the parenting advice that we need to be strict as parents so that our children will have something to rebel against when teenagers. Otherwise, in their confusion over having a lack of things to rebel against, they will become mass shooters, or worse, vote Republican.

Any ideas?

Grubbing for Respectability

The study of economics has been searching for respectability for many decades. Most recently it has been mathematized in order to make it more sciency and references to the “economic sciences” (sic) abound.

I noticed that today the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences had been awarded, and as a lazy news agencies reported it, it was the Nobel Prize for Economics. There is no Nobel Prize for Economics. This prize was named to imply that it is but it is not. They even announce the “winners” at the same time the real Nobel Prizes are awarded to complete the illusion. Pathetic. Almost as bad as the award shows, like the Oscars, et. al. in which an industry rewards itself.

No matter how much respectability grubbing proponents of the study of economics claim it is, economics is not a science. Yes, math can be used, graduate courses in economics now require Calculus where they did not in the recent past, and money can be calculated to fine precision, but the “laws” governing the topic aren’t scientific laws and, in most cases are little better than conjectures.

Take, for example, the concept of market equilibrium. A market is said to be at equilibrium when supply and demand for a good or service balance each other, and as a result prices become stable. If something changes this situation, once breached, the market opposes these changes, moving back in the direction of equilibrium. It is a nice concept and, as a rule of thumb, is a description of a small part of the behaviors one can observe in economic markets. But it is not a scientific law. There are no natural forces behind it. The major users of economics, businesses, are striving fang and claw to create monopolies for their businesses, so that have complete and total control of their market. There is no “market force” or “economic force” that opposes these attempts at “market domination.” Such “economic laws” (sic) are just crude descriptions of how markets can perform under a small set of circumstances.

The whole idea of free markets was built upon the myth of market correction forces. The myth is that politicians should leave markets alone because markets function best when unregulated. This is a baseless, self-serving claim that is not supported by any facts. Those promoting free markets, that is markets free from government regulation, really want governments not interfering with their market manipulations. They want to be the regulator of their markets, not the representative of all of the people, governments.

There is no such thing as a “free” market, which is a good thing because markets do not work without some regulation. Consider pharmaceuticals. Would you want to have a market for pharmaceuticals that was completely free, meaning that anyone could claim anything as an outcome of taking their medicinals and, well, anything goes? No FDA interference? No requirements for effectiveness interference? We have had a glimpse of what this would be like when in 1994, Congress removed “herbal supplements” from the purview of the FDA. What we got were herbal concoctions claimed to cure everything from the common cold to cancer with no requirement that such claims be proven in clinical or any other studies.

An AsideI have a method of determining when a “herbal supplement” is bogus. If you are temped to try the XYZ herbal supplement, do an Internet search along the lines of “does XYZ really work?” If the first ten websites you find are websites that are bogus, set up by the purveyor of the supplement, you know it is bogus. The practice for such bogus supplements is to put up a dozen or two websites seemingly independently studying your product, but usually just having long lists of testimonials, from people like Tom T. from Philadelphia, or Theresa W. from Portland, Oregon. None of these people can be contacted for verification because not enough information was been supplied, but that would be a waste of your time because they and their commendations are fictional. These website dilute out any honest evaluations of the XYZ supplement.

If you see such sites listed at the top of your search, well, now you know.

Does anyone want “anything goes” markets? I don’t think so. The “free market” bandwagon is just a vehicle to oppose government regulation that protects citizens from phony claims and phony products. Like a dog chasing cars, if it actually caught one it wouldn’t know what to do with it. Any economist who touts the virtues of free markets is a charlatan. Some economists don’t even know they are charlatans. Every course in economics they took in college had the same nonsensical presuppositions built in and then quick raced past to play with more “advanced” topics. Never to the go back and check their original suppositions.

Then they take their suppositions and double down on then, an example of which is Walras’s “law” which says that excess supply in one market must be matched by excess demand in another, so that in the larger picture there will be a general equilibrium. Can any causal connection be made between the demand in one market and the supply in another? I don’t think so. But the concept of “equilibrium” has run away with these person’s common sense. In the physical sciences, a system can only be in a state of equilibrium if it is isolated completely from the rest of the universe, excluding all other matter, energies, forces, etc. As a consequence a system in physical equilibrium is detached from the rest of the universe and has no effect on it or it on the system.

Now, there are systems that are near equilibrium all over the place in nature and those systems show some of the behaviors of equilibrium systems, for one they oppose changes in the distribution of matter and energy in the system, but those near-equilibrium systems are limited in such responses and can always be shoved off of the tracks, so to speak. Economic systems are somewhat like physical near-equilibrium systems but only under very constrained circumstances.

The key point is if you want them to behave as if they were near-equilibrium systems, you would have to regulate the situations they apply to. Certain “market stimulations” would be forbidden, etc. If you want an example of this look at the U.S. stock markets. The “players” in the markets for stocks invent ways to manipulate the markets in their favor on almost a daily basis. The markets, though, are heavily regulated (there are hundreds of pages of regulations adopted by each market) and most of these manipulative practices never get implemented. But every once in a while corrupt players get some control and you end up with high priced worthless “financial instruments” that crash the system, sometimes worldwide, like what happened in 2008. And these morons still preach “regulation is bad!”

I think economists should be required to dress for their profession, witch doctor garb would be appropriate.

I Finally Figured Out Why the Christian God Needs to Be Omnipresent!

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:41 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I have written recently about Creationist Mission Creep. Originally their god created a firmament, the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, and miscellaneous whatnot. But as scientific discoveries expanded and expanded and expanded our universe (and they are still expanding it), the religious just followed along, “Oh, yeah, He created all that, too.”

Mind you there was no hint in scripture of other galaxies, or even our galaxy, just waiting to be “discovered.” These “Oh, yeah, He created all that, too” claims were all after the fact claims.

Now our galaxy is immense, it is 100,000 light years across, in other words it would take a beam of light 100,000 years to travel from edge to edge, and it seems nothing can go faster than light. And the other galaxies are millions, if not billions, of light years away! So, if this Creation God were to have been here on Earth, it could not have created all of those galaxies any time recently (surely not just 10,000 years or less) because even magic can’t travel faster than the speed of light.

So, in order to have created all of those trillions of other galaxies, this god would have had to have been there! And so, being omnipresent finally has a use! As I have pointed out often enough, the power of omnipresence was surely made up by priests using that “godly power” as a means of controlling their “flocks” of sheeple. But, by accident, they also plugged a hole in their creation myth.

It is a miracle!

October 30, 2022

Psychedelics: Forgotten Cornerstones of Civilization?

I am a big fan of Benjamin Cain who writes on Medium.com and elsewhere. His latest post has the title above (without the question mark). Here is a taste:

Even setting aside the wildest speculations about the meaning of the peak states of consciousness you undergo while you’re high on psychoactive drugs such as DMT, magic mushrooms, peyote, or even cannabis, the mundane interpretations of them are still revolutionary. That is, even if we assume — as we should — that you’re only hallucinating when you’re tripping or that you’re engaging with your unconscious mind rather than with God, angels, or extraterrestrial races, the implications still rewrite practically everything we take for granted about history, religion, elitist social divisions, and politics.” Benjamin Cain

Mr. Cain goes on to say: “This is to say that our forgetfulness is almost as dazzling as the peak states themselves. The yin of the majestic creativity that bursts from the high mind that’s liberated from social restrictions complements the yang of the dulled, domesticated mind that mistakes the valley for the mountain peak.”

Such discussions leave me largely untouched. It is not that I would never try psychedelic drugs, I have, but that the claims for their benefits are largely speculative. I haven’t read anything about microdosing yet, so maybe that is where their true value lies.

I do nor dispute that psychedelic drugs produce an “altered” state of consciousness, but why describe these as “peak” states? This smacks of the claims for the supernatural. Something is claimed to be not natural, but it isn’t referred to as subnatural or pseudonatural, it is supernatural, thus implying that it is superior to the natural or at a minimum “above” natural. So, altered states of consciousness are “peak states” of consciousness? Why not “valley states” or “plains states”? Again, a bias is built into the terms.

And, as to “unleashing creativity” or “unlocking creativity” (“the majestic creativity that bursts from the high mind that’s liberated from social restrictions”), I wonder. The experience could result in the creation of works different from what was being created by the user before, but are dull, uncreative people suddenly turned into fabulous creative people? I doubt it. I think creative people manifest their experiences through their creations. Creators create. Give them an altered state of consciousness and they will create some things they might not have before.

But have there been engineers or scientists who experienced such states and then gone on to invent or discover things never thought of before? If so, there haven’t been a lot of stories told about these experiences because surely I would have heard of some. (Kekule’s dream hint at the structure of the benzene molecules being the only one that comes to mind.)

Now, claiming that such altered states of consciousness allow people to get closer to the numinous, to a god, are also hogwash as the reports show that the gods “encountered” or hinted at are the same gods the users were indoctrinated to believe in, that is their “altered” experiences were not accepted as they were but were shaped to conform to the god blueprints the users carried in their heads before.

I remember seeing a Deepak Chopra video way back when, when he was “new and fascinating.” Mr. Chopra started talking as if he were a scientist and within ten minutes he shifted to discussing “chakras.” I turned the video off. Clearly he was repackaging his childhood religious teachings.

I think psychedelics played a role in any number of religions. I will grant that their effects could open up the users to new lines of thought. Beyond that, the claims are just that: claims. Of course, our repressed culture doesn’t sponsor much research into such things so it is likely that it will be a long time before we have much concrete data to discuss.

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