Class Warfare Blog

July 15, 2020

How Long Does It Take Life to Develop Complex Forms?

Life on Earth began sometime around four billion years ago but then things were rather boring for a long time and then . . . Kaboom! The Big (Life) Bang occurred.

Just half of a billion years ago, life was composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies, aka monocellular life forms. No plants, no animals, no much of anything. But then quickly, over roughly 10-50 million years (realize that 10 million years is just 1% of a billion years) we got what we now call the Cambrian explosion. From that came . . . everything else that has ever lived.

Acknowledging that the majority of all species evolving over the last half billion years went extinct, it basically shows that complex life only needs about a half billion years to evolve from simple lifeforms.

So, for those (and I was one) who used the span of all life on earth (~4 billion years) as the time scale need for life to develop elsewhere, we were wrong. It took very little time for single-celled organisms to develop but then they evolved very little for ~3 billion years . . . and then all Hell broke loose.

What were the causes of the Cambrian explosion? Answer: we don’t know. Was it aliens seeding the planet with complex lifeforms to evolve further? Answer: we do not know. Did God do it? Answer: Define God, then “no.”

But if the causes were all natural, there is now a considerable range of possibilities for the planets we are now observing orbiting other stars. If all the conditions are available for single cell organisms to live and for a Cambrian Explosion-type event to occur, the amount of time could be as little as half of a billion years or even less. If the conditions for a Cambrian Explosion-type event aren’t available, single cell life could continue, as has been proven, for many billions of years with little evolution. (Evolution as we know it requires that various traits be able to be passed on and with asexual reproductions there is only one process and that is making identical copies of oneself.) And, of course if neither set of conditions exist, lifeless planets may abound.

The fascinating thing, in my mind, is that many of these questions may get definitive answers in short order. Unfortunately I will not be around to hear them, but I suspect that knowing these answers will be “a good thing.”

July 9, 2020

Trump Wanted Closed Borders . . . And Now He has Them

By mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic President Trump has gotten an unintended benefit: closed borders. Of course, the borders are being closed by the other countries involved and not Mr. Trump’s administration, but a promise is a promise. Mexico has closed its border with the U.S. . . . to prevent the spread of the disease that is raging in the U.S. but not so much in Mexico. Canada has closed its border with the U.S. . . . to prevent the spread of the disease that is raging in the U.S. but not so much in Canada. The EU has closed its “borders” with the U.S. . . . to prevent the spread of the disease that is raging in the U.S. but not so much in the EU.

Mission Accomplished, President Trump, Mission Accomplished . . . say it now. . . .

From today’s The Guardian:
“Canadians have spent the past three months in isolation, away from businesses, friends, families and schools,” said Lori Turnbull, a professor of political science at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. “They’ve done all this to make sure that they survive the public health crisis. They don’t want the border to open and have Americans bring it up here. The contrasting pandemic experiences of the two countries aren’t just a result of luck or geography: experts point to widespread access to healthcare in Canada, as well as high levels of trust in government and public health officials.”

 

June 4, 2020

It is Time for Intelligent Design Advocates to Pony Up

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:58 pm
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Let’s stop fooling around and take the ID advocates seriously. I have a series of questions I want the IDers to answer, so I can fully appreciate their theory.

  1. First, I would love to hear anyone supply a clear outline of ID theory, the complete theory. All I hear is arguments about design and complexity, but there are few other processes needed to make ID Theory complete.
  2. So, let’s say an Intelligent Designer exists and comes up with an intelligent design. That design is still “on the drawing board” as it were. How does this design get implemented?
  3. What are the processes by which the design is put “into production?”
  4. And who the heck is this intelligent designer, inquiring minds want to know? Are vastly superior aliens messing with us?
  5. How often are designs implemented?
  6. When did these design implementations first happen in the past and are they likely to continue into the future?
  7. If the Intelligent Designer just implemented his designs during a tiny window in time in the past, why did he limit himself so? How could he possibly know that other designs might not be needed (maybe advanced human fighters would be needed to fight aliens invading from outer space, for instance)? I mean how could this incredible designer know what will be needed millennia into the future?
  8. Provide a few dozen examples of designs and why they were needed to be the way they are to make the world work as it does. Please include a couple of virulent disease organisms, like the COVID-19 virus, on your list as that would be quite relevant at this time. Surely these are available if you have been studying this for decades as you insist.

C’mon now, fill out your “theory,” otherwise you are just whining about whether this or that was deliberately designed or not and not promoting an actual theory.

Why Science Hasn’t Stamped Out Religion

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:42 am
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I was reading a piece on the Vridar blog site and Neil Godfrey wrote this (in 2013): “Religion has not gone away since the end of the Europe’s religious wars and the ensuing Age of Enlightenment. Indeed, scientific advances and the rise of secularism may even be largely responsible for religious revivals.”

One part of the reasoning behind this statement jumped out at me. As opposed to science, religion puts no intellectual demands on its proponents. Scientists are asked to explain themselves, and argue, and think . . . really, really hard. Religionists, to the contrary, are given warm “There, theres” and are not asked to think. They are not expected to answer or ask questions. They do not have a final arbiter of what is right and wrong as natural scientists have in nature.

As a college professor, I saw a great many students over the years, almost all of whom had selected a major course of study. Since the science courses I taught were not something that other students took to meet a breadth requirement or “for fun,” I tended to see the same types of students. And didn’t encounter students who were majoring in far flung intellectual pursuits. But I did meet and work with colleagues from all over the college. And one could see clear divides in those folk according to their chosen fields of study.

For one, there is a simple dichotomy between scientists and non-scientists that breaks along the lines of, what should I call it . . . social skills (?). Science types, often referred to as “geeks,” often lacked social skills one could observe elsewhere and it is my opinion that science attracts people with poorer social skills because the topic addresses and studies things and not people. (Things can be pinned down, people are inconsistent, variable, and often cantankerous.) Study science and you have fewer people to deal with and more things/facts/etc. (Yes, I know these are broad characterizations. There are many, many exceptions. I myself am a scientist who is suave as hell and comfortable in the company of a wide strata of society. And I need a tongue-in-cheek emoji here.)

Another fault line between scientists and non-scientists is math. To learn math, you must master, to some extent, abstract thinking. This makes a clear line between those who faired well in math (I wasn’t that good, just persistent.) and those who did not.

So, to make an argument or address a problem scientifically, you have to pull non-science types into a realm in which complex arguments, math, and foundational knowledge all are involved in complicated fashions. (Look at how complex environmental issues are often described with simplistic and, at root, misleading explanations. Global atmospheric warming was attributed to the Greenhouse Effect and greenhouses work primarily by not allowing warm gases to escape the house. This is not the mechanism of climate change as we are experiencing it now.)

On the other side of this divide, the religionists are told “There, there . . . all will be well” and other nonsense like “The blood of Christ will protect you in the pandemic.” (The latter led me to wonder where I can get me some of that shit.) It may be nonsense, but it is simple nonsense, making no intellectual demands and offering many reassurances, albeit vacuous ones.

I do not claim that all of this plays out consciously through free will. In general I think most of us drift in the currents of our lives (me, especially). But those unable to accept the complexity of real problems set in a real nature are subject to those more than willing to provide fantasy solutions set in a fantastic nature which are less demanding. All you need is faith and there are no real tests of that any more.

May 28, 2020

Climate Change . . . Have We Been Too Optimistic or Too Pessimistic?

Some enterprising climate scientist went back to the early days of climate modeling and put the actual data involved into the models instead of the hypothesized data we used back then (we didn’t have all the data needed so we made up “reasonable” estimates). What they found was that those models were very close to being spot on. Their deviation from actual values of climate change parameters was mostly due to the faulty inputs, not the models themselves. Climate change opponents at the time were scathing in their “reviews” of the climate change model predictions as being premature, not capable of being done, being pie in the sky wishful thinking on the part of the scientists. Of course, the critics that were most prominent could barely spell climate change, let alone had mastered any of the intricacies.

As time went on the models were revised and we found a data consensus (based upon data from different sources indicating the same things). But for the critics, the predictions were “overblown,” “too pessimistic,” and neglected advances in technology that would mitigate much of the changes. Again, most of these objections were not science-backed, just economics-backed, aka they said “we are making too much money to change for you airy-fairy science types.”

Now we are finding out that the dire predictions we have been hearing for the past couple of decades have been far too optimistic, that is not pessimistic enough. More than a few effects of climate change that were predicted for years or decades in the future are happening now.

In short order, I expect the climate change deniers to start saying “How could we have known?” and “Who would have predicted this?” Assholes . . . greedy assholes.

If Reality Were a Simulation, Could It Be Possible to Alter the Past of the Simulation?

Filed under: Philosophy,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:47 am
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I answered the question in the title of this post on Quora and I wanted to share it with you to see how you might respond to my final question (If you were an all-powerful deity, what would you do first?).

Here’s my answer to the question (slightly edited).

* * *

Sure, the simulation is stored as files and those files can be edited or overwritten. You could even retroactively change the rules involved.

Basically, if you believe in an all-powerful deity, what we have is the equivalent of a simulation. Such a deity could have created our reality 15 minutes ago, providing each of us with false memories leading us to believe what we believe now. Would we know any better?

If I were such a deity in our current reality, here are the first things I would do. First I would uncreate Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, etc and wipe the memories of these entities and their domains from human memory. Then I would adjust human free will, leaving 99+% of it intact but removing the Will to do Evil. Nobody would be inclined to do anything evil from that point onward but we would be free to prefer vanilla over chocolate, choose Toyota over Chevy, even so far as to freely choose to put pineapple on a pizza.

There are many, many things such an all-powerful deity could do … but hasn’t, at least to our knowledge.

If you had such power, what would you do first?

May 27, 2020

Evidence and Interpretation

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:42 am
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In the ongoing dialogue between young theists and atheists on sites like Quora, hordes of young theists seem to being educated by atheists about atheism. (Trust me, you don’t want them to be ask church officials such questions, as there is no upside, nor any good information to be had.)

Regarding the existence of god(s) questions, atheists are often asking for “evidence” for their existence and then having to explain what evidence is. I guess I only hope that the questioners are young, otherwise our education system has done a lousy job of establishing what objective evidence is.

In any case, I am reading a book by a respected archeologist of early Palestine and he is trying to make an argument for wider spread literacy than is usually assumed, for early in the first millennium BCE.

At one point he uses as evidence of widespread literacy, the labeling of storage jars with the name of the owner, and possibly use of the contents. So, labels like “Property of XYZ” in the form of “Belonging to Zadoc” were found. One such showing name and use comes from the 8th century and is “Belonging to Matanyāhū; wine for libation; one fourth.” Since archeological finds are more trustworthy than written stories, one is inclined to follow the clay shards, rather than follow the texts, but all archeological finds have to be interpreted.

Consider some far off future archeologist who is excavating places in Texas and finds a buried but well preserved mansion. In it he finds a room that looks much like a library with piles and piles of decayed books in it. From this the archeologist interprets the find as representing a mansion of a “learned, well-read man.” Apparently the archeologist hadn’t heard of rich assholes who build mansions with libraries, full of expensive and rare books as a sign of their wealth, yet hadn’t read a book in their life.

So, if a man had his name inscribed upon his wine jars (a process which turned out to be by using a chisel after the jar was fired, so a very delicate process), what can we hypothesize?
• the owner was worried about local theft
• the owner was vain and wanted everyone to know how much wine he owned
• it was a thing he heard other wealthy people did and he was a wannabe.
I am sure you can come up with more. But can we assume that the owner of said jug was literate? How about the carver of the jugs? I don’t think you can assume either was literate. The wealthy jug owner may have been shown what his name looked like when written, maybe he could even write his name. The carver may have been given the text on an ostracon for him to duplicate, much as he might carve a hand into a relief carving.

Can we assume all of the traders and merchants who might receive or buy these containers are literate? I can imagine many scenarios in which a merchant receiving a shipment of such wines, making a chalk mark on them identifying them in his mind without being able to read any labels.

The libation wine container . . . , well libations are performed by religious officials or people empowered to make them. Technically one could pour some wine on a home altar all by oneself, but this is a rather larger jug. So, would rural religious officials be readers and writers? Their training may have included this, so it is more likely. It is likely that a village prelate could be called upon to read and write for the people in his village. But that doesn’t equate to widespread literacy.

In this country, you were considered literate at one point of you could “make your mark.” So, if you were asked to sign a contract or sign a voters roll and you scrawl an “X” on the dotted line, you were considered literate. (And this is one of the reasons why we then and now have witnesses of such signings.) So, people who could not even write their own name were considered literate at one point. The definition of who was literate changed as the populace became better and better educated. The definition in the context of the book was roughly “could people read and/or write a simple letter.” There are enough of these letters that have been found to indicate a rather wider spread literacy than is often assumed, but still all of the evidence needs to be interpreted. A letter written by a soldier, is that evidence of widespread literacy, or was the writer the “company clerk” for his military unit? What about the elites? Were they literate or did they hire scribes to read and write for them.

We have enough stories from the business computer revolution in the 1980’s and 1990’s of company executives who were functionally illiterate. They couldn’t type. They couldn’t spell. They certainly couldn’t use computers. And some couldn’t read.. One exec who could barely read but who showed well-developed coping skills always asked a subordinate at meetings to “summarize” the issue for all of the people at the table. That memos and summaries had been circulated prior to the meeting were irrelevant and the boss was lauded for having a human touch. (Nice summary, Bill. Does everyone agree? Okay, what do we do now . . .”)

This doesn’t mean that there weren’t people who could read and write in many, many places but it also doesn’t establish that there was widespread literacy.

One such clue as to there being widespread literacy would be the discovery of schools that children or adults attended to learn how to read and write. Ostracons and tablets with what appear to be lessons performed upon them have been discovered but in most cases they were thought to represent the work of students in scribal schools, not widespread evidence of homework being done by the bulk of the population. (Would scribes be needed in places with widespread literacy? Probably as scribes did more than just “take dictation.”)

This is not the only evidence of wider spread literacy at that time and in that place, so I am not talking about his conclusion, but the mere fact that evidence has to be interpreted and that is a dicey thing. I think of some future archeologist excavating our “landfills,” aka dumps, to learn more about the people who lived in Chicago. He is puzzled to find millions upon millions of plastic bags with dog poop in them and speculated as to what sort of bizarre religion those Chicagoans must have had. Were they dog worshipers, preserving even the feces of their gods? Hmmm . . . is great puzzlement!

 

May 21, 2020

How I Know UFOs Aren’t of Alien Origin

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:31 am
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I was watching a program available on Amazon Prime called Hanger 1 which refers to a storage facility in which the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) keeps its files. An episode I watched last night referred to “crashes and cover-ups,” which “exposes” governments covering up the recoveries of crashed UFOs to harvest their technology out of public scrutiny. (That hypothesis is not hard to accept.)

In any case, at one point they showed a map of the eastern hemisphere with dots indicating all of the UFO crash sites they have identified in just the 1990s and 2000s. There were over a dozen of these crash sites indicated.

At that point I sought another program to watch. (Why was I watching in the first place? Because pandemic, that’s why.)

The reason these claims defy all reason is that the claims of alien origins for UFOs is based upon the hypothesis that aliens have technology far superior to ours (anti-gravity, tractor beams, flight without inertia, etc.) which as enabled them to traverse vast distances through space to come here, to visit our planet and “do things.”

Superior technology, my ass. If it is superior, how come so many of the dammed things crash into the planet. Dozens and dozens have crashed they claim … recently!

Oh, I know, aliens are bad drivers! They are fine when the have vast amounts of empty space around them, but when they get close to a planet, they hit it, repeatedly. No, wait, it is only juvenile aliens who come here to test out their hotrodded spacecraft and, as teenagers here do too, they push those craft a little too hard and Wham! No, wait . . .

May 16, 2020

Oh, Boy, I Never Thought of This Before

Filed under: History,Philosophy,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:31 am
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Like many of you I have been binge watching things available on cable TV services. I ran across a British series, Quark Science, on Amazon Prime that I have been enjoying, and even learned a thing or two. The episode I watched last night was on entropy and chaos theory and as they went into explaining chaos theory, I had quite a string of revelations.

For those of you who haven’t considered chaos theory it basically describes systems with multiple parts that contain feedback, which is basically all natural systems, and that such systems are inherently chaotic in that they cannot be predicted. The reason being is that they are very sensitive to the “initial conditions” and minor variations in those initial conditions affect substantially the final outcome. This is where the “Butterfly Effect” inherent in the question “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” comes from (and all of its other variants over the years).

In any case, I had a number of revelations from this excursion through science for the people.

#1 Chaos theory explains why determinism isn’t a possibility. In the centuries long free will debates there is often a road block in the form of the question as to whether we live in a deterministic universe, or not. If we actually live in a “clockwork universe” are all of our choices determine by stimuli and responses that are perfectly predictable? If we do live in a deterministic universe, then free will is an illusion. We are just robots responding to the stimuli we receive. Well, chaos theory shows us that we cannot live in a deterministic universe, because minor variations in any system can produced vastly different outcomes.

#2 Predicting the future is not possible. Since determinism isn’t possible, there is no basis, no cause-effect chain, that allows predicting of the future. As ancient people, we were obsessed with predicting the future. The reason was if you could predict what was going to happen, you could protect yourself from adverse changes and take advantage of the others. The Romans, for example, were very interested in Judaism because of their written records of prophecies (and their claims of accuracy). Chaos theory explains why weather prediction is about as good as it will get right now.

#3 Emergent properties make a lot more sense now. Emergent properties are properties that break any and all causal relationships established before then emerged. Chaos theory makes these more understandable.

#4 Chaos theory explains why the universe is the way it is. The laws of physics describe a transition during the Big Expansion of the universe, aka “The Big Bang,” from its initial almost all energy state to the formation of particles and then atoms. Those laws indicate that there should have been equal amounts of matter and anti-matter created. But our universe is almost all matter . . . where is all the antimatter? Why the asymmetry between the creation of matter and antimatter? The scenario goes like this: as the particles formed, there would be equal amounts of matter and anti-matter which would self-annihilate and produce light and so the universe would become an expanding sphere of light, The End. But the data show that a part per billion excess of matter over anti-matter would yield the universe we know now. In that scenario, the particles would form and the matter and anti-matter particles would annihilate, producing an immense flask of light (later to become the Cosmic Background Radiation) but a part per billion concentration of matter would be left over, enough to create all of the stars, planets and galaxies in the universe.

But where could a 1 ppb difference between the two forms of matter come from? Well, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and chaos theory almost guarantee these two forms would not be created in exactly equal amounts, and voila! (Note To grasp the size of a part per billion, take quite a large swimming pool and fill it with pinto beans. Then throw in one black bean. Stir. The concentration of black beans in the mixture is roughly 1 ppb.)

Interestingly, we don’t really know which form of matter survived. We call the one that survived matter and the one that did not anti-matter, but since their properties are opposites of one another, we just really know they are opposites, not which one we have.

There is much, much more that the chaos theory helps clarify, such as the self-organization of matter and so on. All of these things fly, splat!, into the face of our limited thinking. Most of us, me included, are still immersed in the “clockwork universe” thinking we inherited from Victorians. We still think of the world around us as being mechanisms, complex mechanism for sure, but much like the gears and levers in a mechanical device. Scientists have passed beyond that previous view and moved on but many of the rest of us, me included, haven’t followed because thinking about such things is hard! Really hard.

But programs, or rather programmes, like Quark Science make them much, much easier to understand. I recommend the series to you.

And, since I am in speculation mode, I suspect that my clinging to the clockwork universe paradigm is an artifact of my education. As scientists we are taught classical sciences before we are taught “modern sciences.” Our early thinking patterns are determined by the paradigms of classical science. This is why we find the transition to modern science difficult. And, if one goes on to study ancient science, it is hard to learn also because they were thinking quite differently from how we think now.

May 11, 2020

Texas Governor Declares Texans Fit for Guinea Pig Role

The Governor of the State of Texas is allowing businesses, including barber shops, to reopen. Since barber shops can scarcely function with distancing controls in place, I assume this means without any such controls. Other states are to follow.

I guess we should thank the Republican governors supporting Donald Trump for volunteering to be guinea pigs for this pandemic.

Since (a) we still do not have enough test kits available to determine an accurate count of such cases and (b) I do not trust these shitweasel politicians to report accurate counts even if they were, we will only have the numbers of deaths in Texas as a measure of their success or failure. Shitweasel politicians are always willing to send the able-bodied into wars, disease hotbeds, etc. as long as they themselves and their families are not at risk.

Interestingly, someone looked up the normal range of deaths for the months of the pandemic, nationwide, and that number is definitely not normal, that is it isn’t in the range of the numbers of people who would die over such a period. Interestingly the “overage” is about twice the number of COVID-19 deaths, so either those deaths are being under reported or there are secondary causes for these “extra” deaths, such as medical facilities being full of coronavirus patients and not enough care is available to go around to everyone.

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