Monday, March 19, 2018

Hate Mail - Stupy's Lying, Water Is Wet, Dog Chases Cat, Duncan's a trustafarian douchebag, . . .

I've never said I "outgrew" Bob Dylan, I don't think I've ever said a bad word about him.   You can see what I said about him, including supporting him getting the Nobel Prize for lit. by checking out the archive of this blog

Maybe I should write about his "born again" period that alienated so many of his fan boys.  I thought his Christmas album was a hoot, wonderfully bad at times.  

Simps is just pissed off that I won't post his lies here till after Easter.  Not that he needs any special occasion to lie, it's his one talent apart from stealing other people's' material. 

Her Eminence St. Brigid

Reading through what I just posted, I remembered that it's very possible that an early Woman priest may well have been St. Brigid of Kildare, who, according to an old Irish tradition, was ordained by Bishop Mel who by divine inspiration pronounced ordination on her while she was making her vows as a nun.  There is some evidence suggesting that she was considered to be the equal of a bishop in early Irish Christianity as the leader of monasteries,  which, in the Celtic tradition had both women and men as members. 

Modern translation of the text in Leabhar Breac [Life of Brigid]

Brigit went, with some other young women, to Bishop Mél, in Telcha Mide, to take the veil [= to become a religious sister]. The Bishop was happy to oblige.

Brigit stayed behind out of humility, so that she might be the last to whom the veil should be given. A beam of fire rose from her head to the ridgepole of the church's ceiling.

Bishop Mél asked: 'Who is that woman?'

MacCaille answered: 'She is Brigit.'

'Come, O holy Brigit', said Bishop Mél, 'that the veil may be imposed on your head before the other women.'

Then it happened, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the prayer that was read over Brigit was the form of ordination for a bishop.

MacCaille said: 'The order of a bishop should not be [conferred] on a woman.'

But Bishop Mél declared: 'This lies outside my power because it was through God's doing that this honour that transcends every woman was given her .'

That is why the men of Ireland give the honour of bishop to Brigit's successor.

Should have remembered on the 1st of February, her feast day, but didn't.  I think she deserves to be honored as one of the patron saints of Ireland as well as Patrick. 

NOTE:  Before the tireless little spell checker has a fit,  all of those spellings seem to be used interchangeably for the same Woman.

"I am a sinner" - Deeper Currents In The Papacy of Pope Francis And Women's Ordination

I missed James Carroll's piece in the New Yorker about the fifth anniversary of the beginning if Pope Francis's appointment to be Pope.   It is one of the few things I've read that seems to really get to what his papacy is all about and what he's all about.   This passage leading into two issues, one the Chilean bishop that has caused a serious scandal in Francis's time in office.   It doesn't read like your typical news story about it,  Carroll leads into a wider and deeper context as to the issue and what both him getting into it and dealing with the aftermath of scandal tells us about Pope Francis and sin in general:

“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” he was asked early in his pontificate. He replied, “I am a sinner. That is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” The Pope’s detractors—from the right, where he is derided as a moral relativist, and the left, where he is seen as an instinctive defender of patriarchy—were thus put on notice right at the start.

The language of sin comes naturally to Francis, but he might equally have cited Montaigne’s dictum “I feel oppressed by an error of mind. . . . I try to correct it, but I cannot root it out.” What the world has witnessed since 2013 is nothing less than Francis’s great struggle with the Church’s monumental error of mind. That error boils down to a preference for the traditionalist worldview, which sees existence as complete, ordered, and in harmony with unchanging divine purpose, over what might be called the historical worldview, which assumes change, contingency, and randomness—all the lessons of evolution. Clericalism, enshrined in the defensive, all-male mores of the priesthood (notwithstanding the many selfless priests), defines this error, and Francis, despite having railed against clericalism, showed himself to be stuck in it when, earlier this year, he defended Juan Barros Madrid, a Chilean bishop who has been accused of covering up sex abuse. After hearing the outraged objections of survivors, Francis promptly backed off his position and ordered a new investigation, demonstrating that he knew he’d been wrong. He didn’t say, at the time, “I am a sinner.” But he might have.

Among the most important things about that, one which would be left out of most news reporting on it is that he listened to and took seriously the reaction of The People to his lapse in judgement.  At the same time, by ordering a new investigation into the accusations against the bishop he signaled that he wasn't going to just take that into account but takes seriously the rights of the accused.   If the experience will lead to him giving up more of the habits of clericalism which are so deeply embedded in clerical institutions, we'll have to see.

Carroll also pointed out how this has a direct effect in another issue, the equality of Women and their ordination:

The most potent instance of the traditionalist error is the unrelenting relegation of Catholic women to a position of inferiority, embodied in the prohibition of female ordination. The Vatican justifies the ban with absurdly literalist readings of Scripture (there were no women among the twelve apostles), which are wholly out of synch with the Church’s otherwise ample commitment to accommodating the theological contradictions and inconsistencies found in the four Gospels. In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, this sanctified discrimination can finally be seen for what it is—less an error of mind, perhaps, than a willful error of soul. Though Francis sided, early on, with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an association of American nuns, in its fight against Vatican interference, he has shown no readiness to root out the deeper prejudice.

But if this blatant papal blind spot does not disqualify Francis as an avatar of post-religious possibility it is because he has clearly set in motion positive currents of change that run deeper than anything he might himself intend. He has made spiritual imagination—faith that goes beyond the material and the established; goodness that can be striven for and accomplished—seem consistent with secular preoccupation. It is toward that larger significance that his narrow institutional role points. Change is coming to the Catholic Church, and if it can happen there it can happen anywhere.

That became clear when, early on, the Pope insisted—again, in both word and deed—that experience takes priority over doctrine, mercy over rules, which is a pious way of affirming nothing less than the scientific method, the testability of truth. The Pope may not actually be changing doctrine as such, but emphasizing experience over doctrine changes the way that doctrine is regarded. To cite the most discussed example, divorced people should feel free to receive Communion, whatever complications result for “the tradition.” This principle may ultimately transform the way that many Catholic teachings are applied. The Church’s firm opposition to birth control, for instance, could be softened by an acceptance of condom use to protect health, or by a practical preference for contraception over abortion. Similarly, the Vatican’s absolutist stance on euthanasia could be mitigated by a refusal to promote “extraordinary” efforts to prolong life in the face of pointless suffering. As revolutions in biology and genetics change techniques of human reproduction, so the meaning of reproduction changes, too—and, after Francis, the Church can find ways to adjust to that. The conservatives, in other words, are right to warn that this Pope is altering the anatomy of Catholic life and thought.

Which brings to mind something I wrote about,  Sr. Simone Campbell of Nuns On A Bus, who was asked about Pope Francis's intentions for change.

MR. GILLISS: Over the next five years, how do you see the Catholic church evolving in its role for women?

SR. SIMONE: Alright. Any crowd that took 350 years to figure out Galileo might be right is not noted for rapid change. So let's put it in perspective. But what is happening is that some things that people aren't hearing about — Pope Francis appointed a woman to head one of the pontifical theological schools in Rome. This was fairly earth-shattering in theological realm — those studies areas because it was always thought only boys had big enough brains to do that or something. I don't know. And so — and women have been appointed to this council that's working on the issue of abuse. Women are gradually getting more positions. But here, Pope Francis is not going to change the rules. He's trying to build peace in a church that’s been so divided, so hurt, so split apart by certitude and turf, by preferring the fight as opposed to — not hearing the stories of real people and not having everybody at the table. He’s trying to do the opposite. And so that, to me, is way more important than some juridical edict about women. Because it's a better building for the future, I hope.

Just as the real meaning of what is done by this pope won't fit into the x number of words and column inches of journalistic convention, the clock and calendar of time for change doesn't fit into the conventions of TV reality in the United States.   Things don't get wrapped up in a half hour or an hour - minus the many minutes of commercials - or even in the length of a mini-series.   Neither does it fit into the conventions of fiction in which there are good and bad guys,  especially the absurdly unrealistic convention in which a hero must be infallible.   I find it really funny how those who are quickest to deride the claims of papal infallibility are the first to jump on a Pope when he demonstrates himself to be what they claim to believe he is, anyway, fallible.   Not that they really understand that even the claim of papal infallibility never meant everything a Pope did or said was fallible, which I would say Francis and others who claim what John Paul II said about Women's' ordination is settled.  It doesn't even pass muster as something that fits the definition of an "infallible" teaching. 

The childish notion that good guys must always be good or they're shit is rampant among the secularists of the internet, you see the same thing in their rejection of even genuinely liberal politicians who from time to time act out of either pragmatism or within the realm of the possible instead of purist nonsense which has failed to produce much of anything. 

Francis will not be anything but the Catholic Pope, as Sr. Campbell said he's not going to do anything to damage the unity of the Catholic church which his predecessors did so much to damage, knowing that any change as monumental as acknowledging women as priests and bishops would likely split the church.   If that change is going to come it will come gradually.   Too gradually for us today.   In the mean time I would recommend the ideas and work of the Roman Catholic Women Priests for your consideration.   I find most of what they say quite credible and foresee a time when their ordination, now, will be accepted as legitimate, probably long after all of those in the movement, now, are dead.

Our minds are deceived by watching too many shows into believing that all change can be effected immediately and our ignorance of the real history of change makes some of the changes of the past seem deceptively rapid.  Even in science, as Max Planck famously pointed out, no matter what the claims of science romantics hold, progress in science depends on the old guard dying before people with new ideas can take over.  The same is as true in religion.  James Carroll's point about the deceptively slow rate of change under Francis is, actually, quite radical in that context.  I see it as of a piece with the far longer history of advocacy of Women's ordination which was an issue in the life of St. Teresa of Lisieux and which started as a formal movement in 1911 when the St. Joan's Alliance struggled for both Women's' suffrage and the ordination of Women. 

See Also:  Bridget Mary's Blog.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Night Radio Drama - Harold Brighouse - Hobson's Choice

This is a radio production of the play that was made into a really good movie with Charles Laughton playing the outwitted Hobson.   I don't have a list of the cast. 

Oh, I just noticed a mistake I made.  I'm tempted to correct it but I'm wondering if someone will bother to notice it, so I won't until someone mentions it.   A prize for the first one who does will not be given. 

But . . . But, He Wrote Another Paper!

Hate mail informs me that Stephen Hawking wrote a last paper, which is being touted in the popular press as his greatest evah! - it hasn't been published yet so that's a bit premature.

A final theory explaining how mankind might detect parallel universes was completed by Stephen Hawking shortly before he died, it has emerged.

Colleagues have revealed the renowned theoretical physicist’s final academic work was to set out the groundbreaking mathematics needed for a spacecraft to find traces of multiple big bangs.

Currently being reviewed by a leading scientific journal, the paper, named A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation, may turn out to be Hawking’s most important scientific legacy.

Fellow researchers [which ones?] have said that if the evidence which the new theory promises had been discovered before Hawking died last week, it may have secured the Nobel Prize which had eluded him for so long.

The new paper seeks to resolve an issue thrown up by Hawking’s 1983 “no-boundary” theory which described how the universe burst into existence with the big bang.

According to that account, the universe instantaneously expanded from a tiny point into a prototype of what we live in today, a process known as inflation.

But the theory also predicted an infinite number of big bangs, each creating their own universe, a “multiverse”, which presented a mathematical paradox because it is seemingly impossible to measure.

The extent to which all of this is based on unfounded scientific speculation, not on verification in the physical universe, would seem to be a secret not to be generally shared.    Here is Sabine Hossenfelder's point 2. that came before point 3. which I gave you this morning.

2. Ok, so it’s not falsifiable, but it’s sound logic!

Step two is the claim that the multiverse is a logical consequence of well-established theories. But science isn’t math. And even if you trust the math, no deduction is better than the assumptions you started from and neither string theory nor inflation are well-established. (If you think they are you’ve been reading the wrong blogs.) 

I would agree that inflation is a good effective model, but so is approximating the human body as a bag of water, and see how far that gets you making sense of the evening news. 

But the problem with the claim that logic suffices to deduce what’s real runs deeper than personal attachment to pretty ideas. The much bigger problem which looms here is that scientists mistake the purpose of science. This can nicely be demonstrated by a phrase in Sean Carroll’s recent paper. In defense of the multiverse he writes “Science is about what is true.” But, no, it’s not. Science is about describing what we observe. Science is about what is useful. Mathematics is about what is true. 

Fact is, the multiverse extrapolates known physics by at least 13 orders of magnitude (in energy) beyond what we have tested and then adds unproved assumptions, like strings and inflatons. That’s not science, that’s math fiction. 

So don’t buy it. Just because they can calculate something doesn’t mean they describe nature.

Which I have to say,  I found extremely gratifying when she said, "That’s not science, that’s math fiction."   Which was exactly my first reaction when I read Hawking and Mlodinow's demand that science be exempted from verification through observation of nature.  It was so shocking to me that I can remember the exact moment it occured to me and where I commented about it.

Anthony McCarthy says:
September 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm
After reading here and other places, I went to my sister-in-law the aquatic biologist, with the happy news that now that physics has been freed from the requirement of actually being tied to physical evidence that she didn’t have to go out this winter to do her sampling anymore. She wasn’t as happy about it as I thought she would be, though she did take the opportunity to vent about theoretical physicists and cosmologists, their politics, their dirty politics and their hogging of funding. I think she might have felt better after that.

Being a complete outsider I have to say that the idea of an entirely artificial physics generating an entirely artificial mathematics to service it gave me a lot of entertainment while I was doing my chores this weekend. It came to me that the results might be a science that has has more in common with fan fiction than it does the natural universe. But that’s only a musician’s view of it.

I know I've described the same demand for exemption as writing science fiction in equations instead of purple prose.

So, does Hawking come up with how much money the Lords of Creation are going to demand to fund this quest for the Unholy Grail?

Hate Mail - The Odd Experience of Defending Someone I Really Don't Like

It's kind of odd, me defending Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) who I didn't like as a Cardinal and didn't like as a Pope.    The fact is he didn't voluntarily join the Hitler Youth, in 1939 membership became mandatory for German boys after the age of 14, he was conscripted into it when he turned 14.   His brother said that he didn't like it and skipped a lot of the meetings.  Which, considering that about the same time the Nazis took away his cousin and murdered him along with other disabled people, I believe.   Also supporting that is the fact that when he was conscripted into the anti-aircraft corps, he deserted as soon as possible and returned to his home, where the Americans having occupied it, they interned him in a prison camp for several weeks.  He ran from the Nazis, to the Americans.   

I can't imagine the 14 year old Simps would have resisted such a conscription, depending on the government that drafted him, I'd imagine he might be an enthusiastic little thug.  

But why let facts get in the way of a nice little bit of bigotry.  

Update:  Depending on the persistence and type of resistance, refusal to follow the law on the part of the 14-year-old Joseph Ratzinger could have led to his arrest perhaps that of his parents.  

By the time the Hitler Youth became compulsory, perhaps only 10 per cent of its members were diehard National Socialists;  the rest were a mixture – some bored, some annoyed, some seething on the inside, but most of them willing to go along with whatever their society seemed to demand.  And yet, like the White Rose to come, there were those who few who took a stand, not only as teenage rebels, but consciously, as political dissidents.  Between 1940 and 1945, 1,807  inmates were executed in the Brandenburg prison alone for political reasons,  some after years of forced labor.  Of these, 75 were under twenty years of age;  22 were high-school pupils or university students.  In Hamburg between 1933 and 1945, for all of those sentenced for political “crimes,” 11 percent were youths

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose:  Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn 

It's a while ago since I read it, as I recall all of the members of the White Rose who were guillotined had joined the Hitler Youth and the female equivalent before it was compulsory, so membership in it was not necessarily an indication of mature political ideology or moral judgement.   When the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, Joseph Ratzinger had been 18 years old for about three weeks. 

It's so easy for someone who has had their ass planted safely on North America for their entire life, as a member of the privileged class, white, upper-middle class male, to make casual judgements about people who live under a totalitarian dictatorship.  But, then, everything has been easy for you.  You're so like Donald Trump.  

Hate Mail

Bob and Ray were geniuses, the people who produced even the early MAD magazine were merely clever.  

I wasn't a constant reader of MAD, though I found it entertaining when I was a teenager and young adult, then I outgrew it.  As I remember reading one of those who were involved in producing the magazine, there was constant turn-over in its reader base as people outgrew it only to complain it used to be better (reportedly they got their first such note after they published the second issue). You don't outgrow genius.  Which is one of the ways to tell you it is genius.  I remember looking back at some of what I found somewhat amusing and saw it just upheld a slightly different POV on what Brueggemann calls out as the Modern-Industrial-Scientific Model of thinking about life.  It's not really radical, it's merely snarky.  

I don't think my grandparents ever saw MAD magazine and I'm sure my parents never read it, while it wouldn't have been banned from my house we wouldn't have left it around to be found.   They didn't need comic scrawlers to tell them Freud was bunk.   

Update:  He didn't start writing for MAD until 1957, you're whining about the first issue, which was years before that.  I'd suggest you make up your mind what you're whining about but I know that's hopeless.  

You might want to look at what what people said about one of MAD's better writers, Harvey Kurtzman and his most widely known, but hardly his best work "Little Annie Fanny" and how the venue that published it, Play Boy, influenced what he did in that for the worse.   Hack writers do different quality work for different customers.   MAD was good, it was, on occasion great, but it wasn't a venue of genius.  You can say the same thing about National Lampoon, which was very uneven over the years.   Needless to say,  I outgrew that, too.  

Bob and Ray were geniuses and I imagine they inspired people who wrote some of their material.  

Bayesian inference doesn’t mean there must be a planet Earth for each fraction of curly-haired people.

Speaking of communicating complex issues in science well,  Sabine Hossenfelder's post on what's wrong with the multi-verse theories is the best I've ever read, especially this, her third point about why Sean Carroll's resort to Bayesian probability doesn't do a thing to promote the reality of the multiverse.

3. Ok, then. So it’s neither falsifiable nor sound logic, but it’s still business as usual.

The gist of this argument, also represented in Sean Carroll’s recent paper, is that we can assess the multiverse hypothesis just like any other hypothesis, by using Bayesian inference. 

Bayesian inference a way of probability assessment in which you update your information to arrive at what’s the most likely hypothesis. Eg, suppose you want to know how many people on this planet have curly hair. For starters you would estimate it’s probably less than the total world-population. Next, you might assign equal probability to all possible percentages to quantify your lack of knowledge. This is called a “prior.”

You would then probably think of people you know and give a lower probability for very large or very small percentages. After that, you could go and look at photos of people from different countries and count the curly-haired fraction, scale this up by population, and update your estimate. In the end you would get reasonably accurate numbers.

If you replace words with equations, that’s how Bayesian inference works. 

You can do pretty much the same for the cosmological constant. Make some guess for the prior, take into account observational constraints, and you will get some estimate for a likely value. Indeed, that’s what Steven Weinberg famously did, and he ended up with a result that wasn’t too badly wrong. Awesome. 

But just because you can do Bayesian inference doesn’t mean there must be a planet Earth for each fraction of curly-haired people. You don’t need all these different Earths because in a Bayesian assessment the probability represents your state of knowledge, not the distribution of an actual ensemble. Likewise, you don’t need a multiverse to update the likelihood of parameters when taking into account observations. 

So to the extent that it’s science as usual you don’t need the multiverse.

I can't help but cite that quote beloved of atheists, when Laplace answered Napoleon's question of where God fit into his theory,  "I had no need of that hypothesis." 

Pope Francis Talks About Evolution And The Big Bang

The surprise that Pope Francis has endorsed the reality of evolution and the validity of the Big Bang theory only goes to show you that most people don't have any idea of what not only he but his predecessors said about it.  The Church was never opposed to the theory of evolution in any big way and hardly any official way.   As I recall Cardinal Newman supported the idea.  There isn't any contradiction in what Benedict XVI and Francis said about it, there might be a slight difference of emphasis but, really, both of them are expressing a view that evolution was the mechanism by which God created the diversity of life on Earth and that it works according to God's design.   Even the ID industry contains people who accept that evolution is real, though some of them are forced to refute the scientific evidence that our species is a part of it.  The extent to which they won't accept the science is the extent to which they're wrong about that, but that has little to do with the acceptance of evolution, in general. 

Pope Francis noted that God gave creation full autonomy while also guaranteeing a constant divine presence in nature and people’s lives. The world comes not from chaos but from “a supreme Principle who creates out of love.”

The pope continued: “The Big Bang theory, which is proposed today as the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of a divine creator, but depends on it. Evolution in nature does not conflict with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

What Francis doesn't appear to have been saying is what people get confused over, he doesn't seem to have been asserting the neo-Darwinian claim that all of evolution is guided by random mutations weeded out by some ill-defined force called "natural selection" without any intelligence having a role or even a controlling role on the process.   The large majority of people who believe in the validity of evolution believe in that,  what might be called a "soft" form of intelligent design.  And when looked at hard, the idea that life processes could have originated in or changed by random events under the laws of probability look preposterously unlikely.   That imposition of probability on, not the actual processes of evolution - which we can't observe, anyway - but on what people in science are allowed to say and think about it, was always ideological, which you can read in the writings of the early Darwinists and in Darwin, himself.  It was an ideological imposition on what was allowed to be said about it, though it was always covering up the incredible complexity of the issues involved.  That is especially true of the forever to remain unsolved issue of the origin of life on Earth.   As biologists look ever more closely at the biology of cells and their component bodies, the more complex that seems and the more improbable it seems that it happened by random chance events seems ever more improbable with ever new level of complexity.  And that's only getting to the chemistry of it.

Rafael Vicuna, professor of molecular genetics and molecular biology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, told academy members that the actual origin of life remains a perplexing question.

In a newspaper interview, he later added: “I can know perfectly what a cell is made up of, but how it works deep down, what really is the dynamism that makes it move—that is, life—I don’t know. A refrigerator and a car are complex structures that move, but only with an immense amount of energy from the outside. Life, in its deepest essence, remains something that escapes us. Life is more than molecules.”

One of Benedict's faults was he had a tragic inability to communicate ideas, even those he understood.  In addition to having no obvious pastoral talents, he had no talent to communicate outside of the realms of academic theology which was his specialty.   Richard McBrien called him probably the foremost academic theologian in the history of the papacy.   And some of his closest confidants were as bad if not worse.   The man simply had no idea of how to talk to people outside of academia or the Vatican.  Perhaps that inability was related to his obvious inability to have much sympathy for the realities of the lives of lay people or even the necessities of parish priests.  Benedict's papacy is certainly one of the least successful since Pius IX.

The modern Popes have all been highly educated, most of them have had deep training in philosophy that leads them to think more completely and clearly than many, though not all,  celebrity scientists*.  Even those scientists who have had some training in philosophy aren't that good at it.  They are not, as almost all of us are not, specialists in the complexity of evolutionary theory.  But you don't have to be conversant with those complexities to understand that if something doesn't logically cohere or if it is not supported by evidence that its scientific validity is rightly questioned.   The crude version of evolutionary biology most of us carry around as our scientific faith, largely based in an already thread-bare framing of neo-Darwinism, has always relied on a good deal of hegemonic coercion to maintain itself as the dominant ideology in science and the popular understanding of science.  And even within academic science, leaving out the Intelligent Design industry, these questions are the farthest thing from settled and, from what I can see, there is every reason to believe they are ever less settled with every new discovery or asserted theory within the scientific study of evolution. 


The other day the idiot who most often trolls me made a comment that I had, somehow, said there was no reason to believe in the Big Bang when, if you look at this blog,  almost every mention I've made of the theory was to point out that it was atheists, from the time of its promulgation in the 1920s, right up to today, who have rejected it because, as Arthur Stanley Eddington, commenting on the new theory of an expanding universe,  said in the 1930s,  "The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural."    I don't know if the Big Bang theory will last or be any more successful than the various schemes atheists [including several of those mentioned in the footnote] invent to try to save their ideological position that God "isn't necessary" to explain the origin of the universe, why there is something instead of nothing, how the universe came into being at a specific time - that event also being the beginning of time, if not the origin of time, itself - without the intentionality of a non-physical, extra-physical being.  None of us has an ability to tell what the future will bring in the way of scientific discovery, though all of the evidence I've seen is that if for mere practicality, the kind of physics we got used to in the 20th century, might have reached limits in such things.

The primary attack on the Big Bang has been from atheists and their ideological motives are baldly stated in their attacks.   It's incredible how often atheists bring up God when the topic is that or the fine tuning of constants observed in our universe or the various schemes such cosmologists and physicists invent to try to get past an absolute beginning of time and the universe as forced by modern physics.

If you want to read more about that, this recent article by Sabine Hossenfelder about that and the prospects of physicists and cosmologists to sell us another, more massive collider (which, if George Ellis is right, would be ridiculously inadequate to tell us much of what such scientists want to know)  is a good place to start.   Her article on the death of Stephen Hawking is worth reading, too.

I don't think my most persistent troll knows enough to understand what I just wrote about this.  I doubt he spends much time reading or listening to Russell, Hoyle, Eddington, . . . Maddox, Sean Carroll or Lawrence Krauss, Ellis, Woit . . .   Neither do most of those who know no more about this than what side they're supposed to be on because . . . well, atheism.   It's sports fandom, for them, nothing deeper, nothing more substantial.   It's certainly not a question of science.

*  I love to read about the brawl between those who want to junk the requirement of verification in the real world in science and those who insist it must be retained for science to have any claim to reliability and even truth.   It was interesting to read this in a recent piece by Massimo Pigliucci, the day before Stephen Hawking died.

Let me begin with two caveats: first, there are many people involved in the controversy, including Sean Carroll, Peter Woit, Sabine Hossenfelder, George Ellis, and Joe Silk (not to mention astute commentators such as Lee Smolin and Jim Baggott). Refreshingly, almost all of them have respect for philosophy of science, unlike ignorant (of philosophy) physicists like Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking. So, who knows, some of them may even read the following with some interest. Second, I actually know most of these people, obviously some better than others. I like and respect them all, even though — as we shall see — in this post I will come squarely down on one side rather than the other.

The disdain and disregard for philosophy was apparent in Hawking's book,  The Grand Design and it is obvious in Krauss's debate appearances with people who are competent philosophers.  And in neither case did it make their case stronger, it was the primary reason that their critics were able to blow huge holes in them.  You can see in Pigliucci's article that even with his knowledge of philosophy, Carroll's argument was seriously weakened by not knowing it sufficiently.    I've been amazed at what some of them figure they can get away with in that regard, sometimes "doing philosophy" without even realizing that's what they're doing. 

I Hope He Loses Money On The Hat Sales

The idiot, Donald Trump, isn't unique in not knowing the first thing about shamrocks and why they became associated with St. Patrick.   Which is why, in addition to many such mistakes he put this on the back of his green hat

 You used to see four-leaf clovers put up in association with St. Patrick and general evocations of things Irish sometimes even by members of the Irish diaspora, even around Boston, though more often by WASPs.   

Apparently Trump et al. are as ignorant of the Trinity as he was that the Presbyterian church that went through the motions of confirming him when he was a child was Christian (he had to ask the pastor that when he went there on a campaign stop, probably the first time he'd been their since his confirmation).  

The shamrock being associated with St. Patrick isn't a good-luck charm, it's an analogy of how there can be three entities in one being.   In this case though, I think as used by Trump, it is a good example of how one head can be empty.  

I hope he loses money on the hat sales.  

If You'd Told Me Forty Years Ago I'd Be Looking To A Former CIA Chief To Save Democracy I'd Never Have Believed It

I have never followed anyone's Twitter feed before but after yesterday and the prospect that his book's impending publication,  I think I'm going to start checking in on John O. Brennan's Maybe I'll even spend the time to figure out how the thing work (and how to post images from it).

 23h23 hours ago
More John O. Brennan Retweeted Donald J. Trump
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will  not destroy America...America will triumph over you.

@ John O. Brennan
‏Leadership of House Intel Committee has traded last vestige of integrity for politics. With other investigative shoes yet to drop, legislators who try to protect @realDonaldTrump will face November reckoning. Hopefully, bipartisan effort in Senate Intel Committee will endure...

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Don Haworth - A Summertime

A warm and gently humorous tale about unforeseen happiness and its passing, set on the Lancashire moors in 1939. 

Hetty: Rachel Ibbotson
Jane: Julia Rounthwalte
Frank: Glenn Cunningham
Pickup: Stephen Thorne
Clarissa: Christine Brennan
Director Polly Thomas

Second Feature - Georgina Scull - The Secrets I Keep 

Three actors recreate the verbatim confessions of three ordinary New Zealanders who have held life-long secrets.

Dame Kate Harcourt 
Grant Tilly 
Aaron Alexander

St. Patrick Day

Some passages from Thomas Cahill's book How the Irish Saved Civilization

Patrick's gift to the Irish was his Christianity - the first de-Romanized Christianity in human history, a Christianity without the sociopolitical baggage of the Greco-Roman world, a Christianity that completely inculturated itself into the Irish scene.  Through the Edict of Milan, which had legalized the new religion in 313 and made it the new emperor's pet,  Christianity had been received into Rome, not Rome into Christianity!  Roman culture was little altered by the exchange, and it is arguable that Christianity lost much of its distinctiveness.  But in the Patrician exchange, Ireland, lacking the power and implacable tradition of Rome, had been received into Chirstianity, which transformed Ireland into Something New, something never seen before - a Christian culture, where slavery and human sacrifice became unthinkable, and warfare, tough impossible for humans to eradicate, diminished markedly.  The Irish, in any case, loved physical combat too much for intertribal warfare to disappear entirely.  But new laws, influenced by Gospel norms, inhibited such conflicts severely by requiring that arms be taken up only for a weighty cause.  Ireland would not again see a battle on the scale of the Tain till Brian Boru would rout the Vikings in the eleventh century.

The ending of human sacrifice was common wherever Christianity was introduced, which must have been a blessed relief to those who were at greatest risk of being selected for incredibly brutal, pagan, ritual murder.  I can only imagine it was through the force of personality and authenticity that Patrick was able to overturn that practice.  He seems to have had an enormous amount of courage in facing the brutality of the pagans in Ireland which, I would imagine, impressed them.

The ending of slavery in Ireland, the first place in Europe which I'm aware of it having ended, was, till the time of Patrick, unique.  There had been Chritians who called for the end of slavery,  St. Macrina the Younger and her brother St. Gregory of Nyssa had almost a century before Patrick but he got the powers in Christian Ireland to give it up until it was reintroduced by the English after they invaded and colonized Ireland.  You have to remember that Patrick was an escaped slave, himself, he knew what slavery was in only the way that a slave can know it.

Ireland is unique in religious history for being the only land into which Christianity was introduced without bloodshed.  There were no Irih martyrs (at least not till Elizabeth began to create them eleven centuries after Patrick).  And this lack of martyrdom troubled the Irish, to whom a glorious death by violence presented such an exciting finale.  If all Ireland had received Christianity without a fight, the Irish would have to think up some new form of martyrdom - something even more intereting than the wonderfully grisly store they had begun to learn in the simple continental collections, called "martyrologies," from which Patrick and his successors taught them to read.

Thomas Cahill gets to the subject of his book after that, first the establishment of monaisticism in Ireland and then the rapid transformation of a nearly totally illiterate nation into the scribal publishing powerhouse on the outer edge of Western Europe that, literally, preserved huge parts of classical and even pagan culture, as illiteracy ruled in the rest of Western Europe.  He notes how it was from Ireland that not only Christianity but literacy and the texts of classical and other texts were introduced into Scotland, England, Wales, France and elsewhere in Europe as the medieval period proceeded.  I might go into the ironies, given the popularity of the English "enlightenment" myth, pretty much invented by Edward Gibbon,  that Christians burned the Great Library at Alexandria  among atheists and online Pagans, that it was those poor, put upon pagans who ended the great period of Irish scholarship and intellectual missionary efforts when the Vikings pillaged and destroyed the Irish monasteries in Ireland and elsewhere.

As to how paganism in Ireland fared under Christianity,  Cahill says:

As these transformed warrior children of Patrick's heart lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice and cast aside the chains of slavery,  they very much remained Irishmen and Irishwomen.  Indeed, the survival of an Irish psychological identity is one of the marvels of the Irish story.  Unlike the continental church fathers, the Irish never troubled themselves overmuch about eradicating pagan influences, which the tended to wink at and enjoy. The pagan festivals continued to be celebrated, which is why we today can still celebrate the Irish feasts of May Day and Hallowe'en.  To this day there is a town in Kerry that holds a fertility festival each August, where a magnificent he-goat presides like Cernunnos for three days and nights, and bacchanalian drinking, wild dancing and varieties of sexual indiscretion are the principal entertainments.  It is this characteristically Irish melange of pagan and Christian that forms the theme of Brian Friel's magnificent play "Dancing at Lughnasa" - Lughnasa being the harvest feast of the god Lug, still celebrated on August 1 in parts of Ulster.   Irish marriage customs remained most un-Roman.  As late as the twelfth century - seven centuries after the conversion of the Irish to the Gospel - a husband or wife could call it quits and walk out for good on February 1, the feast of Imbolc, which meant that Irish marriages were renewable yearly, like magazine subscriptions or insurance policies.  As lat as the last century naked men (and, for all we know, women) races horses bareback along Clare's beaches thorough the surf at high tide, looking for all the world like their prehistoric warrior ancestors.  But after Patrick the eviler gods shrank in stature and became much less troublesome, became in fact the comical gargoyles of medieval imagination, peering fearfully from undignified nooks, and the belief grew strong that the one thing the devil cannot bear is laughter.

I'd like to make a distinction between that and how the commercial, brewing industry inspired American style desecration of St. Patrick Day, though the distinction would be subtle.  I'm not exactly sure I agree with him about Hallowe'en, but I will agree with him, completely, about Brian Friel who was a wonderful playwright.

Edmund Campion, the Elizabethan Jesuit who was martyred at Tyburn in 1581 left us a description of the Irish that rings true to this day:

"The people are thus inclined:  religious, franke amorous, irefull, sufferable of paines infinte, very glorious, many sorcerers, excellent horsemen, delighted with warres, great almes-givers, [sur]passing in hospitalitie...  They are sharpe-witted, lovers of learning, capable of any studie whereunto they bend themselves, constant in travaile, adventurous, intractable, kinde-hearted, secret in displeasure."

We can make out in this Elizabethan group portrait not only the Irish of our own day but the lively ghosts of Irishmen long past - Ailil, Medb, Cuchulainn. Derdriu. and, after a fashion, Patrick himself.  Whether or not Freud was right when he muttered in exasperation that the Irish were the only people who could not be helped by psychoanalysis, there can be no doubt of one thing:  the Irish will never change. 

I have often wished my grandparents had lived long enough so I could ask them what they thought about Freudian theories when they first heard of them, their lives included the period when those were translated into English and popularized.   I strongly suspect they'd have thought they were as ridiculous as, in fact, they are and that the many people who fell for that nonsense were ridiculous.  If that's a national trait of the Irish, I don't know.  I am at a loss for how anyone, anywhere, could have been so credulous as to believe in them, but, then, I'm at a loss to understand how much so much of the total nonsense that constitutes the equipment of an allegedly educated English speaker, much of it junk invented in the 18th century, is required to pass as respectable.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Especially Stupid Hate Mail

Why would that dope think I'd be upset that he claims someone gave him some CDs that I wouldn't want?    Especially since I figue he's probably lying about it as he lies about so much.   

I wouldn't even care if someone really did give him CDs I might want.  NOT that I'd expect him to want anything good. 

Andrew Hill - Refuge

Kenny Dorham – trumpet
Eric Dolphy – alto saxophone
Joe Henderson – tenor saxophone
Andrew Hill – piano
Richard Davis – double bass
Tony Williams – drums

The late afternoon sunlight coming in my window made me think of this. 

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson - Peter Serkin - Calling You

She did a great job with the song.   Another singer who died far too young.  One of the best examples I've heard of a classical singer crossing over to a popular song.  She gets right up to the edge of going too far and pulls back just in time.  Peter Serkin's accompaniment is perfect.

Hate Mail

The word "interpret" doesn't mean "impose your choices over the composers'" it doesn't mean "thrilling the ignorant and vulgar by vulgar display".   It means consulting and taking seriously the instructions of the composer and trying to discern the composers' intentions and communicating those, not displaying yourself.  That's called "show biz".   That is when it's not a symptom.  But I don't want to get back to Glenn Gould just now.  

I'm a few years apart from the fine musician, Peter Serkin and have followed his career most of my life.  If you want to see how stupid what Stupy said was, go look up the reviews of his performances, especially the ones where the reviewer didn't agree with Serkin's interpretive decisions.  I suspect he read one review, once, or one jacket cover and is regurgitating what an ignorant critic said about him.  Criticism as a career has something just a little bit pathetic about it, especially when it's just an imposition of opinion without any real basis.   

Mozart -  Sonata in B-Flat Major, K. 570

Update:  Here's what Ned Rorem said and, unusually, I agree with him on this.   "His [Peter Serkin's] uniqueness lies, as I hear it, in a friendly rather than over-awed approach to the classics, which nonetheless he plays with the care and brio that is in the family blood. (And) he's not afraid to be ugly. He approaches contemporary music with the same depth as he does the classics, and he is unique among the superstars in that he approaches it at all."

Ideology Is Just A Con Man's Patter With A College Education

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all evils . . .

1 Timothy

One of the more inconvenient passages of the Scriptures, one of those many involving money that are never mentioned as people concentrate on several about S. E. X. 

Yesterday the estimable Charles Pierce in writing about Robert Mueller's subpoena of Trump's business records said

It looks as though he’s [Mueller] decided that everything with which this president is involved is so irredeemably corrupt and lousy with dirty money that trying to split the difference between which corruption was involved with the campaign, and what dirty money financed it, is an impossible rat’s nest to untangle. So the easiest thing is to light a match and see what burns in what color flame.

Which reminds me that, witnessing the floridly complete corruption of the successor regimes of the great Marxist experiments,  I've concluded we were all suckers for ever believing any of that was a product of ideological conviction or principle, that was always a part of a huge, old-fashioned con job conducted by gangsters who, like all successful con men rope in suckers when necessary and, once in power, rule by ruthless terror, intimidation, and normalizing cynicism and discouragement.  I am convinced that is a more fruitful means of understanding most of the corruption of the 20th century,  the non-royal, pseudo-democratic, pseudo-republics than trying to fit their actions to their claimed beliefs.   Something which works, as well, to explain the evil of the whole series of "most Christian highnesses"  and, really, just about anyone who has held power and managed to work it like a con.

Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, etc. are all more relevantly seen as massively successful gangsters,  others like Trotsky, the pathetic American communists in all of their myriad of penny-ante syndicates, unsuccessful gangsters, often agents for the successful one.   Donald Trump being installed with the help of American and, especially Australian American gangster punks is simply a Russian gangster oligarch succeeding in doing what his predecessors tried all during the 20th century tried to do and failed because American oligarchs found they could do business with him.   The role that the unregulated media played in creating Putin's puppet and installing him in office is an epic in the idiocy of  an ideology that values freedom to lie over the truth, something which, I'll give him credit for,  Putin understood how to corrupt in the most effective way. 

The United States has a long history of florid corruption under a Constitution that is alleged to prevent it, arguably, at times, it has managed to reign in some of the worst of it, though the conquest through genocide of the native population and slavery, both pre and post-civil war, flourished by that document.   And several times there have been great advancements, always on the basis of the distribution of wealth and opportunities, the G. I. Bill, Social Security, Medicaid, in the 19th century The Land Grant Act and Homestead Act,  The Morrill Act - which created the great land-grant universities* . . .  So we know that the easily cynical dodge that all of government is inevitably corrupt is a lie and that when government is not corrupt it can be the means of relief of poverty and destitution and the creation of material well being and far more. 

The abstract models of such things that are so popular with pseudo-sciences, such as political "science,"  even the simple geometric figure of a line from right to left has suckered us for a long time.   So have the ideological systems that turned out in real life to be no more than a con man's patter with a college education.   I do think it's telling that with all their many degrees, with all of their academic esteem - Stephen Cohen, I'm thinking of you - don't seem to know what the author of 1 Timothy knew about the origin of that kind of evil.  And yet they wonder why people don't trust them. 

I don't think anything much new is required to change this, at least in the United States.  One thing that is necessary is to stop the media from lying someone like Trump into existence then putting him in office.   I do think that the career of Rupert Murdoch and his gang makes allowing someone like him into the country where they can propagandize us into, first the toilet, then the sewer, the river American was sold down by "free speech - free press" can serve as what needs to be changed.  Merely making it unprofitable for the media to lie through allowing them to be sued out of it would probably go a long way to protecting us.  And by the media I don't mean as imagined by Herbert Hoover in the early days of radio, I mean any media which has a political or likely political effect, cable is largely what got us Trump though "social media" was certainly a big help to Putin. 

I do think one of the things we have to change is that ideological position which has left us so vulnerable to the corruption of a foreign enemy, but which was always a source of vulnerability to our domestic oligarchs.   The press has to serve the interests of The People in our, individually and collectively, knowing enough of the truth to avoid electing our enemies.   To create a mature enough electorate that will not have a large enough population of suckers led mostly by emotion and, worse, an attraction to spectacle and entertainly outrageous display.   Our media has created the supporters of Trump as surely as they created Trump, the ideology that says they must be allowed to because Madison and Hamilton and John Jay couldn't imagine the modern media and so said what they did about that is unworkable in the 21st century.  It has to be junked for a position that protects the media when it tells the truth but prevents it from lying us into disaster for its own profit. 

But in the end, it was and always has been about the love of money and the power that allows its accumulation.

* I do think it is a tragedy that the great advance in educational opportunity happened in a period when the religious motivations of those such as Jonathan Baldwin Turner were supplanted by the scientistic hegemony and materialist ideology of the late 19th century, which planted the things that would destroy the very basis of such democratic advancements.   The total corruption of scientism and materialism on display in the 20th century dictatorships and, especially, in the Americans, enjoying, often employed by institutions created by beliefs which they were taught to disdain, who supported those anti-democratic ideologies and dictators is a real life example of why those are not sustainable.  The collapse of that into the dictatorships of Putin and, as it may or may not develop, Xi Jinping, following on the other, various "scientific" regime, from extreme right to alleged-left, the ideological support they have had from American intellectuals should discredit that ruse for any thinking person.   Marxism leading to fascism seems to be something of a pattern, all they had to do was dump the socialist ruse that, as used by the Nazis, was as much of a ruse when used by Communists. 

I'm tempted to go again into the various corruptions introduced by such as Oliver Wendell Holmes jr. and the source of them again, but that will have to wait.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Something To Look Out For

Watching the footage of Donald Trump not nailing the election for his guy in Pennsylvania last weekend, I noticed how often when there are people in back of him while he's speaking, there is a minority person behind his left shoulder.
Image result for trump speaking for rick saccone

Image result for trump pennsylvania rally 18th

Image result for trump pennsylvania rally

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Couldn't find a still of the footage of him talking with a black woman with a big hat from last weekend but I saw the footage.

I first noticed that  from other footage of him talking to crowds during the campaign.   What's up with that?   Do they rent them from somewhere?