"It seems to me that to organize on the basis of feeding people or righting social injustice and all that is very valuable. But to rally people around the idea of modernism, modernity, or something is simply silly. I mean, I don't know what kind of a cause that is, to be up to date. I think it ultimately leads to fashion and snobbery and I'm against it."
Jack Levine: January 3, 1915 – November 8, 2010
As I was thinking about the problems of trying to reduce ideas to a molecular form, the entire thing looks massively far fetched to me, in thinking about what I've read on the topic, it seems ever more far fetched. Since the brawl, discussed below, came up over the alleged existence of "empathy" as a product of natural selection, in its modern form, that would mean that those ideas were inherited as behaviors through natural selection.
In terms of materialist dogma, they would almost certainly have to be coded in proteins that were the product of specific "empathy genes" that were what was inherited. But that is quite a problem, in itself. Do proteins of sufficient complexity form as quickly as we have new ideas? And, once one is formed, how does its form become modified to represent a new, twist, as it were, in the idea? Every step between vague consideration and final "proof" of an idea involves myriad different ideas, if that soup of thoughts can realistically be divided into ideas. [In editing this the idea that that division of continuous thinking into discreet ideas isn't exactly a certain and non-problematic act, I don't think it can honestly be done. Is every fraction of a second during which an idea exists in our experience, in our mind but is not formed represented by its specific molecule?]
I briefly searched for time ranges for the production and folding of proteins to see if those have been estimated and haven't found much to go on, though what I have found would lead me to think that the idea, just on the basis of the time it would take to form an "idea protein" and for it to go through the rapid and extraordinarily unpredictable modifications that our ideas take in our most direct experience.*
When you start cogitating on an idea, you never know what you're going to put into it in terms of additional information, speculations, hunches, personal predilections and preferences (many of those not consciously included or even admitted to), things you'll take up and reject, sometimes reconsidering those rejections and putting them, often in modified form, themselves, back into the process. How does the gene, coded to produce a specific type of protein, deal with all of that? And how does it know how to edit out the bad content from the good? Our ideas, we aren't born with them, if there is one thing we can know with absolute confidence that is the case. They aren't formed automatically and unrelated to our own volition, they are frequently the process of intentional effort, for varying motives, honest curiosity, dishonest motivations. And that brings us to the quality of the product. Some ideas are developed in an effort to find the truth, some with the intention of deceiving other people to rob them or use them or to enable the liar to get away with something.
Ideas aren't the simple, definite entities that the breezy materialist presentation of them as the neat packets of genetic heritability insists they are. They are as varied as the indices of all of the books in all of human history times some enormous number that could, plausibly, be infinity. And that is just what we can safely say about human ideas, internal human experience and conception of the universe. About that of other species, we aren't really even that definite about. The only thing we can know about that is that human beings have never experienced life as a member of any other individual of another species in any other genus, family, order class, phylum, or even, possibly kingdom or domain has experienced. Everything said about that is human speculation, based on the consultation of human experience of being a human being with our individual experience.
If the range of possible human ideas exceeds the physical capacity of our physical constituents to form the appropriate molecules in which the materialist would imprison thoughts by one or more than one, then the theory that our consciousness is the mere product of chemistry and physics becomes massively implausible.
And that is just considering the matter on the materialists' own terms. When something other than a material basis of consciousness is considered to be possible, anything the materialist can come up with could merely be a physical artifact of something that is motivated by something entirely different, something that can't fit into their hermetically sealed maze for particles to move around in. Given the problems with the materialists' belief on its most basic terms, its wild difference from my own experience of thinking, I find an immaterial consciousness that is unlike physical matter, operating on other than physical laws and which is able to interact with physical matter in ways more subtle and unlike those things science deals with entirely more plausible. Throwing the words "natural selection" into the gap of scientific knowledge of consciousness seems to me to make the effort less instead of more plausible.
* Here is a post from the somewhat less dogmatic atheist, Larry Moran, on what was known about one stage of protein production, folding, and the many problem of just that process. And I doubt it's anything like a final word on that topic.
Update: The more I think about this the more obvious it is that that our consciousness, our thoughts, our ideas cannot be the product of material causation. We talk about all of those things as if we really can define any of them. The assertion that we know what an idea consists of, as if it were a definite thing that comes into being and has a definite form and character is merely pretense. There isn't anything that constitutes a final entity that is an "idea". Ideas are constantly changing and are developed on an individual basis. Every idea is always contingent, it is always in the process of development, there is no way to fix an idea as final and unchanging. There would be no means of applying such an idea to novel situations if that were the case. The new application would have to alter the idea.
Pretend that there is such a thing as an idea that assumes a final form. If it is represented in a final form by a specific molecule or physical structure then it would have to have been derived from an extraordinary number of previous, related ideas, which would have had to exist as entities discrete enough to have also had a physical basis. The final form would have to develop from the incomplete form. But thoughts don't exist as static entities fixed in some Platonic form, they exist in time and in the ever changing, ever fluctuating conditions of our minds.
If the molecules of the final "idea" are formed of the ruins of the previous molecules that they supersede, where does the memory of those previous states reside?
Nope, I think the idea that our minds are the mere expression of molecules and physical structures is not credible. It isn't molecules all the way down because there is no "thing" to be comprised of those molecules and, anyway, where are the molecules? Our brains would have to be full of them in order to account for that idea and they would have to each be significantly different from the others in order to constitute a different idea.
Well, I'll confess that I already broke my Lenten resolution to not get involved in brawls with atheists. It was about consciousness, specifically, "empathy" as a product of natural selection, something which is not and never will be vulnerable to confirmation or falsification due to the fact that the "behavior" that it would be necessary to observe is lost for all time in the remote past. And that's not to mention the necessity of collecting statistics on the variable reproductive rates of individuals who did and who didn't perform acts deemed to constitute "empathy," something that those pseudo-sci guys never seem to get around to discussing.
Atheism, as the word is usually used today should really be considered just another word for "materialism" or "naturalism" or "physicalism" or whatever neologism a materialist comes up with as the others fall into disrepute. The most basic aspect of our knowledge, the certain and most vitally experienced fact of our consciousness, is an enormous problem for atheism. Everything we experience, everything we sense, everything we can be persuaded to consider as reliable knowledge, rests on that primary experience of our consciousness and there is every reason for people to believe that their consciousness isn't like matter.
As the covert propagandist of materialism, Carl Sagan, so dogmatically put it, "The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be." When he said that he was expressing the most basic article of faith of atheism, as it is almost always articulated, replacing God, in effect, with physical matter and the physical forces that act on that matter. It is veiled expression of Sagan's materialist faith. If that view of life, of the universe is to stand then the problem is to convince people that their consciousness is just like any other material entity. The big problem for that effort is that most people don't conclude that from their own experience, even atheists don't really believe it.
I have mentioned the observation of William James, that a materialist who insists that religious experience is a manifestation of the physical state of their body has to immediately contradict their faith holding in regard to their own ideology. If religious ideas are merely the working of physiology, on a more basic level, the product of body chemistry and the physics of those, then atheism, materialism, science, mathematics, even logic must also be nothing but the working out of the peculiar chemistry that is found in the bodies of those people who have those ideas. Developing that idea, you can safely conclude that the materialist dogma on this would, effectively, equalizes all of those various and conflicting ideas, making them as equal as any other chemical reactions are mere products of unconscious matter. A. S. Eddington, perhaps among others, said exactly that:
Suppose we concede the most extravagant claims that might be made for natural law, so that we allow that the processes of the mind are governed by it; the effect of this concession is merely to emphasise the fact that the mind has an outlook which transcends the natural law by which it functions. If, for example, we admit that every thought in the mind is represented in the brain by a characteristic configuration of atoms, then, if natural law determines the way in which the configurations of atoms succeed one another it will simultaneously determine the way in which thoughts succeed one another in the mind. Now the thought of “7 times 9" in a boy’s mind is not seldom succeeded by the thought of “65.” What has gone wrong? In the intervening moments of cogitation everything has proceeded by natural laws which are unbreakable. Nevertheless we insist that something has gone wrong. However closely we may associate thought with the physical machinery of the brain, the connection is dropped as irrelevant as soon as we consider the fundamental property of thought – that it may be correct or incorrect. The machinery cannot be anything but correct. We say that the brain which produces “7 times 9 are 63" is better than a brain that produces “7 times 9 are 65"; but it is not as a servant of natural law that it is better. Our approval of the first brain has no connection with natural law; it is determined by the type of thought which it produces, and that involves recognising a domain of the other type of law – laws which ought to be kept, but may be broken. Dismiss the idea that natural laws may swallow up religion; it cannot even tackle the multiplication table single-handed.
You can see what a problem that is for atheism. If even basic mathematics is to be held to be an articulation of brain chemistry, that the asserted material structure of thought "is all that is or was or ever will be," there is no legitimate means of preferring one over the other. You have to exit the closed maze of materialism in order to assert that one is preferable to the other, a scientist and mathematical thinker as accomplished and subtle as Eddington was, pointed it out. For the materialist wanting to assert a scientific basis of ideas, of thoughts, of consciousness, it is even a greater problem than it is for the atheistic mathematician.
When atheists assert that consciousness and the product of consciousness are merely the expression of matter, they create an impossible situation for science.
Science is not contained anywhere except in the minds of scientists and students of science, it is entirely comprised of ideas that they have. If those ideas are the expression of chemistry, presumably having physical form in complex molecules, any variation of those molecules would have to constitute different ideas. Any variation in the idea must have a corresponding difference in molecular form and any difference in form would have to constitute a different idea. If that is the case any idea that someone has, which changes, which is modified, which varied, at all, in expression would have to be the product of a different molecule. And those modifications would come about through personal consideration, the personal experience of tossing those ideas around in those "brain only" brains in the way that we do any idea to make sense of it. It would almost have to be true that no two scientists could have the same concept of an observation of nature or anything that scientists derive from those observations, up to and including laws of nature, probably no scientist could maintain a stable idea about science that wasn't constantly changing as they thought about it and compared it to other observations and ideas. If that's the case then even the most basic laws of physics, chemistry, biology, even the most basic axioms of mathematics and logic, would have an indefinite and nebulous existence, being different for just about, if not for every single scientist, student of science, for every single person who held those ideas. That would be a most basic negation of the universal truth of science, mathematics, logic, of every single idea that people can have. That would produce the ultimate in solipsism. It would have to or it would have to entirely deny the possibility that there was anything knowable as being true, something that is entirely at odds with human experience and the claims of atheists.
As I have said before, materialism can only matter, it can only be true, if it is wrong.
One of the most common items atheists pull out of their grab bag of bromides, buzz words, misused terms of formal logic (for which Sagan must also be credited) to insert irrelevantly in their assertions is the accusation that someone is looking for "God in the gaps." What is so funny about that is that atheists, treating matter as God, are the foremost practitioners of doing that, today. In no other aspect of atheist polemics is that more true than when it treats consciousness. The "hard problem" of turning consciousness into a material substance was the special project of Francis Crick in the last decades of his life. At his funeral his son announced that he had, in fact, failed to dispose of consciousness as anything but the mere product of chemistry and physics. He failed to put the final "nail in the coffin of vitalism". Why he should have been trying to do that, pretending his ideological quest was science when it was merely ideological, is an interesting question. Over and over again, atheists within science have used science to promote their atheism. The history of the social "sciences," the behavioral "sciences," abiogenesis, multi-universe cosmology, neuro-science, ... are either explicitly motivated by an attempt to promote materialistic ideology as science or they hijack actual science to do the same thing, all with the tacit, if not explicit, approval of other scientists. They are always asserting the soundness of the "promissory notes of materialism" that Karl Popper admitted such scientists were always issuing, when those notes have, one after another, come up as unpaid. Those empty promises are promoted on the faith in the materialist exposition of reality, they are sold to a public that is generally as unaware of the scam as they are the ideological motives behind it. None of this is sound science, as seen above, it is philosophically bankrupt.
An interesting sideline to this is found in this article on Truthout, of all places, in which the failure of a molecular explanation of mental illness is discussed.
Question: In Anatomy of an Epidemic, you also discussed the pseudoscience behind the "chemical imbalance" theories of mental illness - theories that made it easy to sell psychiatric drugs. In the last few years, I've noticed establishment psychiatry figures doing some major backpedaling on these chemical imbalance theories. For example, Ronald Pies, editor-in-chief emeritus of the Psychiatric Times stated in 2011, "In truth, the ‘chemical imbalance' notion was always a kind of urban legend - never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists." What's your take on this?
This is quite interesting and revealing, I would say. In a sense, Ronald Pies is right.Those psychiatrists who were "well informed" about investigations into the chemical imbalance theory of mental disorders knew it hadn't really panned out, with such findings dating back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. But why, then, did we as a society come to believe that mental disorders were due to chemical imbalances, which were then fixed by the drugs?
Dr. Pies puts the blame on the drug companies. But if you track the rise of this belief, it is easy to see that the American Psychiatric Association promoted it in some of their promotional materials to the public and that "well informed" psychiatrists often spoke of this metaphor in their interviews with the media. So what you find in this statement by Dr. Pies is a remarkable confession: Psychiatry, all along, knew that the evidence wasn't really there to support the chemical imbalance notion, that it was a hypothesis that hadn't panned out, and yet psychiatry failed to inform the public of that crucial fact.
By doing so, psychiatry allowed a "little white lie" to take hold in the public mind, which helped sell drugs and, of course, made it seem that psychiatry had magic bullets for psychiatric disorders. That is an astonishing betrayal of the trust that the public puts in a medical discipline; we don't expect to be misled in such a basic way.
But why now? Why are we hearing these admissions from Dr. Pies and others now? I am not sure, but I think there are two reasons.
One, the low-serotonin theory of depression has been so completely discredited by leading researchers that maintaining the story with the public has just become untenable. It is too easy for critics and the public to point to the scientific findings that contradict it.
I will note, to end, that psychiatry has polled as the most atheistic of medical specialties. Which may have a bit to do with their particular denomination of bad promissory notes in that materialist market place.
Here is an answer to an atheist who pushes the Sam Harris line blaming all religious people for the crimes of men like the 9-11 murderers. It centers around the typical practice of atheists, setting up double standards that favor them, absolving them from the kind of vicarious blame that at least half of their slander of religious people is based in.
Well, atheist guy, Christians who commit crimes that are forbidden by the teachings of Jesus, obviously did them for other than religious reasons. The same thing with Muslims who commit acts forbidden by Islam and Jews who commit acts forbidden by The Law.
I have no problem with saying atheists who don't practice a double standard such as the one you and your fellow neo-atheists set up in their favor, aren't responsible for the massive depravity that every single government in the control of atheists, not all of them Communist, have committed. It is a uniform history of depraved dictatorship and massive murder starting with the Reign of Terror. It continues through every single government dominated by atheists up to and including the Kim regime in North Korea, today.
By insisting on your double standard that favors atheists you invite anyone you hope to disadvantage by it to hold you responsible for the collective crimes of atheists who, unlike those Christian criminals, were violating no moral doctrine of atheism. Their atheism provided absolutely no inhibition from doing what they did, not even that which so frequently fails - but sometimes succeeds which is the central feature of Christian morality. Atheists who act in accordance with those are upholding values taught by Jesus, not anything found in atheism. Ironically enough.
If you want to call attention to the deficiencies of atheism, I'm powerless to stop you doing so. Really, feel free to do so.
Greenwald’s Boss Omidyar provided 36% of “Center UA”’s $500,000 budget in 2012— nearly $200,000. USAID provided 54% of “Center UA”’s budget for 2012. Other funders included the US government-backed National Endowment for Democracy... ... According to financial disclosures and reports published by Pando, the founder and publisher of Glenn Greenwald’s new venture co-invested with the US government to help fund regime change in Ukraine.
The incredible Gordian Knot of conflicts of interest surrounding the Snowden-Greenwald Cult needs to be chopped open and looked at.
Snowden, working for Booz Allen Hamilton, of which the Bush crime family connected Carlyle Group is the majority owner, stole more than a million documents from the NSA. Which, according to Glenn Greenwald, he handed to him and his partner, Laura Poitras, so they could start attacking the NSA and its violations of privacy. I will quickly pass over the near certainty that, in his flight to, first China and then Russia, Snowden gave those governments and their intelligence services, among the most privacy un-friendly governments in the world, everything he was carrying with him. Probably the entire cache of stolen intelligence and any encryption keys he had placed on it. They'd have traded him to the U.S. government if he hadn't bought his way out of extradition with the only thing he had that they really, really would want.
Greenwald and Poitras, since then, have teamed up with Pierre Omidyar to the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars to form a new media venture. As the few people who have paid attention to that have asked, does anyone believe that part of Omidyar's agreement was that HE wouldn't have access to the more than a million documents they had, which would be extremely valuable to any large corporate interest. Among other things, it is a virtual certainty that there would be information about competing business entities that could be of enormous value to someone like Omidyar.
And, to continue with the knotting, it then turns out that Omidyar, in his role as co-founder of Pay Pal, himself has cooperated with the NSA in data collection of exactly the kind Greenwald et al pretend was such a terrible violation of privacy rights. Not only that but his co-founder is a big fan of the NSA. And now, as it turns out, Omidyar is involved in many other government and quasi-governmental programs, including encouraging the overturning of an elected government in Ukraine.
And this is supposed to be how an alternative media is founded and behaves. Not only an "alternative media" but a media which we are supposed to accept as some kind of heroic manifestation of leftist anti-establishment effort.
If you are finding it hard to take the sales job seriously that would be because it is so obviously corrupt. Glenn Greenwald is a center-right libertarian fraud whose only target is the Obama administration. I don't know enough about Poitras to be able to come up with an explanation of her hypocrisy but Greenwald has a long archive of material to show where he's coming from. The Greenwald groupies on the pseudo-lefty blogs are too lazy and stupid to look at it and ask questions. They are contented to just go with the flow, not caring that the flow is coming from the direction that the stink they're whining about comes from, as well.
This is about 42 days early, the Lamentations of Jeremiah not being sung until the last days of Holy Week but these are such incredible masterpieces that it could take that long to become familiar with them. Orlando di Lasso (spelled many different ways, in French Italian and Latin) is one of my favorite composers of the high Renaissance, better than the renowned Palestrina, in my opinion.
Philippe Herreweghe conductor
Ensemble Vocal Europeen de la Chapelle Royale
Creating Problems Business men say that because everybody is selfish, business must therefore be based on selfishness. But when business is based on selfishness everybody is busy becoming more selfish. And when everybody is busy becoming more selfish, we have classes and clashes. Business cannot set its house in order because business men are moved by selfish motives. Business men create problems, they do not solve them When Civilization Decays When the bank account is the standard of values the class on the top sets the standard. When the class on the top cares only for money it does not care for culture. When the class on the top does not care for culture, nobody cares for culture And when nobody cares for culture, civilization decays. When class distinction is not based on the sense of noblesse oblige, it becomes clothes distinction. When class distinction has become clothes distinction everybody tries to put up a front.
There isn't anything especially surprising in what Peter Maurin was saying and there isn't anything especially unsaid before but compare its radicalism with what passes as the common wisdom among the pseudo-left today. The left is unpopular because it has alienated so many of The People, because it has stopped being a real left. Just go on any comment thread on just about any secular "leftist" blog and observe how people talk about the working poor. As I've mentioned here before, one of the most succinct expressions of that was someone angrily asking if they were going to have to be polite to "fat stupid nascar fans". Of course the answer is, yes, if you want their support instead of their opposition. I think for a lot of people on the pseudo-left wearing polyester is a more absolute exclusion than being an advocate of modern slavery. Given the popularity of pornography and prostitution on the allegedly leftish sites, that is a certainty. You can't have a left that is anymore than just a variation on the right with that standard of value.
When I first went online and, in response to the non-stop promotion of banal pop-culture on allegedly leftish blogs, talked about other music and books, I was accused of being an elitist. But an elitist is someone who wants to use high art to enforce social class - in my experience most of the upper class association with high art was exactly for that purpose, though even something as damaging to the soul as being rich can't kill the genuine ability to be moved by art. The answer to that charge is that I'm such an elitist that I won't be satisfied until everyone is elite, able and free to love and experience any kind of art, able to distinguish art from commercial garbage that appeals to the lowest, most base aspects of human personality and culture. And, again, I've gone over Maurin's word count.
1. Afraid of the poor who don't like to get poorer, the rich who like to get richer turn to the State for protection. 2. But the State is not only the State of the rich it is also the State of the poor who don't like to get poorer. 3. So the State sometimes chooses to help the many poor who don't like to get poorer, at the expense of the few rich who like to get richer. 4. Dissatisfied with the State, the rich who like to get richer turn to the Church to save them from the poor who don't like to get poorer. 5. But the Church can only tell the rich who like to get richer: "Woe to you rich who like to get richer, if you don't help the poor who don't like to get poorer."
Peter Maurin's Easy Essays were first published in book form in 1949, it is sad to think of how anachronistic his description of the role of the state in providing justice for the poor is. That is what has happened in the thirty-four years since Reagan took office or, if you will, the even longer since Nixon began dismantling Johnson's Great Society and Roosevelt's New Deal. We've gone back to the pre-depression attitude on that, led first and foremost by the free press that is free to sell itself to the highest bidder. And that will never, ever be the poor, it won't ever even be the working poor or even the middle class. While there are many things that prove the insincerity of the pseudo-left, if not their stupidity, it is the faith put in and the support given to the media. With the coming of electronic mass media a new geological age dawned and an entirely new media environment replaced that of print, it is one that values superficiality and dishonesty and, most damaging of all, centralization of attention on to media that is superficial, dishonest and which has the corruption of an audience whose highest function is to be duped consumers of products.
Maurin was deeply skeptical of even the Christian radicalism of the Catholic Worker, of which he was the co-founder. His vision was too radical even for that media organ. While many of his ideas wouldn't be relevant and he made some notable mistakes, his endorsement of Eric Gill, perhaps the most shocking of those. Though in Maurin's defense, he was entirely unaware of Gill's profound private depravity, as everyone outside of his family seems to have been. And there were other things which are kind of jolting in their pre-war phrasing, things I would expect he would have put differently if he had a gift or prophesy required by critics of all but their own heroes.
Still, that aside, Maurin's writing, at its most useful, still seem to me to be far more radical than anything the heroes of secular radicalism ever produced.