Jump to content


Senior Members
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Marat

  1. Better still, why not turn the question around and ask where the Germans get 'Bestechung' for bribery? From 'stechen,' meaning 'stick' or 'prick,' since the official seeking a bribe gives you a little stab in asking for something extra? Or from 'stechen' in cards, where it corresponds to the English 'trump,' since the demand for a bribe trumps the way the legal process is supposed to work?
  2. When dealing with a book filled with magical and fantastic assertions, some of which it is agreed must be interpreted metaphorically, how do you know which parts to take as metaphors and which to take literally? Thus in the context of the present discussion, why not interpret the Anti-Christ as some more general intellectual trend or influence, rather than as a person? Perhaps it is really meant to refer to Neo-Liberal Economic Theory, for example.
  3. Buddhism has a famous statement that if you see the Buddha on the street, you should kill him. The idea here is that the proper focus for the good Buddhist should be on the idea of what the Buddha represents, not on the person. But what most religions seek is some excuse to worship something other than the human moral order, which is itself known to be historically variable, culturally arbitrary, and often rationally questionable. The desire underlying the religious impulse is to give belief and moral value some independent ontological ground, so that rather than saying I believe murder is wrong because I value human life as my supreme ethical duty, we can say that in addition to our own moral commitment, there is also an independent, all-powerful, infinitely good, infinitely wise God, a perfect divine text or texts (Old Testament, Talmud, for Jews), a sacred tradition, or an absolutely reliable messenger (Mohammed for Moslems) which provides a separate factual warrant for our commitment. Some religions even make up an obviously fake factual warrant for their beliefs, such as Scientology or Mormonism, but the believers all agree to pretend that the clearly unreliable nature of their independent ontological support is not a problem. I think it is more consonant with the modern way of thinking to abandon ontological supports for what we believe and instead just to believe in systems of value or truth in and of themselves, with no external props being necessary. This is what science did in rejecting Cartesian particles in motion and accepting Newtonian action at a distance as the only concept able to account for the observed motion of the planets, regardless of its ontological deficiencies as a causal mechanism. This is also what was done in jettisoning phlogiston, the aether, calorique, and heat matter, replacing them by dynamical theories or abstract structures. So why not give up assumption that we have to believe in an 'Ethics-Endorsing-and-Supporting Thing' and instead just believe in ethics?
  4. 'Pascal's Wager' famously states that everyone should believe in God, since if we believe in him and he doesn't exist, we lose nothing, while if we refuse to believe in him and he does exist, then we lose our ability to enter into Heaven. But the premise is false, since believing in a fantasy whose purported rules for life limit your ability to act according to your own rational, ethical judgment is in itself a great misfortune, since you abandon the dignity of human rationality and your claim to be an ethically significant being, given that you act according to imaginary orders of an imaginary being, rather than on your own courageous judgment. On the other hand, losing the promise of Heaven by refusing to believe in God's existence costs you nothing if you decline to believe in fairy tales. I wouldn't cite Voltaire to support belief in God, given that Voltaire himself was an atheist! He may have a character in 'Candide' state that this is the best of all possible worlds, but he doesn't believe it himself. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz felt he had to prove that this was the best of all possible worlds before he could assert that God exists, but his proof got him tangled up in a ridiculous notion of 'universal compossibility' such that Lee Harvey Oswald's bullets striking Kennedy in Dallas would have to be seen as an absolutely necessary event, without which the entire universe would fall apart. But since we would simply have to have irrational faith to believe in that connection, we don't make any headway with it in proving the existence of God, belief in whom also requires irrational faith. The anthropic principle is stated in various ways, but it usually means that unless human beings had the type of perceptual and intellectual apparatus that they actually do have, they would not be able to perceive and interact with the world at all. This then presents an apparent paradox that the world is designed perfectly to match our capacity to perceive it, but in fact there is no great coincidence here at all, since evolutionary processes obviously have to design organic entities to be able to perceive their environment in order to survive, so the physical world simply shaped us to be able to see and comprehend it, and the coincidence disappears. Also, given that there is a discussion now going on about how the world looks and what it means, and that discussion could only occur among those whose perceptual and cognitive appartus 'fit' the world so that they could perceive and describe it, there is no real coincidence that we are having this discussion. There may have been a trillion other cases where beings came into existence who could not perceive their world, or worlds existed which their resident beings could not perceive, but they all drop out of the picture since the only world in which this issue can be discussed is the one in a trillion where the beings turned out to be able to perceive the world around them.
  5. Another problem with the modern climate change consensus is the supposedly imminent swamping of the island nation of Tuvalu. This tiny island in the South Pacific is just about at sea level, and in the 1970s a guage was installed on the ocean bed near it to determine when it would start to be covered by the rising seas as an inevitable result of the melting of ice associated with global warming. Since the guage failed to cooperate, however, it was replaced with another more recently in a different place to disguise the failure of the predicted results, and Tuvalu remains an intact land mass. But melting water has to go somewhere! I don't pretend to be a climate scientist or anything close to it, but I am concerned at what appears to be the politicization of science with respect to this issue. The whole 'Gaia' movement which regards humanity as a toxic parasite on the Sacred Mother Earth which is much more important to preserve, even at the cost of extinguishing that parasite; the whole movement of environmental trogdolites who would like nothing better than to have an excuse to dismantle the industrial and scientific world so that we could all return to the Rousseauian paradise of living in a cave with a candle while enjoying the fresh, clean air and the trickling streams; and the aggressively naturist Green Peace and animal rights movements all seem to inject an irrational, messianic, religious aspect into the climate change debate which threatens to silence critics rather than to accord them the fair hearing that Popperian falsifiability standards normally allow in science. Science and politics often get mixed in deleterious ways, even in the modern world, as the examples of Lysenko and the Nazi theory of 'blood purity' suggest. There was a very serious international congress on maintaining the purity of the blood in Germany in 1936, which was interpreted, not as avoiding septicemia, but as ensuring racial purity, which is a form of reasoning essentially based just on a pun -- but still, Ph.D.s and M.D.s were seriously arguing this nonsense. The general problem with science is that it is often internally perfectly accurate in its methods, but the entire theory is based on a suppressed and false premise. There is so much at stake in this debate that any hint of political irrationality in the science backing it up should encourage everyone to be a climate sceptic. Given the current design of our political institutions, the multi-trillion dollar cost of destroying the carbon economy and building the infrastructure for a green economy to replace it (the suburbs, for example, where more than half the population now lives, have got to go) is going to be imposed exclusive on the poor and the lower middle class, with catastrophic impacts on life expectancy, health, mental illness, alcoholism, crime, unemployment, and economic growth stagnation. People forget that even with the most efficient operation possible of our existing carbon-based economy, recessions and depressions still occur, and most Western nations have an unemployment rate of around 10%, plus massive debts. What is going to happen if we now deliberately burden these economies with the hugely-expensive transition to a green economy? The surplus wealth generated by the uninterrupted operation of the carbon-based economy is a prerequisite to finding cures for cancer, diabetes, renal disease, lupus, atherosclerosis, etc., so you can forget ever seeing any of that for yourself or your great-grandchildren if a drastic transition to a green economy soaks up all our resources.
  6. The paper clips I use are made by Acco (www.acco.com), with offices in Wheeling, Illinois, Willowdale, Ontario, Canada, and Mexico. They are classified as '#1' paper clips, which I suppose relates to their size. Even if just a very few paper clips in any given box were tangled, it is still a mystery, given the difficulty of manually entangling or disentangling them. Since their component wires are so tightly pressed together, pulling them apart to hook one into the other, which is how they often appear in the package, takes a lot of force (even if you don't suffer from Parkinsonianism!) Since I deal sometimes with medical reagent strips and find that these are also stuck together in their package, I assume that this sticking together of things is the result of the way they are manufactured. Perhaps we should email Acco and ask them?
  7. Generally, all populations identify features associated with health as those indicative of beauty, so there might be some transcultural features which all people would agree on as being attractive. Features associated with aging, for example, would be associated with disease, and would thus mark people out as less attractive. Genes associated with ugliness might be preserved in a population by ugly people having no partners available to them other than people who were also ugly. So even though ugliness is a disinducement to selection for mating in the general population, the subpopulation of uglies would mate with each other and keep the traits going. Something similar can be seen with the preservation of genes for short stature even in cultures where height is considered attractive, since the only mates short people who aren't millionaires (e.g., Aristotle Onassis) can find are other short people. The famous biologist Sir Francis Galton believed that ugliness could be objectively identified, and he concluded on the basis of an extensive survey that the ugliest women in Britain were to be found in Edinburgh. He also used a theodolite as an objective measure to gather statistics on the size of African women's derrieres, though whether this had any association with his study of comparative attractiveness is unclear.
  8. It's important not to make the inferential leap from the fact that we don't have much information to test the reality of God's purported existence to the assumption that the evidence of the reality of his existence must be very hard to find. It may also be the case that the whole hypothesis has no real-world application, and so there is no evidence for it. Wittgenstein was concerned to rid philosophy of false problems which only seem to state real issues requiring examination because they can be framed in the familiar form of genuine questions. If I ask, "What is the greatest natural number?" my stating the question needn't imply that there is an answer, or that the very idea of there being a possible answer, or possible quest we could set out on to find the answer, makes any sense. In the modern West what people usually mean by 'God' is an omnipotent, omniscient, ubiquitous, sempiternal, infinitely good entity which can act upon the universe but which also stands apart from it as a distinct object, conscious of its surroundings and also of itself. As an extraordinary hypothesis, it requires extraordinary evidence to induce us either to investigate it seriously or eventually to accept its reality, but we have no such evidence. Also, given that there are evils in the world a) which don't appear to be the result of human free will creating evil consequences; b) which could easily be prevented by an infinitely good and powerful God but which are unaccountably permitted to happen; c) which seem easily avoidable or greatly diminishable by simple, non-disruptive re-designings of the world such as a good and omniscient God would have undertaken (e.g., no Progeria cases, no Huntington's gene) but did not, the whole God-hypothesis just seems logically impossible given the nature of what we all know about the world.
  9. The section in Ezekiel where the arrival of what might be robots from a spacecraft illustrates the poverty of contemporary language in attempting to describe a complex mechanism. In fact, the dissonance between the linguistic resources of the observers and what we suppose they were reporting helps confirm that the sightings actually occurred in the distant past, rather than having been concocted today and made to seem historical. Another reason why the blimp sightings over America in the 1890s were probably not actual blimp prototypes is that there would have been little motivation to keep that invention a secret, given the economic advantages and professional prestige for the first inventors becoming known. A possible alternative is that the U.S. government had made these blimps and was trying to keep them a secret while yet still testing them (the sightings were generally a night), but the slow development of the blimp and derigible by the U.S. after Graf Zeppelin's model became public suggests that the U.S. could not have had a secret program a decade earlier. There's a Renaissance painting with a clear illustration of a modern flying saucer floating in space near the Virgin Mary's head, but whether this was meant to depict something the artist had actually seen flying in the sky or was some abstract decoration cannot be determined now. Better examples are actual written reports, such as that of the flying barrel emiting smoke in the 17th century and sending out 'angels' to collect and measure fluid samples from the people below.
  10. Where there is an absence of good evidence for believing in something extraordinary, that is not a good reason for us to keep an open mind with respect to possible future evidence for it, but is instead a good reason for us to dismiss speculation about it entirely. Our absence of good evidence for an extraordinary being like God should prompt the same response in us as our absence of good evidence for the Tooth Fairy. Extraordinary hypotheses require not only extraordinary proof for them to be established, but they also require extremely strong evidence to justify us in adopting a seriously inquisitive attitude toward them. Otherwise we shall fall victim to an infinite regress of demands that we seriously investigate, wonder about, suspend belief about everything from the Sandman to Leprechauns, so that we can never get through all of that to studying ordinary reality. God is an especially strange hypothesis, since the only purported evidence for his existence comes from the same book of magical legends and extraordinary tales that formulates the God-hypothesis itself. So the 'evidence' for this extraordinary thing has to come from an equally extraordinary book of apparent fairy tales whose own authority as evidence would have to be established by extraordinary evidence. But we never get out of this charmed circle of the one extraordinary trying to pull itself up by the support offered to it by another extraodinary, both of which still need -- and lack! -- some external evidence to establish their own bona fides as evidence. God could be a sensible hypothesis if we take it in the sense used by Aristotle and other ancient thinkers, who conceived God as the first uncaused cause of the universe, a kind of focal-point 'big bang' which first got things going. But this is not really what we mean by 'God' today. Formally, we could say that the God hypothesis is amounts to saying that the moral order of the world is made necessarily valid by some omnipotent entity affirming it, though how this could be proved rather than just asserted remains unclear. Even if the God hypothesis is itself ridiculous as an affirmed belief, it is still worth studying and commenting on, given its importance in the intellectual and cultural history of the world, and the entertaining puzzles the idea of God presents to philosophical reflection.
  11. What mainly bothers me about the global warming consensus is that we know that there are some causes of global climate change operative which are not caused by humans, and that these forces are large, difficult to isolate, hard to quantify, and vary in ways we don't completely understand. If we accept that there is this large unknown being intermixed with the human contribution to global warming, then how do we know how signficant the human contribution to global warming is? It is accepted that the world is gradually moving out of the Ice Age of 10,000 years ago, so global warming to some degree is the norm against which all changes must be considered. For example, the archeological record shows that there were farming settlements in central Greenland around the year 1100, and yet that area is today surrounded by vast glaciers all around. What made Greenland so warm then, when the human contribution to global warming was next to nothing compared to today, and why did Greenland cool down so dramatically to its condition today, two hundred years after the beginning of the massive increase in CO2 outputs from the industrial revolution? Similarly, there was a Little Ice Age in the 18th century, with snow being recorded in New England in June, so why, with so many more people and cattle emitting CO2 during the development spurt of the 18th century, was it getting so much colder? During the 1960s and early 1970s climate scientists were all in a panic about the fact that the next Ice Age was overdue, and there was a similar concern back then that the world was becoming colder, not warmer. Now the next generation of these scientists is telling us the opposite, which has to make us reasonably doubt the certainty of their science. There are also short-term climate variations which can complicate the accurate perception of general trends. Since widespread, accurate temperature records first began in the 1880s, the world has followed a pattern of alternating cycles of warming and cooling, each lasting about 30 years. Solar activity and complexities of the earth's ocean currents also alter cooling and warming of the earth in irregular ways. The scientist who coined the term 'global warming,' who is now Professor a Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, himself doesn't believe that global warming is a serious problem, and recounts how everyone in the 1960s and 1970s laughed at him for even bothering to raise it as an issue. A Professor of Climatology at MIT, who probably knows more about climate science than anyone posting on this forum, also regards global warming as nonsense. These few authorities can't decide the issue, of course, but they do suggest that its resolution is probably complex in a way that most people cannot adequately resolve for themselves, and yet the demand for consensus on this issue is now practically religious in its intensity. But this elevation of Belief in Global Warming almost to a new branch of Political Correctness, to a kind of substitute social glue marking off the good from the bad now that the traditional social glue of religion is no longer available to promote social cohesion, also makes me sceptical. The fact that climate scientists have broken into two camps, each refusing to publish each other's work in their own journals, suggests that normal scientific rationality is breaking down in this area. The scandal a few years ago when scientists at the University of East Anglia were found to have cooked their data to make it look as though global warming was a more serious issue should also arouse scepticism about the politicized nature of thinking in this field.
  12. That raises another interesting point, which is that even if the criminal in this case is convicted on the reduced charge of manslaughter or is found not guilty by reason of insanity, there is still the option of the relatives of the person killed bringing a civil suit against the criminal for the damage he inflicted on the family in terms of loss of financial support or companionship. Since this is only a civil suit for a tort, the standard of proof for the complainant is only proof on the balance of probabilities (i.e., just slightly higher than 50-50), so winning is easier. This is the strategy that was successfully pursued by the relatives of the person O. J. Simpson was tried for killing, after he was found not guilty in the criminal case.
  13. Since third-rate Caribbean M.D.s can be hired to work at American hospitals as long as they are theoretically under the supervision of a licensed M.D., we already have a situation in which cut-rate and unqualified 'doctors' are delivering a lot of care just to save salary costs. The Soviet Union and Maoist China resorted to similar expedients by graduating 'doctors' from highly compressed and streamlined courses to save training costs, yet most of these graduates are today ineligible for professional accreditation elsewhere. Even the West churned out substandard physicians during the compressed medical degree courses offered during World War II to put more doctors into military service quickly, yet many of these people were practising as ordinary phyisicans in civilian life until recently. Not many people know that you could still get a correspondence school medical degree from the University of London external program until 1952, and those 'doctors' were still practising until not long ago. Until circa 1910 physician-training in the U.S. was essentially unregulated, and anyone could call himself a medical doctor, whether trained in Thomsonianism, homeopathy, water cures, electric medicine, or conventional allopathic medicine. Patients had the freedom to pick the practitioner they wanted, though they had the right to know how that person had been trained and what school of medical theory he subscribed to. Why not do the same today in the name of patient medical freedom? As long as the customer knows what he is getting himself into, why shouldn't he be allowed to hire a quack to remove his left arm and re-attach it to the middle of his back if he wants? The U.S. declares itself to be uniquely dedicated to individual liberty, yet in medicine it is one of the most restrictive countries on earth.
  14. The experience of general anesthesia, which is fairly common, can cause a loss of a few IQ points, as can episodes of severe hypoglycemia. I have also seen clear personality changes in people following a single concussion. More disturbing are the declines in intelligence with age. The range of vocabulary used by authors over their writing career has been studied, and the shrinking array of words used with advancing age is quite unsettling. However, the genius murderer Nathan Leopold Jr., who was imprisoned from 1924 to 1958 (ages 18 to 52), found that his IQ was essentially unchanged over the duration of his incarceration, despite the relative lack of intellectual stimulation. Perhaps intellectual function is more resistant to age in geniuses. The best solution to intellectual decline with age, beyond committing suicide while still young and bright to stop the decay, is to try to compensate for the deterioration of 'hard' structures by continuing to build up 'soft' structures. Essentially this means that you continue to learn and think energetically, in the hopes of improving your armory of intellectual assets to compensate for loss of thinking speed.
  15. As commented above, beer-drinking causes fat deposits around the lower abdomen. Also, hormone problems can cause this to develop as well. An unlikely alternative in the developed world is extreme malnutrition, which can caused the distended abdomen seen in starving people in the Third World.
  16. The apparent 'spontaneous combustion' in the death of Mary Reeser, a 67-year-old widow of St. Petersburg, Florida, on July 1, 1951 was extensively investigated by Dr. Wilton Krogman, a forensic scientist from the University of Pennsylvania. He was surprised that the fire that consumed her had not even damaged a pile of papers found next to her remains. He was particularly startled by the fact that her skull had shrunk to about the size of a grapefruit, even though in most cases of death by fire, the boiling of the brain causes the skull to expand. Since he felt that a fire as extensive as that which had consumed Mary Reeser to ashes should have burned the entire room rather than have gone out on its own without touching the surroundings, he concluded that she must have been abducted, burned elsewhere in a crematorium, and her body dumped back in its apartment to make the death look accidental. But why wouldn't the murderer just have knocked her unconscious and then set the apartment on fire? Or even if someone had burned her elsewhere, why not at least try to make the rest of the apartment look as if the fire had occurred there, at least by burning the stack of papers next to the body, for example?
  17. Stanley Coren, a University of British Columbia psychology professor, suggests in his book, 'How to Speak Dog' (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2000) that dogs do on occasion abandon, exchange, and re-adopt alpha roles with each other. I know that in the case of my two dachshunds, the usually subordinate female will, on occasion, emphatically assert dominance over the typically alpha male dog, who then looks puzzled for a moment but quickly starts acting submissively, getting off the couch when she barks at him, rather than barking her off the couch, letting her have first pick of the chew chips, etc. This lasts at most for a day, and then things shift back to the usual hierarchy. It does seem odd that obviously disadvantageous traits like nearsightedness survived in the human population over the thousands of years before glasses came into existence, at least for special purposes like reading, in the 14th century. Even though they were in theory available, they were not generally used until the 18th century, and Isaac Newton once confessed that he was so myopic that he had never actually seen the stars. Perhaps the survival of myopia can be attributed to the longstanding role of human communities in cooperating to protect the weaker members of the tribe, thus diminishing the effect of natural survival pressures.
  18. Marat

    TUMs effect!

    People often experience acid splashback in the upper esophagus from having too little hydrogen chloride available for digestion, and then when they interpret their symptoms of excess acidity and take an antacid, they simply make things worse. Many of these patients are astonished to find that they feel much better if they take HCl rather than an antiacid for their symptoms. For this reason, Tums and other similar over-the-counter medications are usually the wrong thing to take. If you really do have a problem with too much stomach acidity, a proton-pump inhibitor such as Nexium is the better alternative. Tums is, in any case, just 'smut' spelled backwards.
  19. In the public bathrooms of Ancient Rome, everyone shared the same stick with a sponge on the end for purposes of personal hygiene after finishing his appointed task. With no germ theory of disease, refusing to use this stick after your neighbor was finished with it and offered it to you was simply rude. Similarly, human urine was used as a dentifrice, since it is good at removing dental calculus, and it was also used as a laundry detergent. I wonder why, however, everyone wasn't sick all the time? Stronger immune systems from greater exposure to germs?
  20. The law has historically imposed gender-specific burdens on both wives and husbands. Husbands, not wives, were obligated to pay spousal support after a divorce, regardless of which person had the greater economic resources. This was only very gradually altered in Canadian law in the 1980s. The assets of husbands, not wives, could be pledged by the other spouse to support a debt obligation, and upon separation or divorce husbands had to publish a legal notice in the newspaper, called a notchel, to inform creditors that they were no longer legally obligated to honor debts incurred by the spouse. Husbands, not wives, could be prosecuted for manslaughter for failing to provide necessaries to their wives if the wives died because of this, since wives were deemed dependent on husbands but not vice versa, whatever the relative capacity of the two spouses. The law used to be based on a complex system of special advantages and disadvantages assigned on the basis of gender, though since the 1970s it has been assumed that unless the law pretends that gender differences are unreal it is discriminatory. But the law could be equal even if it recognized differences between the genders and assigned them each a complex of special roles, gender-specific privileges, and gender-based duties, as long as the advantages and disadvantages of each gender balanced out. Now it tends to be assumed, in contrast, that unless we operate with the entirely unreal abstraction that men and women are identical the law must be discriminatory. The most important point, and the error feminists often make, is not to select only the historical legal disadvantages of women and start shouting that these prove a history of discrimination, even without bothering to study the comparative legal disadvantages of men historically. Even today, women win the vast preponderance of child custody cases on divorce because courts simply assume the anti-male stereotype that women make better parents. Similarly, in 75% of divorce cases the woman's lawyer charges the man with sex abuse of the children, and with this leverage in play and the courts' prejudicial assumption that only men can be abusers, the women can always leverage a better settlement by agreeing to drop the child abuse assertion.
  21. Do vast systems of deliberate deception really work, even if the people at the top know they are deceptions which are simply designed to create artificial concentrations of power and money for those in charge? Don't the people in the system need to have some sincere belief in what they are doing to keep motivated as they are moving up through the many career stages when their jobs still mean mainly self-sacrifice rather than profit? And if they need sincere belief in the doctrines of the system to rise gradually over 90% of their career to the top, when they can finally maintain the system just as an exploitation of those below, how do they ever overcome the self-indoctrination they required to rise up to their present position? This problem applies to any system that controls people and can generate profits from that control, such as the legal system, the police, the politicians, the government bureaucrats, religious institutions, etc. Many such institutions always remain unsuccessful and thus require nothing but self-sacrifice from those working for them and managing them for their entire lives, so these systems must also be able to win adherents sincerely rather than just as exploitative deceptions of gullible fools. Thus for example the present American incarnation of the Rosicrucians of the 17th century, the AMORC organization, has only 1400 members and collects only around $300 a year from each of its members, which seems barely to cover the costs of the minimalistic administration it maintains. Similarly, the various communist organizations which never come to power anywhere, and which are not likely to do so, nonetheless attract many sincere and self-sacrificing members long before they can turn a profit for any careerist members. Hiding in poverty in an attic apartment in Zurich in 1913, Lenin never thought what he was doing would make him famous or powerful, yet he persisted.
  22. We had a thread discussing this topic of 'historical UFOs' before. UFOs have a very long history, especially if you count what seems most plausibly to be an account, in the Old Testament Book of Ezekial, from the confused perspective of a Bronze Age nomad, of an extraterrestrial spacecraft landing and depositing wheeled robots on the earth's surface. There is also a website on historical UFOs which records all the evidence, together with a Renaissance painting which shows what looks like a 1950s flying saucer in the sky to the right of the person whose portrait is presented. A statute in 14th century France even punished people for pestering the authorities with reports of 'ships flying in the sky.' I also contributed to the earlier science forum thread an account in a 17th century book I had found in the British Library of a 'barrel' with smoke pouring out of the back flying over a German city which discharged objects to attract a crowd, after which beings stepped out of the barrel and collected and quantified secretions from the people who had gathered around. The modern revival of flying saucer stories began in the late 19th century in the U.S. with sightings of huge airships in the skies. These accounts seem to describe what we would today call blimps, but these stories were recorded before any actual blimps had been developed by Graf Zeppelin.
  23. The great problem with applying any moralistic social values to psychological studies (e.g., the moral values that fathers should stay with the children they father by remaining committed to the family) is that they fail to adopt a fully dialectical approach to social problems and instead just rely on a linear analysis based on conformity = praise and failure to conform = blame. Only a dialectical approach, in contrast, if tensions arise when society tries to fit men into their socially prescribed roles, we have to ask the question: Would it make more sense to try to discipline men further to remain in their traditionally prescribed father roles or to alter or abandon that prescribed social role entirely, since it is proving so difficult and conflictive to enforce? After all, fifty years of feminism has been based on the idea that women should be liberated from their traditionally prescribed roles, so why shouldn't men similarly be liberated from their traditional roles, especially if they are obviously having trouble fulfilling them? The difficulty in looking at the problem objectively comes from the intrusion of morality into the analysis, which does not permit the design of social structures to be viewed neutrally as nothing more than an engineering problem of constructing functional units for society to operate more happily. Would morality really permit anyone to discover that men are in fact hormonally driven to be too creative, dynamic, imaginative, and ambitious to sit at home and play nursemaid, or to slave at some meaningless work for the sole purpose of being able to purchase sufficient supplies to support the egg-laying nest at home? Has anyone really bothered to take seriously the vacant, dead look in the eyes of new fathers, stupidly pushing a baby carriage down the street as the new mother meets and chats with other ladies on the street, nattering on about breast feeding, which diaper to buy, what clothes to get, the perennial hot topic of crib or basinette, what did Dr. Oz say about babies' health on Oprah, etc.? If males don't naturally enjoy this world, is it socially rational to blame and punish them for fleeing it and then call their more effective imprisonment in what is an unnatural role for them a successful design of society?
  24. Whenever I buy new paper clips in a plastic or cardboard container, they are always tangled in such a way that it is extremely difficult to untangle them, since the parts of each clip intertwine with the parts of one, two, three, or even more other paper clips. However, if I just shake up a group of paper clips myself, they don't get tangled. Also, it is difficult and time-consuming to try to retangle groups of them by hand. This leads me to wonder if there is something about the manufacturing process that causes them to emerge all tangled up with each other, and if there is some tweaking of the process which could eliminate this minor but pesky problem.
  25. Religion could provide us with an intermediate case in which the proof for the existence of God was imperfect but still sufficiently good that reasonable, rational people would accept it as adequate and believe as long as they were not so hard-hearted by their sinful pride that they would not assent even to a fairly good proof on the balance of probabilities. This would actually be theologically perfect, since it would avoid the current problem, which is that reasonable people may be damned for a good-hearted refusal to believe which grows out of simple scientific rigor and epistemological caution, while people who refuse to believe out of stubborn pride are equally damned, with no distinction being made between the two ethically distinct groups. But isn't it suspicious that after the West had parted company from Eastern thinking -- which became preoccupied with questions of deontology and axiology -- and instead became obsessed with epistemology and ontology, the West's predominant religion also came to focus on a parallel epistemological criterion of salvation, and theology became a Cosmic Quiz Show in which you win eternal salvation if you guess which curtain has the new car behind it, or which of the many mundane candidates for the God, Son of God, or God's Messenger title is the right one? It operates suspiciously much like those puzzles which began to fascinate the Ancient Greeks a few centuries earlier, trying to guess without adequate information whether the essence of reality was moisture (Thales), change (Heraclitus), subjective perspective (Parmenides), or atoms (Democritus)? What could be more natural than that the god of the newly epistemologically-obsessed world should pose a guessing game to sort out the sheep from the goats? What could around more suspicion that this god is not the one true god, but just a local invention, dependent in his own rules and concerns ("Do you believe in me or not" rather than "Are you living a good life?") on those of the culture that made him up in its own image? Free will is of course an unscientific concept, since the basic operating assumption of science (electrons excepted? -- some people are still trying to make room for free will out of Quantum Mechanics) is that every change, motion, or action requires a cause, so for humans to be the great exception to this, and to be the sole uncaused cause in the world, material objects freely determining out of themselves their own actions (the great fallacy of physics: hylozoism), seems oddly non-scientific, especially since so many new sciences have come to demonstrate how human behavior is conditioned by hormones, brain chemistry, social conditioning, early childhood education, cultural expectations, etc., all of which deprives us of responsibility for what we do and simply makes us the locus at which external influences operating on us are manifested. So if we deny that free will is real, rather than just a posit our culture superimposes on peoples' actions because we want to have what appear to be good reasons to praise or blame them for things they do, then we can allow God's manifestation of himself to us to constrain us completely to acknowledge his existence. It seems that once God deigns to present himself to humans, he is caught in a conundrum, since he must either present himself honestly -- which would mean manifesting himself in his full divinity which would have to overawe and win the instant assent of every rational observer, so no one could get any credit for believing in him, or he must present himself dishonestly, which would cause the rationality he also builds into the human intellect to induce people to deny that God exists, for which he would then punish them. The high IQs all go to Hell for being sensible enough not to see the face of the Blessed Virgin outlined in the burn left on a side of bread left by a defective toaster, while the more gullible low IQs are all saved for their incapacity for critical judgment?
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.