Sunday, December 30, 2007

American Philosopher, Vince Lombardi

"Academy, n. (From ACADEME) A modern school where football is taught" (Bierce).

Friday, December 28, 2007

"A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage."
Ambrose Bierce

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Tired of praising NASA, Al Gore, and the Bangles, McMax offers some insights into the political mindstate of the 50s:

"""" Mr. "X" needs to pick up a book by Jack Kerouac or William S. Burroughs and get a sense of what was really going on in those days........ The real people, the ones who were actually alive and had functioning senses, went underground. The media of the time didn’t mention them and that’s why they are believed to have never existed by the conservatives who long for the good old days. Drunks, bums, hookers, addicts, artists, jazz musicians, existed and thrived in the underworld as they do today. Belief in God, or the lack of it, had nothing to do with it then and it doesn’t now.""""

Generalized, oversimplified, tasteless--the usual NW posse fare. Kerouac for one WAS a media star for some time (the Beats were featured in LIFE, and other rags), as were quite a few jazz musicians. The beats may have not been Eisenhower conservatives, but they weren't card-carrying communists either, or RichardDawkins-like Tory atheists and skeptic philosophers (or wannabe Tory atheists---Kerouac never rejected his Catholic roots completely). And they sure in the phuck were not monolingual phonies and hicks like the NW crew (for one, however F-ed up most of the beats were, they were quite well read in French lit----so start with like Voltaire's Candide, and uh start over, McBubba).
Dr. Jeff Glassman on AGW guestimates

(Glassman, neither conservative nor a creationist nor a member of the Gore church, takes apart the IPCC/AGW guesswork, manipulations, and CO2 hype. Perhaps the Goreans might peruse recent US weather patterns-- with record freezing temperatures in the Midwest over the last few weeks: maybe, in some PC postmodernist fashion, poor people freezing to death is actually a sign of AGW too )

(IPCC claim: "The present atmospheric CO2 concentration has not been exceeded during the past 420,000 years, and likely not during the past 20 million years.")

Glassman: """"""Keeling's Mauna Loa record now covers 50 years, and during that entire time it exceeded 300 ppm, the top of the grey bar range. What are the chances of detecting such a 50 year span during the last 420,000 years by one of the 363 ice core samples? It is 50 divided by the mean sample interval, 1140 years, which is 4.4%. If the claim is extended to cover the 650,000 year period covered by the extended Vostok record comprising 685 samples, the chances are 5.3%. Thus the IPCC claim is true with a confidence level of about 5%. Usually scientific claims are expressed in confidence levels better to much better than, and not much worse than, a coin toss, such as 80%, 90%, 95%, or better. The IPCC could be 95% confident that an interval such as the present was undetectable among the Vostok ice core reductions.

[In the Fourth Assessment Report, the Consensus on Climate introduces qualitative expressions to stand for quantified "likelihood of the occurrence" of events. Very unlikely is less than 10%, "extremely unlikely" is less than 5%, and "exceptionally unlikely" scores as less than 1%. 4AR, Technical Summary, p. 121. In the IPCC discussions on carbon dioxide and its immediate effects in the GCMs, the Consensus uses this scoring to impart a quantitative and objective score to what is actually no more than the writers' subjective opinions. Science precludes such subjectivity.""""

[However, with regard to the unprecedented nature of the Mauna Loa record, the confidence level is objective, calculable by the ratio of the record length to the sample interval. The IPCC could have said that the chances of having detected an interval like the modern record in the Vostok record was extremely unlikely. When the Consensus had a chance to be objective, it declined. Proclaiming an impending catastrophe trumped objectivity. """"""

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Bubba belches "Tolkien".

"Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein." (Nietzsche, "Jenseits von Gut und Böse")

Tolkien, from German "tollkühn" meaning, "foolhardy". Das Stimmt! Du bist tollkühn.

"""""Tolkien was much inspired by ancient Germanic literature, indigenous pre-Christian religion (Germanic paganism), linguistics, legend and culture, for which he confessed a great love. Tolkien spent much of his scholarly time studying and lecturing on these subjects, as well as producing a number of introductions and essays. These sources of inspiration included Anglo-Saxon literature such as Beowulf, the Norse sagas (such as the Volsunga saga and the Hervarar saga[89]), the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, the Nibelungenlied and numerous other culturally related works.[90]

Despite similarities to the Volsunga saga and the Nibelungenlied, the basis for Richard Wagner's opera series Der Ring des Nibelungen, Tolkien dismissed critics' direct comparisons of his work to Wagner, telling his publisher: "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases."

Tolkien himself also acknowledged Homer, Sophocles, and the Finnish and Karelian Kalevala as influences or sources for some of his stories and ideas.[91] Tolkien also drew influence from a variety of Celtic — Scottish and Welsh — history and legends.[92][93]

A major philosophical influence on his writing is Alfred the Great's Anglo-Saxon translation of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, known as the Lays of Boethius.[94] Characters in The Lord of the Rings such as Frodo, Treebeard, and Elrond make noticeably Boethian remarks. Also, Catholic theology and imagery played a part in fashioning his creative imagination, suffused as it was by his deeply religious spirit.[95][96]""""""

Gut Glueck, Bubba

Sunday, December 23, 2007

merdly rdnzl-muss

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Modest Proposal: End the popular vote

"Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good." (HLMencken)

As Mencken realized, the American citizenry's innate faith in the voting process (and thus in democracy) ranks as one of the most pernicious of modern political fallacies. Deciding on politics and selecting representatives merely by polling the population at large obviously does not result in "good" politics--majorities have no problems voting in Dubya's or Feinstein's (that is, unless DiDi and crew engaged in some old Tammany Hall style ballot-stuffing). Voting thus seems analogous to, say, an incompetent algebra teacher who asks for a show of hands to a difficult word problem, and then assumes whatever the majority decides upon is the correct answer. Imagine counting the hits to a Britney Spears fan site and to a Debussy fan site, and then, since has 1,000,000+ per annum, and barely cracks 1000, claiming that Britney is clearly the superior artiste: that is the American vote. (the utilitarians themselves understood the potential problem associated with democracy, and the tyranny of the majority).

Implementing voter-intelligence tests at poll booths might offer one solution. Tests on Readin', writin', Riemann, and RPC buffer attacks for starters. Or perhaps a sheepskin requirement (and one not in Recreation Studies). Voters should demonstrate some basic intellectual competency: the ability to read and understand like the state's voter pamphlet for one. Failing that, Vox populi will decide, and Britneyopolis--or Oprahopolis (about the same) will become the norm.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dissent: Rational, and not-so-rational.

""Among people who have learned something from the 18th century (say, Voltaire) it is a truism, hardly deserving discussion, that the defense of the right of free expression is not restricted to ideas one approves of, and that it is precisely in the case of ideas found most offensive that these rights must be most vigorously defended.""" (Noam Chomsky)

The Chomsky's not our favorite Ivy League intellectual, but he raises an important point here (whether he himself obeys his own maxim is another matter). The connection to Voltaire and the Enlightenment also might be noted: monarchists had for years, nay centuries, stifled criticism and dissent (as had religious clerics), and that was arguably one of the "historical crimes" which jacobins rightfully objected to (of course when the sans cullottes seized power, they engaged in censorship and communication control as well, as did the Bolsheviks, later-day sans cullottes. So did the nazis).

Authentic democracy depends to some degree on "communication rights". Totalitarianism on the other hand, whether communist or fascist or theocratic, depends on controlling and eliminating those communication rights. Unfortunately, blogs and websites, as much instruments of communication as the old daily newspaper (regardless of the grumbles of a few metro editors), have over the last few years become ever more controlled, moderated, policed: Bukharins, Goebbels, and J-edgars rule the cyber-roosts to a large extent.

In his introduction to a new printing of Orwell's 1984, the novelist Thomas Pynchon recently suggested that the Net could become some crypto-totalitarian zone, "a development that promises social control on a scale those quaint old 20th-century tyrants with their goofy moustaches could only dream about." Pynchon's prognostication should not be dismissed out of hand. Cyber-Bukharins are on the rise. We here at Contingencies contend that liberal sites–-like a DailyKOS–-are generally as guilty as the rightist-bonehead sites in that regard, regardless if the Kossack’s intentions rate higher on the Benevolmeter. Troll-paranoia, for instance, on KOS and similar sites has resulted in all sorts of moderation guidelines and procedures. “Troll” doesn’t really even mean what it used to mean: now it connotes something like outsider, dissenter, renegade, crypto-fascist-on-meth, etc. Formerly on newsgroups it had more of a hacker connotation: real trolls didn’t merely say speculate on Hillary’s pubic hair style on a dem site, but like played pranks, launched viruses, engaged in ID theft, phucked things up.

The membership/registration jazz, and the mandatory login/pass (or worse, the pinche verification capchas) seems pretty anal really: on the old sites you
just posted something and let it fly (wordpress is a bit better, but many
wordpress sites are heavily moderated as well). In certain contexts some moderation or deletion is understandable (like deleting some hick conspiracy buff afflicted with verbal diarrhea who remains convinced that Dick Cheney piloted the planes into WTC on 9-11), at least if people agree not to use obscenity or discuss their favorite sapphic erotica DVDs.


A rather sullen and resentful scribbler aka Demonweed shows the characteristics of the cyber-Bukharin. AS his regular brain-farts indicate, he has difficulties with writing, and with rationality. Apparently, D-w doesn’t quite know what a valid argument consists of, either, regardless of his supposed interest in philosophical hype and trite bon-mots from the Greats (Russell!!! What a joke. D-w. would not know the theory of logical types from his TCP-IP settings). D.w. in fact revealed his real character with a bon-mot from Dan Quayle, offered sans irony or sarcasm.

The cyber-Bukharin like Demonwind however is usually a clever ghoul. He writes things which appear to be profound. He indulges in ideology. He attempts lightweight satire or invective, while generally avoiding any sort of fact-based argument. Demonweed in fact lost his ass on some global warming sites: not merely due to rightist-boneheads (yet even the anti-AGW writing of a Bonehead like Crichton should not be dismissed), but by all sorts of people (including some non-conservatives) who actually know something about the difficulties associated with the science, rather than the hype, of AGW (i.e., see Dennis Rancourt, canadian physicist, green, and AGW skeptic). Then, after his trashing, D-weed started into his usual milquetoast defamations, bogus inferences, and preacher-speak: anyone who objects to that great liberal Al Gore and his Chevy-sponsored eco-politics supports the Republicans, if not the aims of fascism itself! Suffer fools gladly.

Al Gore more or less flunked his science courses at Harvard, misrepresented
evidence of AGW (as was proven when the Feds themselves corrected Mann, the
hockey stick guy); the political record of Big Al, who took Occi money for
years, is a few baby steps away from say Reagan’s. But who cares: Gore’s the
hero of the PC bogus suburban-greens.

The Demonweed sort of control freaks, now proliferating at an alarming rate, should not be mistaken for Hunter S. Thompson like gonzo hipsters either. D-weed's own blog, a collection of moralisms and generalized idiocies (he hasn't quite grasped what inductive reasoning--ie. economics-- entails either) demonstrates how square he really izz: “What You Should Think”. Hah. Sounds about like a collection of Paul Craig Roberts columns (and reads like that as well, at least if one can make it past 3 or 4 paragraphs of humorless, rhetorical sludge).

One could continue, ad nauseum. Even a few ancient scribes, however, knew the score in regards to the politics of language: "Thou shalt not bear false witness". Consider that carefully, Demonweeds.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Intense, man: The Sean Penn School of Rhetoric

The intensity of Sean Penn often has impressed us. Few boomer/Gen X sorts under 50 or so could forget intense Penn classics like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" or "The Falcon and the Snowman." His interactions with the media also have been intense--as was marriage with like Madonna. Whoa! That's like real intense. Sean lately has morphed into a quasi-romantic marxist writer of sorts--another John Reed iteration, in a sense (a slightly less intense thespian, Warren Beatty, played the part of Reed in "Reds", and was nearly believable for a few scenes). Sean doesn't care for the Iraqi war, or for most American politicians, GOP or Democratic. That's somewhat understandable ( we don't support Bushco). Penn also travels across the world (who's footing the bill, tho? SF Cthulicle? That's zionist capital, man) and writes up little reports on the good people in those distant locales. He parties with communists and disses the yokels back in Amerika who don't understand the sublimity of marxist insurrection. Marxism is itself intense, dude, according to Penn. (Marx may have simmered, but was rarely intense. He described the supposed failures of capitalism in cold and precise terms (even Marx's errors, like the Labor Theory of Value, are impressive in their precision).

"His mind moves upon the Silence"

Here's Sean on the Constitution, and some other intense political stuff:

""""But I was talking about the Constitution. Most importantly, our own. And what an odd week it has been. Our culture is engrained with a tradition that blurs the line between what is right, what is just and what is constitutional, with what is a scam. That tradition is the cult of personality. What can TV sell, what kind of crap will we buy. And at what point are we buying and selling our rights, our pride, our flag, our children, and succumbing to meaningless slogans that are ultimately pure titles for un-Americanism. How do we know what’s American and what is not? Because John Wayne tells us so? Because Sean Penn tells us so? Susan Sarandon? Bill O’Reilly? Michael Moore? Senator Bull? Or Senator Shit? Ann “my bowel expenditure” Coulter? No. It’s our Constitution. We don’t use it just to win. We depend on it because it’s the only “us” worth being. And because it’s our children’s inheritance from our shared forefathers and the traditions that really do speak best of our country.""""


Not exactly John Kenneth Galbraith. As with a powerful five- minute reading at say a Bay Area espresso joint, it's meant to shock a little. The Constitution. Cult of personality. TV crap. The Bowels of Ann Coulter (OK, I agree there, Seanie. Ann the man's not merely with the Orangemen, but Vichy. Like most real Vichy sorta talented in her own sinister fashion: as even a Bukowski would have granted). All way intense, man. Sean Penn does some representin', for the Peeps.

The real question, though, is this: who the phuck is Sean Penn anyways? He's another actor: not a politician, nor a political theorist, nor philosopher, scientist, or even pro-muckraker like Daddy Cockburn, nor belle-lettrist (ala Buk. or beats, like). Penn's not a grand shakespearean sort of thespian, nor somewhat noirish sort like Beatty, but more like an actor as rock-star. Pop culture icon, really. We don't have his CV here, but it's unlikely he ever earned ye olde sheepskin (even some history or econ. courses might have helped. Start with like Mao and work backwards).

As academic snobs say, there's really an agency issue with the Penns and the Sarandons (and with the Reagans and Thompsons, as well). The celebrity actor-politicians (regardless of flavor) are the Alcibiades--not the Socrates; they start from Pathos, not Logos. They produce oratory (typically intense, and emotional) if not marketing plans, instead of thoughts: even when slightly correct (i.e. supporting a secular constitution), they pitch something, play a part, strike a pose. We barely hear "Sean Penn": we hear.....the Snowman.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mitt the Mormon waves his Flag of Phreedom.

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

Those old dead crackers Madison and Jefferson are rolling in their graves (or perhaps laughing at the freak). Mitt's mistaken in regards to the Founding Fathers, anyway. A few FF’s were somewhat religious, or nominally Xtian (such as Adams); most were not (i.e. Madison and Jefferson, pal even of a few jacobins). The “freedom” that MittMan insists upon also meant the freedom to not be religious (as outlined in First Amendment). Not that many fundies understand the meaning of the separation of Church and State (for that matter, neither do most of the GangstaCrats of DailyKOS and similar e-union halls).

Master Snitchens cares not for Mitt or the Mormon clan:

"""""Romney does not understand the difference between deism and theism, nor does he know the first thing about the founding of the United States. Jefferson's Declaration may invoke a "Creator," but, as he went on to show in the battle over the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, he and most of his peers did not believe in a god who intervened in human affairs or in a god who had sent a son for a human sacrifice. These easily ascertainable facts are reflected in the way that the U.S. Constitution does not make any mention of a superintendent deity and in the way that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention declined an offer (possibly sarcastic), even from Benjamin Franklin, that they resort to prayer to compose their differences. Romney may throw a big chest and say that God should be "on our currency, in our pledge," and of course on our public land in this magic holiday season, but James Madison did not think that there should be chaplains opening the proceedings of Congress or even appointed as ministers in the U.S. armed forces. Trying to dodge around this, and to support his assertion that the founders were religious in the Christian sense, Romney drones on about a barely relevant moment of emotion in 1774 and comes up with the glib slogan that "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." Any fool can think of an example where freedom exists without religion—and even more easily of an instance where religion exists without (or in negation of) freedom."""""

Oooo. Direct hit. Ghastly!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bubba discovers Verification!

Bubba finally makes it through the first chapter of Semantics 200 and goes googley at the V-word: Verification (the simplified form of V-theory asserts that the meaning of a proposition depends on the method by which it is verified: statements which are not verifiable, at least in principle, are not meaningful--according to verificationists). Verification was a hot topic in the 1920's or so in the Vienna Circle; pragmatists such as CS Peirce and Wm. James were well aware of the issue (one can also note a concern with verification with the early empiricists/Hobbes/experimentalists, etc.). Quine updates verification to include the entire domain of knowledge. To most college-boys aware of say induction, it's sort of passe; to the Bubbas of Blogland, it's a deep one.

Verification does not usually play well with ideologues: truth is somewhat malleable to stalinists, or nazis, or mafiosos--or to belle-lettrists (even notable literary works do not feature verifiable statements; nor do most space operas) . Dems are often as much veri-phobic as is the nutty right. Often a big liberal site such as KOS sort of controls verification.

A few verified statements:

—muslim terrorists blew up the WTC, and killed 2500+ Americans

—Saddam and baathists had centrifuge materials; they were not in compliance with UN inspections, and harbored terrorists, including some with ties to AQ (see Robb Silbermann). Bush may have misrepresented the danger, but danger there was.

—most leading dems agreed to war effort in Afghan and Iraq

—Obama has ties to radical muslim groups

—Iran has pledged to destroy Israel; the Prez had denied holocaust

–any manipulations by Bush/Cheney in regards to intelligence were approved by dems

etc. etc

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Politics of "compassion"

“The idea of equality, therefore, both in its bourgeois and proletarian form, is itself a historical product, the creation of which required definite historical conditions which in turn themselves presuppose a long previous historical development. It is therefore anything but an eternal truth.”(Karl Marx).

You were programmed to be compassionate. That doesn't make it right (or wrong). Even Marx, regardless of his monsters, understood the hypocrisy and BS of the liberal Ignis fatuus.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Russell's Teapot

Most participants in the Dawkins vs. Theists debate have yet to grasp Dawkins' central point (however primitive), which he adapts from Sagan (with help from Bertrand Russell): a monotheistic "God" cannot be established via empirical proof, the "normal", inductive method of the sciences. He provides numerous rebuttals of inductive proofs of God, such as the Design argument: obviously the Design argument, even if one granted its plausibility, does not establish any judeo-Christian theology. (Design remains something to be reckoned with, however, instead of swept away with a wave of some fur-covered hands; Chas.Darwin himself, gazing at a human eye, speculated on how such a marvelous device could arise ex nihilo. )

Dawkins makes use of a celebrated passage from Bertrand Russell's "Is There a God?" in his "The God Delusion". The analogy has irritated more than a few fundamentalists, and not without reason: it is not only witty, but based on a rather sound argument: Bertie demonstrated that Christians who believe in God merely because he cannot be conclusively disproven to exist are guilty of committing the Appeal to Ignorance fallacy:

"Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense."

A few Christians claim the analogy is irrelevant, and typical of the Russellian or Dawkinsesque scoffer. That objection is not entirely without merit (this is only one of many anti-theological arguments made by Lord Russell, of course); religious people who object to the analogy may have a point--yet that point holds only in regards to the somewhat whimsical quality of the language, not to the argument itself.

Here's one grumble about the Teapot analogy from a theist and fairly well-known conservative blogger,
The Maverick Philosopher

""""But the real appeal to atheists and agnostics of the Teapot passage rests on a third move Russell makes. He is clearly suggesting that belief in God (i.e., belief that God exists) is epistemically on a par with believing in a celestial teapot. Just as we have no reason to believe in celestial teapots, irate lunar unicorns (lunicorns?), flying spaghetti monsters, and the like, we have no reason to believe in God. But perhaps we should distinguish between a strong and a weak reading of Russell's suggestion:

S. Just as we cannot have any reason to believe that an empirically undetectable celestial teapot exists, we cannot have any reason to believe that God exists.

W. Just as we do not have any reason to believe that a celestial teapot exists, we do not have any reason to believe that God exists.

Now it seems to me that both (S) and (W) are plainly false: we have all sorts of reasons for believing that God exists. Here Alvin Plantinga sketches about two dozen theistic arguments. Atheists will not find them compelling, of course, but that is irrelevant. The issue is whether a reasoned case can be made for theism, and the answer is in the affirmative. Belief in God and in Russell's teapot are therefore not on a par since there are no empirical or theoretical reasons for believing in his teapot."""""

Billy the Maverick Philosopher seems to miss the mark here (tho' he has a good heart). The (S) formulation of the analogy offers a rather powerful objection to any inductive arguments for God, however whimsically stated (and instead of Teapot, one could instantiate Zeus, or flying spaghetti monster, or perhaps an incredibly powerful alien who resides in the Teapot millions of lightyears away). And Dawkins in a sense bases a great deal of TGD on that exact argument: that lacking any empirical, observable proof of God, it's far more likely than not that He does not exist (or perhaps, to claim that a monotheistic God exists, is about like saying "Zeus exists").

Moreover, Billy the MP, while correctly pointing out the Ad Ignorantium fallacy that Russell attacks as a typical sort of pseudo-argument, doesn't quite understand all the implications of the analogy, especially the implications of the following passage:

"""But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense."""

That is the real issue, however mundane: shouldn't humans be allowed to doubt--strongly doubt-- the existence of some X which cannot be observed, inferred, nor empirically proven to exist? (nor, quite arguably, proven deductively or mathematically: neither Design or the Ontological argument are really necessary). That is the crux of Russell's analogy: not only that "God" cannot be proven to exist, but that we are not, according to Christian tradition, even to doubt His existence given that lack of proof. The noun "teapot" is not the point. Make it "JHVH in a spaceship" (perhaps teapot-sized), and the argument still holds.

Even if we agreed that Russell's analogy was, in terms of language and imagery, incredibly rude, blasphemous, obscene (the reduction of the Almighty to a Teapot??!! Preposterous!To the stake), that does not negate the force of the argument.

At the same time, the Russell's Teapot example provides some ammunition for theists, at least by implication: for one, some theists argue, quite correctly, there are limits to human reason, and to empirical science (those who say otherwise should say offer a valid prediction for next month's weather-- or the Super Bowl winners). Even if Design does not establish JHVH, there are no proofs showing that God can not exist, nor showing that a Design argument could not hold. So it becomes, as Dawkins grants, a matter of weighing evidence, even probability. There could very well be some Being (or beings?) who controls, like time, space, all physical laws. To say that unicorns exist one does not contradict one's self; similarly, "God exists" is not a contradiction (as it is with "G. exists and he doesn't exist"). So it would seem it is sort of a matter of proof of some sort: either a monotheistic G. exists or.... He don't (and if not monotheistic, then not G., at least in traditional sense). The conceptual games often obscure that basic tautology. Either that, or one sees a burning bush or perhaps some Golden Plates carried by celestial creatures, ala Joseph Smith, and changes one epistemic outlook .

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Slang, n.

"The grunt of the human hog (Pignoramus intolerabilis) with an audible memory. The speech of one who utters with his tongue what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in accomplishing the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of setting up as a wit without a capital of sense." (Bierce)


Friday, November 30, 2007

Quite some time before Venn, Euler charted out Aristotle's syllogistic via diagrams (as did Leibniz). Euler diagrams capture hierarchy a bit better than Venn, tho' Venn diagrams can represent certain relations that Euler's charts can't. (Neither can capture predicate logic, however, except with a lot of work.

Euler's charts with basic set relationships: All A's are B's; all C's are A's; thus All C's are B's. Hypothetical syllogism in old logic (say, all Insects are Animals; all Cockaroaches are Insects; all Cockaroaches are Animals. QED)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Slang, n.

"The grunt of the human hog (Pignoramus intolerabilis) with an audible memory. The speech of one who utters with his tongue what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in accomplishing the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of setting up as a wit without a capital of sense." (Bierce)


Monday, November 26, 2007

(to Calibans everywhere)

" vobis qui tribulamini requiem nobiscum in revelatione Domini Iesu de caelo cum angelis virtutis eius flamma ignis dantis vindictam his qui non noverunt Deum et qui non oboediunt evangelio Domini nostri Iesu ..... qui poenas dabunt in interitu aeternas a facie Domini et a gloria virtutis eius..."

Buh bye, CalibanRon.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Politics of Pathos

Reverend Devilstower of DailyKOS appears to be in a patriotic mood:

"The rights were not granted by treaty or government, they were only recognized. Human rights are innate. Preexisting.

So long as we base our policy on what's good for us, rather than what best upholds human rights, we are base pretenders to the legacy left to us by those men who signed the Declaration of Independence. So long as we uphold dictators for our own gain, our soldiers, no matter how individually noble or honorable, are bound to an unjust cause. So long as we nod solemnly over the need to deny others their rights under the pretense of securing our own, we are monsters no less than the worst of our enemies."

Hallelujah! So the story goes. Where doth this “right” reside, however, Rev.Devilstower? Can it be observed, or demonstrated via axiom? What does the word “right” even point to? Does Chas. Darwin discuss rights? Nyet. More like a type of freedom to do something, but obviously if the right means, a “right to torture children” it’s not so great.

One might hold a right to vote to be innately “good” (another problematic word), but majorities voted in fascists, communists and DiDi Feinstein. That one has a right (or appears to have a right) hardly entails that one does the right thing with that right. Intention is generally always an issue.

Even the great Founders did not prove that “rights” were objectively valid, or that they were innate: the rights are merely posited, as Locke himself suggests (tho’ there are other reasons to take issue with Lockean civics). TJ himself was too much the naturalist to argue for innateness of any type.

Rights-philosophy does seem somewhat noble in theory (and Nozick sort of updated Locke’s ideas), yet at the same time, people do act to further their best interests (or what they take to be their best interests). That’s the realism of RealPolitik. And that sort of secular perspective (going back at least to Hobbes) does not necessarily mean cynicism or amorality: it means that politics proceeds via consensus and human decisions, instead of by some vague, intutive–or theological— notion of right. Rights, then according to say an early RealPolitik scribe such as Hobbes (instead of his rebellious son Locke) are constructed, agreed to, contracted, enforced.

Regardless of the theory of social contract, however, most rationalists (that would exclude monotheists, most Kossacks, and DNC-o-crats) would probably concur with Jefferson’s grand dream of the Declaration, or even enforce it. Then have some people in Iran or Bejing or Moscow (or Washington) agree to that Declaration. Lacking some type of world court to enforce that constructed system of rights, it’s mostly just dreamy rhetoric (and now more so, after fascism and communism, and various theocracies)

RealPolitik objects to politics via pathos. RealPolitik writers such as Orwell objected to it (and there are RealPolitik peeps on left and right). Pink Floyd, arguably a RealPolitik sort of band (we prefer Prokofiev, but will do for illustration), offers up some rather cynical and dystopian product as well: “Welcome to the Machine” does not exactly affirm some optimistic vision.

* * *

(note to McNW: we doubt you would poo-poo islamic terrorism if you lived in Tel Aviv, or if you had lived in NY during the 911 attack. Or do you think the Hezbollah also are blessed with common sense as well? You don’t quite understand the code of the Prophet, either (a code which has quite a bit of force in LA and SF as well) Carl Sagan himself had harsh words for the Imams).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Harry Reid, Justice O' the Peace

Senate leader Reid blocks Bush's recess appointments.

Harry Reid's not the worst politician in the USA. Compared to a DINO such as Di Feinstein or corporate buffoon like Al Gore (or his clueless fans), Reid seems nearly principled. Neither leftists or rightists care for Reid's pragmatic style of politics, or his somewhat Wyatt Earp-like manner, yet Reid's about as close as any current politician to a sort of Madisonian Federalism.

Reid has adequate preparation for the job as Senate leader: he formerly worked as a prosecutor and made a living busting Nevada mafiosos and casino owners (some cronies of Reagan era appointees--tho' some pals of dem. politicians as well). Prosecutors should not be idolized, but anyone who spent years taking on Vegas pimps deserves some respect. That's not to say that Reid's moderate-liberal politics will likely prevail: marxist zealots (i.e Hillaristas) and/or rightist theocrats have done their best to defeat intelligent secularism for years.

Monday, November 19, 2007

der Trieb, zu strafen(the will to punish)

"Also aber rathe ich euch, meine Freunde: misstraut Allen, in welchen der Trieb, zu strafen, mächtig ist! Das ist Volk schlechter Art und Abkunft; aus ihren Gesichtern blickt der Henker und der Spürhund. Misstraut allen Denen, die viel von ihrer Gerechtigkeit reden! Wahrlich, ihren Seelen fehlt es nicht nur an Honig. Und wenn sie sich selber 'die Guten und Gerechten' nennen, so vergesst nicht, dass ihnen zum Pharisäer Nichts fehlt als — Macht!"


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Taxing the "God" business

James Madison wanted to tax church property, as did James Garfield, and most notably, Union general and President Ulysses S. Grant:

"In 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant's message to Congress included a 900-foot petition containing 35,000 signatures stating, "We demand that churches and other ecclesiastical property shall be no longer exempt from taxation."

"I would," said Grant to Congress, "also call your attention to the importance of correcting an evil that, if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our is the accumulation of vast amounts of untaxed church property....In 1850, the church properties in the U.S. which paid no taxes, municipal or state, amounted to about $83 million. In 1860, the amount had doubled; in 1875, it is about $1 billion. By 1900, without check, it is safe to say this property will reach a sum exceeding $3 vast a sum, receiving all the protection and benefits of government without bearing its portion of the burdens and expenses of the same, will not be looked upon acquiescently by those who have to pay the taxes....I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation."

Unfortunately, Grant's warning went unheeded by Congress. By 1971, the amount of real and personal property owned by U.S. churches had ballooned to approximately $110 billion.

In New York City alone, the amount was $750 million in 1969, $1 billion in 1982, and $3 billion in 1989.""""""

Cough it up, monotheists.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

La Mort de Mailer

Contingencies declares a few nano-seconds of silence for the passing of Norman Mailer. Sarge Mailer sounded fairly rabbinical near Mort, which might startle some humans who, instead of merely invoking the Name, perused a few of his ugly Hemingway-meets-Stalin rants--like the Deer Park--- back in the day. He was no counterculture person: more like a Major Zhukov of belle-lettres, or is it Leopold Bloom. Even a Kurt Vonnegut had more heart and authentic progressive vision, and Breakfast of Champions, however trite to NY-or Tinseltown style decadents, superior to most of the "New Journalist" hack realism.

"He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars: general Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars." (Wm. Blake)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Be a hip Nasa nazi and win friends.

McNasa the Feinsteinocrat!

Instead of debating budget allocations for NASA–i.e. do we choose rockets instead of funding medical research for dying and diseased women and children, or upgrading public education, saving national parks, etc.–Max rubber stamps NASA Corp and Mars dreams. Weldon would be proud. As would Nixon/Kissinger, NASA allies.

Speaking of the Mars business, even a WaPo pundit has her doubts:

""None of which is to say that it isn't interesting or important for NASA to send robotic probes to other planets. It's interesting in the way that the exploration of the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is interesting, or important in the way that the study of obscure dead languages is important. Like space exploration, these are inspiring human pursuits. Like space exploration, they nevertheless have very few practical applications.

But space exploration isn't treated the way other purely academic pursuits are treated. For one, the scientists doing it have perverse incentives. Their most dangerous missions -- the ones involving human beings -- produce the fewest research results, yet receive the most attention, applause and funding. Their most productive missions -- the ones involving robots -- inspire interest largely because the public illogically believes they will lead to more manned space travel."""""

Das stimmt.

(and those 1-2 people lurking on Goy Worlds may have noted one crypto-rightist Betya misquoting Scripture and what he takes to be the "sophists". After admitting his mistake, he claims he was quoting Nabakov. What a laugh. Nabakov sagt auch: "Du bist Scheiße").

Zubrin, current Mars guru, has approved of substantially increasing the NASA budget, and he defends Bush’s recent Mars hype; a Pilate-like approach would entail debating the NASA budget (ye olde cost-benefit analysis perhaps?), in light of other concerns, social, economic, environmental, etc. INSTEAD of taking Mars exploration as sacred gospel.

The Jeffersonian-Madisonian tradition of American politics would indeed require such rational debates–not that that occurs too much given the hysteria of most Dempublicans. Madison, secularist, himself a bit closer to a Pilate than to a Yeshua (in fact the Founding Fathers were all quite well read in Latin political classics, Plato’s Republic, etc., while perhaps objecting to some of the greek authoritarianism). Let’s ask Gary Hart, who knows his Mad-Jeff, what he thinks of Zubrin.

Max googles "Sophist!" THe spammed in definition doesn’t really apply. It was your pal who alluded to historical figures: Pilate/Yeshua (he misquoted a literary text, but it’s quite obvious “sophist” was being used to refer to the ancient sort of rhetorician or disputant). A debate exists even over the status of the sophists. They opposed the greek authorities of the time (including Plato). Probably sort of a school of lawyers and politicians, maybe cutthroat, but skilled debaters.

The history lesson (and semantic clarification) isn’t the central point. The point concerns the need for rational discussion of NASA, and one might say in Popperian terms, an OPEN society, where NASA, defense, economic reform, democracy as a whole–even blog politics and communication issues– are on the table, instead of always being taken over by “experts” and apparatchiks of left or right.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

.........things you aren't/Jarrett


Tasty Doc KJ

Lunes con Maestro Bierce

Brain, n. An apparatus with which we think we think.

Bride, n. A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.

Cabbage, n. A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head.

Cat, n. A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.

Dawn, n. When men of reason go to bed.

Erudition, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.

Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

Freemason, n. An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of Charles II, among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces all the generations of man on the hither side of Adam and is drumming up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of Chaos and Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Cyrus, Solomon, Zoroaster, Confucious, Thothmes, and Buddha. Its emblems and symbols have been found in the Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the Egyptian Pyramids -- always by a Freemason.

Friendless, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.

Genealogy, n. An account of one's descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.

Guilt, n. The condition of one who is known to have committed an indiscretion, as distinguished from the state of him who has covered his tracks.

Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.

Hers, pron. His.

Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling.

Inhumanity, n. One of the signal and characteristic qualities of humanity.

Justice, n. A commodity which in a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.

Laughter, n. An interior convulsion, producing a distortion of the features and accompanied by inarticulate noises. It is infectious and, though intermittent, incurable.

Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.

Liberty, n. One of imagination's most precious possessions.

Logic, n. The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.

Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.

Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech, and action derived by the conformants [sic] from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that they themselves are sane.

Monday, n. In Christian countries, the day after the [football] game.

Ocean, n. A body of water covering seven-tenths of a world designed for Man - who has no gills.

Once, adj. Enough.

(from Devils' Dictionary, as fine a piece of Americun religious writing to be found. One rarely hears a Biercian sort of eloquence at the Cafe Cockaroacha Karaoke nite.)

Praise be, Maestro Ambrose: sort of like Vonnegut, with twice the IQ (and AB not such a bad latinist).

Friday, November 02, 2007

"Matter endowed with thought"

Jefferson, letter to John Adams:

"Were it necessary however to form an opinion, I confess I should, with Mr. Locke, prefer swallowing one incomprehensibility rather than two. It requires one effort only to admit the single incomprehensibility of matter endowed with thought: and two to believe, 1st. that of an existence called Spirit, of which we have neither evidence nor idea, and then 2ndly, how that sprit which has neither extention nor solidity, can put material organs into motion. These are things which you and I may perhaps know ere long. We have so lived as to fear neither horn of the dilemma. We have, willingly, done injury to no man; and have done for our country the good which has fallen in our way, so far as commensurate with the faculties given us. That we have not done more than we could cannot be imputed to us as a crime before any tribunal. I look therefore to that crisis, as I am sure you also do, as one 'qui summum nec metuit diem nec optat' [Who neither fears the final day nor hopes for it]."

Proof of atheism? Maybe: at least proof that Jefferson did not subscribe to a Cartesian ghost-ego, instead siding with Locke's somewhat physicalist view of consciousness: in a few select sections of reality (such as human brains), matter thinks (or appears to think). Either way, TJ generally affirms Locke, whether in terms of metaphysics or politics--i.e. TJ's no pal of monarchists, or mafiosos--tho' TJ perhaps a bit optimistic in regards to his hopes for democracy. Of course, even Lockean natural law presents some conceptual difficulties for the typical Americun Caliban (buh bye, Calibanonius). That doesn't prevent Caliban from invoking ye olde Founding Fathers ad nauseum at his weekly Shriners' meetings.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007


DisneyMuzakHall (Gehry)


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Snitch Trek

""""Born in El Paso, Texas to Eugene Edward Roddenberry and Caroline Glen, Roddenberry spent his boyhood in Los Angeles, California, where his family had moved so his father could pursue a career with the Los Angeles Police Department. Following in his father's footsteps after high school, Roddenberry took classes in police studies at Los Angeles City College, and headed that school's Police Club. In that role, he was a liaison with the FBI, thanking them for sending speakers and securing copies of the FBI Code and publications for club use, and took fingerprint records of the college community for the FBI's Civil Identification Division."""""


Sunday, October 28, 2007


"Progressive rhetoric has the effect of concealing social crisis and moral breakdown by presenting them as the birth pangs of a new order." (Lasch)

Christopher Lasch, now mostly forgotten, wrote some interesting essays comparing the authentic tradition of the 60s to the inauthentic and bogus tradition of the 60's. The authentic tradition implied certain political and ideological viewpoints, such as opposition to the violence of the Vietnam war. Whether one agreed or not with the protesters, 'Nam was a defining event. The protesters consisted not only of hippies on drugs, but included some fairly serious intellectual heavyweights--say JKGalbraith, Bertrand Russell, Chomsky. Quite a few "mainstream" religious people protested the actions of Nixon and Kissinger as well. Obviously there was a certain liberal perspective to the 60's counterculture, but that perspective did not equate to marxist orthodoxy, usually, though marxism was a part of it.

The inauthentic related to the flash, the noise, the excess, the drugs. Perhaps some of the escapism was needed. The novelist Ken Kesey, for instance, one of the brighter members of the counterculture, wasn't the most sinister person who ever existed (his "Cuckoo's Nest" could be read as anti-statist left, really), and one likes to think that some good came out of the rock and roll gonzo. Nonetheless some definite Bad came out of the 60s counterculture. Drug abuse itself in a sense seems to symbolize the 60s'--and 70s-- excess and narcissism (if not the contemporary form): the proverbial American stoner might have vaguely protested the 'Nam war, but that was not his central concern. He was concerned, with, well, Drugs (or in 70's-Speak, "sex, drugs, and rock n roll"--Porno, Inc. arguably one of the swampflowers of 60s-style politics).

Lasch asserted that sort of druggy narcissism was not really progressive or even liberal in say the FDRish sense, but indicative of a type of shallow, libertarian type of escapist. Lasch, sort of an Adorno-lite for American consumers, may be too much the social realist for contemporary cyberia, yet he seems mostly correct in regards to narcissism, and his points, say in regards to drug use, still have some force. (He thankfully avoids the politics via character assassination preferred by contemporary PunditBots of left or right as well).

Drug abuse, especially of crack and meth, remains as much a problem as it did for the 70s era of Lasch. While we oppose the Nancy Reagan sort of approach, and agree that there are some grounds for legalizing marijuana (say a type of licensing for sane, intelligent citizens), legalizing hard drugs would be, like, a really dangerous stupid policy. Gangsters do not require easier access to hard-drugs to fuel their violent crime, or to keep them illiterate (for that matter, they don't need booze either-- given a "slippery slope" of booze, and its causal relation to crime, legalized narcotics would most likely increase crime as well). Additionally, those people, even some "liberals", who have been exposed to drug-fueled gang-violence (whether via crack or meth) generally change their mind about the "peace and love" schtick of the 60s, and their naive views of the drug culture.

One blogger-narcissist aka Demonweed often waxes at length about his desire for legalization of ALL drugs. Apart from his windy, fact-less, self-indulgent prose (and the wannabe-"Barry Goldwater-radical" has yet to learn to avoid the 1st person), DW has little or no concern with the facts of narcotics abuse, and its relation to crime and violence. Contingencies has neither time nor interest for a full-scale DrugCrime research project, but merely some familiarity with the facts of drug-abuse and its relation to crime will demonstrate the stupidity of a decriminalization policy.

(Here's some of Demonweed's pop-moral relativism: "I believe murder should be illegal because living in a society where it was legal would put a real damper on happiness, productivity, et al. The fact that most religions condemn it is a happy coincidence, not proof of infallible wisdom." Yes, serial murderers--say Cho--- are not really wrong or evil, they just interfere with the par-tay! Demonweed of course overlooks the basic objection--brought up by any semi-bright Joe Varsity type at the Kegger BS session--- to this sort of subjective, stoner-humanism: what if people actually approve of a Cho, and get off on his acts? (or for that matter, Stalin, or Hitler, etc.). Some deviants are pleased by Cho's or Columbines. So those acts are acceptable, according to DW's own lightweight utilitarian code, at least if approved by consensus (tho' it's unlikely Demonwind knows Bentham from his bong)).

The Demonweed sort of escapist doesn't concern himself overly much with the societal ills resulting from drug use, of course. He wants his dope, like he wants his MTV. So he can summon up some trite "Don't tread on me" libertarian-baptist-schtick, and thereby think he has proven something: it's all about Freedom, man!---of course, gangstas on crack are not too concerned with the Freedom of the old ladies or white kids they rob at the mall (nor is Demonweed, a freeper-on-drugs, really). The Demonweed sort of "hedonist rightist" should be required to reside in say South Central LA where hard drugs such as crack are a normal way of life. Demonweed would unlikely be representin' too much in his Uncle Tom fashion following a few weeks in some 'jects run by Crips or Vineland boys.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What is a lie to a pragmatist? (Cont. retrofit).

Pragmatists, idealists (at least some), mystics, and postmodernists generally assert that truth is not a matter of confirming some alleged facts, "out there", in an objective, empirically-knowable world. There are various differences between these groups, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to suggest that they uphold some version of William James' concept of pragmatism: that truth always has some relation to usefulness, whether that truth relates to the sciences, social sciences, humanities, etc. The pragmatist indeed prides himself on his ability to see "truth" as somewhat provisional.

Old-fashioned Truth

(However, the "is" means inclusion--class membership---and not equality (which would be bi-conditional) nor cause. I.e, "All prime numbers are included in the set of natural numbers." So it's a conditional, really (as Frege translated it, I believe). Moreover Aristotle's Square works dandy with modern predicate-logic as well, ala universal and existential quantifiers, or with summation signs for the I and O). The "syllogistic" then outlines the rules of inference for various forms created from this template. )

The Cash Value of Truth model has of course been criticized, and not without reason. While in some contexts--say medicine--utility would seem to be critical (--testing the functionality of a pharmaceutical, say)--in others, whether history or law, or various social sciences, any modifications of the actual facts to fit some ideology might conceivably result in highly unethical situations. Some naive AGW advocates, to take a contemporary instance, argue that while Gore's eco-movie, An Inconvenient Truth, may not be completely correct in terms of the science, good--or "awareness"-- will come out of the movie and Gore's celebrity Green status. GW Skeptics, including professional scientists, on the other hand allege that Gore not only manipulated and exaggerated the dangers, but in some cases made flat-out errors, as with the "hockey stick" chart of supposed rising temperatures.

(Traditional pragmatists such as James or Peirce would have unlikely agreed to that sort of deception, anyway: proceeding via Jamesian terms, the authentic pragmatist (or pragmaticist) would require experimental evidence (i.e. chem. lab) of CO2 substantially increasing radiation (heat) before giving his assent to the AGW hypothesis, and would probably not agree to mere GW "models" based on shaky inferential evidence regarding temperatures.)

Bertrand Russell noted a few potential problems entailed by "utopian pragmatism" in regards to John Dewey's philosophy of education. If the pragmatist's goal is to create a harmonious community, or even harmonious classroom, or "well-integrated self,"---or hip ecotopia--- then it would seem the pragmatist might "shape" facts (say historical, scientific, or economic facts, or even literary narratives) to fit his pedagogy--making the students see the world through rose-tinted glasses, more or less (or perhaps green-, or red tinted glasses, in green or marxist indoctrination centers). Various theologically-oriented pragmatists might do the same with religious texts: Paddy McMuffin might grant that he cannot verify Scripture, but he insists it's good for you, regardless.

Assuming the that "fact-shaping-process" (mendacity, in old-fashioned terms) resulted in a harmonious community and well-balanced individuals (or even a supremely efficient proletarian State), then pragmatists would grant, it would seem, that the right thing had been done. And other sorts of similar absurdities, possibly Orwellian, resulting from pragmatism (or any ideology where truth is solely a matter of functionality) across the board could be realized. The documented crimes against humanity of stalinism or fascism could be eliminated from history curriculums because they are too negative; or some eco-bureaucrats suppress scientific evidence disproving a politically-correct model of global warming because it's considered too threatening to their own eco-political vision. AS Russell realized, politics should never override historical or scientific facts, regardless of the visions of bureaucrat-pragmatists.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fear ye the Pandybat...............

"""""The soutane sleeve swished again as the pandybat was lifted and a loud crashing sound and a fierce maddening...pain made his hand shrink together..."""" (POTAAAYM, J.J.)

"""""Pendebat in cruce, / He was hanging on the cross...." (Augustine)
Consensus Science: the Al Gore Truth-process

Just as a show of hands in a high-school classroom (how many think Answer A is right??) will not necessarily establish the right answer to an algebra problem, the truth of Global warming will not be decided by a poll. Science is NOT done via consensus: it’s a matter of confirming a given hypothesis via experimental proof. (No shit, perhaps you are thinking--say it to Big Al).

Einstein himself wrote on this topic when his first papers on the experimental confirmation of relativity were not accepted by "peer reviewed" scientific journals. Obviously, that a majority of experts might mostly agree on the global warming hypothesis does not itself confirm the hypothesis (except maybe to Al Jr., who managed a D+ in "Physics for Dixiecrats" at Haw-vard).

Contrarian views do quite often prevail in science: most victorians held to Screeptural views and considered Darwinian evolution the most horrid, blasphemous idea in the world, and Darwin's theory was not accepted for many years, either among society or scientists (and still is not with many biblethumpers--or koran-thumpers). Newtonian mechanics, accepted as truth for 2+ centuries, was substantially modified by special and general relativity, though Einstein's theories were considered odd at the time (contrarian or "fringe" in blogspeak).

Of course GW is not close to Newtonian mechanics: the theory has not really been established (i.e. the basic claim that increases in anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere leads to global warming has not been conclusively established--that is, assuming that present and historical temperature data itself is accurate! Gore of course doesn't know margin of error from the margin on his NASDAQ stock). A consensus does not even exist among global warming "experts" to the degree that Gore suggested, and a consensus of climate modellers does not equal a consensus of atmospheric scientists. GW experts merely offer probabilities and estimations, not certainties or truths (though YES, the IPCC research should be seriously considered): though that did not prevent Al Jr. from presenting GW as established, and "true" theory. See this site for some effective debunking of Gore/AIT (which is not the same as the IPCC report anyway):


Thursday, October 18, 2007

How to lie and be PC: the New Worlds way.

Nearly as amusing as Al Jr.'s green buffoon-act are his defenders when challenged---not only challenged via Crichton or the rightists (some of the rightists are as bad as Gore), but from sober rationalists and scientific researchers. Merely to question the dogma causes nervous breakdowns among many of the Gorean faithful. Additionally, even if some IPCC claims turned out to be accurate, Al ain't the person to be selling those claims. Let's have Dr. Hug and Rancourt debate the IPCC climate-modeling "experts".

For instance, look at this thread, led by a Wordpress cyber-liar, McMax of New Worlds:


Note that the mere mention of Crichton and GW skeptics causes....palpitations!..... among the faithful. ID politics, pure and simple. Just call Crichton a neo-con, or nazi, or suggest it, and his arguments have been dismissed. Here's a typical little NewWorlder liar, one INS-o-motya, in action:

""""My reaction when I read Krugman's column this morning was, I'm pretty confident that the Michael Crighton-hugging right-wingers were crazy enough before Gore showed up to drive them even further over the edge."""

Yes, Dr. Crichton, a real Harvard graduate and with far more scientific credibility than Goreco, is crazy and rightwing as are his followers, and Al Gore, flunkie, hawk, scientifically incompetent dixiecrat should be considered correct. Nearly stalinist in terms of efficiency and deception--or perhaps like Mormon (and New Worlds has a distinct Mormonal flavor--search for O.S.Card and, like, BerthaRon). Skeptics of GW: they are wrong because they ....don't pay homage to St. Gore! Pathetic. What did WB Yeats say about middle-class peasants incapable of reason? "Base born products of base beds............."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Al ain’t exactly Einstein

Big Al, peacemaker, managed like a few D+s in “natural science” back when his rich redneck daddy paid for his beer-drinking at Haw-vawd:

“”"”"at Nonpartisan Half Sigma digs up an old story on Gore’s grades at Harvard and feels robbed: “Gore…had a D+ average in his two ‘Natural Sciences’ classes (which seem pretty bogus to me, kind of like ‘rocks for jocks’). Half Sigma has Bs or B+s in two semesters of Chemistry and two semesters of Physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (before he transferred to an Ivy League undergraduate school). What does this mean? It means Half Sigma is more qualified to talk about gases in the atmosphere than Al Gore. Someone should give me a Nobel Prize.”"”"”

Phuck, even we here at Contingencies, humble computer geeks and logico-ontologists, out-GPA and out-science Big Al the Green Dinosaur. Maybe Al should have to run through Avagadro's Number problems: then see how he does, and if can't pass it, return the Prize................


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Alex C. on Al G.

"Al Gore's Peace Prize"

""""It's As Ridiculous As If They'd Given Goebbels One in 1938""""

"""""Put this one up on the shelf of shame, right next to Henry Kissinger's, or the peace prize they gave to Kofi Annan and the entire UN in 2001, sandwiched between the UN's okay for the bombing of Serbia, the killing of untold numbers of Iraqis, many of them babies and children in the years of sanctions, and its greenlight for the bombing of Baghdad in 2003. In 1998 the Nobel crowd gave the prize to Medecins Sans Frontieres, whose co-founder Bernard Kouchner is now France's foreign secretary urging the bombing of Iran. Like Gore, Kouchner was a rabid advocate of the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia and onslaughts on Serbia.""""

We are not worthy. Cockburn realizes that Gore, like Hillary, is "Them." Perhaps Gore no longer has as much "Them" as a Dick Cheney's Them, but Them nonetheless. Clinton/Gore phucked up. That's the Res Ipsa Loquitur of Democratic politics of the last 15 years. They could have done great things, implemented reforms, taken on the corporate and financial oligarchies. Instead, Bill-Al decided to play it safe, accomodate, move to the right, while increasing bureaucracy (though in some cases, Clinton/Gore cut needed infrastructure--Gore in fact slashed funding for environmental research). Gore's the role model for like liberal protestant-stoners everywhere who think if software executives and IT barons just start to recycle and eat tofu everything will be kosher.

Gore's new greenish turn is more or less calculated and corporate as well. Global warming rates as a pseudo-issue compared to peak oil, to war, to nuclear weapons problems, to theocracy. The Inconvenient Truth was more corporate-sponsored liberalism. What's more, Al fails to mention all the decent arguments why CO2 is not the culprit.

""""The most often cited reconstructed global average temperature curves (themselves somewhat tenuous, see below) show increases in global mean temperature of approximately 0.5-1 C in the last 100 years. Let us compare this to the extremes of temperature to which humans routinely adapt. Humans have thrived in every possible ecological niche on the planet, from deserts to tropical forests to the North Polar Regions, since well before present technological advances. These environments show mean temperature differences of as much as 50 C or more. Many of these environments also show day to night and seasonal differences of as much as 20-50 C. A sudden 0.5-1 C increase in mean annual temperature (not spread over 100 years) would be imperceptible to any human and indeed could barely be detected using all of the methods of the modern scientific enterprise."""""


And that's no Freeper: but a Canadian scientist, and green showing the BS of Gore's pseudo-environmentalism. The temperature curves themselves are problematic: the margin of error could possibly be sufficient to show that the supposed rises in temperature due to CO2 (natural or anthropic, Al?) are negligible. Phuck Al Gore, that phony corporate lackey.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Teddy A. in da House.

Adorno: old-school marxist who detested both western capitalism and stalinist bureaucracy. A classically-trained musician (violinist, ah believe) Adorno also wrote some interesting things on the "culture industry", and how popular entertainment de-sensitizes consumers all over the globe. TA was a proverbial snob, though one still interested in socialist reform. His writings are often rather speculative, and Karl Popper was not entirely mistaken in criticizing Adorno (and most of the "structural" marxists) for his somewhat hasty conclusions and generalizations: i.e. many european scholars are not too keen on empiricial evidence, and verification. At the same time the Frankfurt marxists called the Popperians and positivists on their lack of any meaningful politics, their innate skepticism, and their subservience to the monarchy of Capital.

""""""The frame of mind to which popular music originally appealed, on which it feeds, and which it perpetually reinforces, is simultaneously one of distraction and inattention. Listeners are distracted from the demands of reality by entertainment which does not demand attention either.


The notion of distraction can be properly understood only within its social setting and not in self-subsistent terms of individual psychology. Distraction is bound to the present mode of production, to the rationalized and mechanized process of labor to which, directly or indirectly, masses are subject. This mode of production, which engenders fears and anxiety about unemployment, loss of income, war, has its "non-productive" correlate in entertainment; that is, relaxation which does not involve the effort of concentration at all. People want to have fun. A fully concentrated and conscious experience of art is possible only to those whose lives do not put such a strain on them that in their spare time they want relief from both boredom and effort simultaneously. The whole sphere of cheap commercial entertainment reflects this dual desire. It induces relaxation because it is patterned and pre-digested. Its being patterned and pre-digested serves within the psychological household of the masses to spare them the effort of that participation (even in listening or observation) without which there can be no receptivity to art. On the other hand, the stimuli they provide permit an escape from the boredom of mechanized labor.""""""

Full O'Sound and Fury, dewd


"""""The emotional listener listens to everything in terms of late romanticism and of the musical commodities derived from it which are already fashioned to fit the needs of emotional listening. They consume music in order to be allowed to weep. They are taken in by the musical expression of frustration rather than by that of happiness. The influence of the standard Slavic melancholy typified by Tchaikovsky and Dvorak is by far greater than that of the most "fulfilled" moments of Mozart or of the young Beethoven. The so-called releasing element of music is simply the opportunity to feel something. But the actual content of this emotion can only be frustration. Emotional music has become the image of the mother who says, "Come and weep, my child." It is catharsis for the masses, but catharsis which keeps them all the more firmly in line. One who weeps does not resist any more than one who marches. Music that permits its listeners the confession of their unhappiness reconciles them, by means of this "release", to their social dependence."""""

This seems quite rich and suggestive: ""Emotional music has become the image of the mother who says, "Come and weep, my child." It is catharsis for the masses, but catharsis which keeps them all the more firmly in line."""

The emotional catharsis of schmaltzy sad music then sort of reinforces the consumer's own misery--their own status as losers. Yass Teddy. However, there is kitschy melancholy (like Tchaikovsky, as TA notes, or all sorts of pop "gothic" music), and there is authentic melancholy--late Scriabin, Chopin, Bach organ concertos, a bit of Satie, Bill Evans playing Autumn Leaves. In terms of narratives, there are soap operas, mafioso dramas, tearjerkers; rather more powerful and perennial are Macbeth and Othello, or EA Poe, Shelley, etc. The authentic melancholy concerns not only one individual or one family's tragedy, but a nation's tragedy, a continent's tragedy---a corpse-strewn battlefield, and rats taking lunch break.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nietzsche reflects on his one time pal, Wagner.

".......Wagner represents a great corruption of music. He has guessed that it is a means to excite weary nerves,—and with that he has made music sick. His inventiveness is not inconsiderable in the art of goading again those who are weariest, calling back into life those who are half-dead. He is a master of hypnotic tricks, he manages to throw down the strongest like bulls. Wagner's success—his success with nerves and consequently with women—has turned the whole world of ambitious musicians into disciples of his secret art. And not only the ambitious, the clever, too ... Only sick music makes money today; our big theaters subsist on Wagner...."

Das stimmt. And Fritz was at least as decent an ivory-tickler as RW. Wagner's far more Xtian than pagan; rather, Xtianity, filtered through norse myths. Heroics, the militarism, anti-semitism. Nietzsche realized what a bombastic, pompous, bourgeois, loud bore RW could be. Most modern germans detest that crap, and would prefer Satie. The American hicks who flock to Wagner shows in the Gay Area or El Lay are mostly just opportunists, sort of scots or irish mafiosos. Conspicuous consumption, as Veblen called it: they generally know nothing about German kultur or musick.

Wagner's mostly the Beer Barrel Polka with some ornamentations. Advanced Oom pah pah …..Be assured Bach and Beethoven laugh at Fieldmarshall Wagner somewhere beyond–as do all the great russian and french composers.

Mark Twain was no fan of the Wagnerian spectacle:

""""I have witnessed and greatly enjoyed the first act of everything which Wagner created, but the effect on me has always been so powerful that one act was quite sufficient; whenever I have witnessed two acts I have gone away physically exhausted; and whenever I have ventured an entire opera the result has been the next thing to suicide."""""""

Heh heh.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The case for mocking religion/Hitchens

This is an oldie of Hitchens, but in some sense the essay hasn't received the recognition it deserved. Anyone who values certain cultural practices of Western democracy--movies, music, wine or liquor, or Sausage McMuffins--should be aware that the Prophet's code forbids nearly all forms of entertainment (as well as the booze that you and a significant other might imbibe while enjoying Debussy...... or the Grateful Dead).

"......Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet—who was only another male mammal—is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent. This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.

I refuse to be spoken to in that tone of voice, which as it happens I chance to find "offensive." ( By the way, hasn't the word "offensive" become really offensive lately?) The innate human revulsion against desecration is much older than any monotheism: Its most powerful expression is in the Antigone of Sophocles. It belongs to civilization. I am not asking for the right to slaughter a pig in a synagogue or mosque or to relieve myself on a "holy" book. But I will not be told I can't eat pork, and I will not respect those who burn books on a regular basis. I, too, have strong convictions and beliefs and value the Enlightenment above any priesthood or any sacred fetish-object. It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species.""""""

Hail Eris! (google for mo')

Friday, October 05, 2007

Movin' like a shadow above

"How then do you become Napoleon? There is always one escape: into wickedness. Always do the thing that will shock and wound people. At five, throw a little boy off a bridge, strike an old doctor and break his spectacles -- or, anyway, dream about doing these things. Along those lines you can always feel yourself original. And after all, it pays! It is much less dangerous than crime."

(George Orwell offers some insights into the politics of surrealism and Dalí).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Johnny the Recanter.

Edwards said, about 2 years ago, he was wrong on the Iraq war:

"Almost three years ago we went into Iraq to remove what we were told -- and what many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.

It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake"

Edwards deserves some credit for admitting his "mistake" (if a mistake it was). On the other hand, when you think about it, the implications of that mistake are staggering. If Bushco manipulated intelligence to the degree that some of the "recanters" suggest, or created false pretenses for large-scale war, Bush and his cabinet should be facing trial for very serious crimes. Murder for one. It's entirely reasonable to put the leading US Dems on trial as well for collusion of some sort.

Additionally, while we here at Contingencies respect Edwards for his recanting, we recognize a certain shoddy BS quality to it. That's a great faux-pas, obviously, that cost the lives of thousands, and billions of dollars. (that's not to say the allegations of misrepresentation have been proven to be true--though millions of people seem to think they are true). The admission of guilt on the Iraq war then appears nearly confessional, a type of political atonement--Johnny Recanter comes clean! A self-effacing quality plays well in the liberal Simulacra--Edwards enters the cosmic Rehab, is healed, forgiven, and Moves On. Justice not really a concern, and indeed "square", man.

Notwithstanding the atonement hustles (and subtle ad populus, really), politicians like Edwards are not ordinary citizens. The Dems would have known much more about this than Jane Q. Pubic does: they would have been briefed by the military, intelligence, CIA, etc. So it's not like they get a 15 minute run-down on the situation and say thumbs up or not to an invasion (if that's it, they definitely should be on trial).

The democratic politicians were involved in the process leading up to war for months. Edwards may have recanted; on the other hand, that recanting might be more like, "I recant" ("but really know much more about this then I let on").
Dems could have voted against IWR (some did, like Boxer). They could have raised a stink, filibustered, etc. Then, having learned there was deception, pressed much harder for investigations--and legal action ( some World Court--or Russell Tribunal---sort of panel). Assuming that Bushco used deception, false pretenses, misrepresention to justify the Iraqi war effort, the pro-war Democrats are, I believe, party to that deception. So voting for Hillary, or even Edwards, arguably, implies voting for a war criminal.

----------- -------------

Click for ~Gott

Monday, October 01, 2007

He is risen

St. BZ.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Luther: Der Luegenmeister.

"Aus einem verzagten Arsch kommt kein fröhlicher Furz!" (Martin Luther)

""""[Luther's] dialectical style was translated into the famous doctrine of the "two swords" dealing with authority in society. Luther argued that the authority of the Church ("the sword of doctrine") extended only to "spiritual" matters and that the Church should never interfere with the running of the state ("the sword of the princes"). In fact Luther taught that the princes could do whatever they needed to do to maintain order without regard to moral concerns. After all, justification was by faith, not by works and only dealt with one's eternal standing before God, not with one's temporal standing in the world. This was the first use of dialectical morality in Christian European history and was used to justify the brutalization, torture, rape and murder of peasants, Jews, Catholics, Anabaptists, and anyone else who threatened the absolute authority of the princes in their realms. Needless to say, this made Luther very popular with the more rapacious German nobles.""""


Arguments---sound arguments--- could be made that Luther and Lutheranism in some sense resulted in German nationalism, and the rise of the nazis. And if one recalls that Hegelian dialectic --Hegel was a devoted Lutheran at the end of his life, and rightist-militarist--- not only influenced German rightists, but Marx and the left , one could argue Luther, via Hegel ushered in Stalinism as well. Lutheran-Hegelian Apocalypse, dankeschoen.....Bertrand Russell sort of thought along those lines.

Luther rejected Aristotelian logic, and thus the law of contradiction (rather important to classical mathematics as well--try a reductio ad absurdum sans the law of contradiction), and most of the catholic theology (and in a sense greek rationalism): there is some mystical dualism instead, where Christ is both sinful man and god. That is one reason the catholics hated him (and burnt some of his translations of Screeepture), and still do. Luther's irrationalism then, according to this reading, had a great influence on Hegelian dialectic and marxism, which is also contra-Aristotelian logic (instead of objecting to contradiction as falsity, the protestants, and Hegelian-postmodernists in some sense embrace it).

That's not "necessary" in a sense (for one, methinks Hegel did respect the greeks to some extent--as did Kant), but some scholars argue in that fashion--I wager Gottlieb Frege, the father of modern logic and mathematical analysis, thought something like that (along with Russell, a Fregean such as Quine, writing on presumed challenges to the law of contradiction [a few supposed anomalies of quantum physics, or Browerian "intuitionism," etc.], also rejects the anti-rationalist, i.e. anti-logicist position). That's not to suggest that catholics are superior, or a more authentic tradition; merely that protestantism begins with a certain anti-rationalist position (Nietzsche also in that tradition to some degree, but FN, well-aware of the power of scientific empiricism--from Copernicus to Darwin--, simply rejects the theological BS---such as the dualism, either protestant/Hegelian or platonic-catholic--).

Therefore, we here at Contingencies interpret Luther's little anti-despair fart-rant, as sort of a "keep a smile on, firm-handshake, Win-Win situation" protestant-salesman BS: Reagan-like nearly. (Calvin himself also thought in those terms). I wager Luther was probably some big beer-swilling, pork-eating, saxon thug: recall his "sin strongly, but keep your faith" BS. In other words, keep your eye on the sparrow, und Gott im Himmel, as your Panzer division enters Poland.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Queequeg's bad dream

extrem großer Megalodon-Zahn

"""""Unappalled by the massacre made upon them during the night, the sharks now freshly and more keenly allured by the before pent blood which began to flow from the carcase - the rabid creatures swarmed round it like bees in a beehive.

And right in among those sharks was Queequeg; who often pushed them aside with his foundering feet. A thing altogether incredible were it not that attracted by such prey as a dead whale, the otherwise miscellaneously carnivorous shark will seldom touch a man."""""

(from Melville's Moby Dick)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Punk named Eli

„‚Gott‘, ‚Unsterblichkeit der Seele‘, ‚Erlösung‘, ‚Jenseits‘ lauter Begriffe, denen ich keine Aufmerksamkeit, auch keine Zeit geschenkt habe, selbst als Kind nicht, – ich war vielleicht nie kindlich genug dazu? – Ich kenne den Atheismus durchaus nicht als Ergebniss, noch weniger als Ereigniss: er versteht sich bei mir aus Instinkt. Ich bin zu neugierig, zu fragwürdig, zu übermüthig, um mir eine faustgrobe Antwort gefallen zu lassen. Gott ist eine faustgrobe Antwort, eine Undelicatesse gegen uns Denker –, im Grunde sogar bloss ein faustgrobes Verbot an uns: ihr sollt nicht denken! …“


Move On is whacked, crypto-marxist, regardless of their database of "signatures" (and any Jeffersonian--und, a fortiori, Nietzschean-- should ALWAYS be wary of people who say "we have 500,000+ signatures, aren't we right??"). Billionaire leftist Soros throws millions of shekels to MoveOn each year.

Gen. Petraeus is a 101 Airborne vet, quite respected by his peers (MoveOn-o-Cheks should pray to St. Marx that the 101 boys--or even Rudy Guiliani-- don't get a hold of that list of signatures). Even Hillary Clinton likes him. Eli Pariser on the other hand is a little Vermonty-pacifist punk: his satire wasn't even amusing. MoveOn. Inc. lied about Petraeus's record, and also insinuated that Petraeus himself had lied during his testimony to Congress (probably a defamation case as well). Then the silly "betray-us' jive. Not even amusing.

Phuck dat punk: and the punks who sign on to MoveOn's bitch list.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Genealogy, n.

"An account of one's descent from a man who did not particularly care to trace his own."

(Ambrose Bierce). Ambrose knew the score: the typical American middle-class idiot generally invokes his ancestral name (or what is assumed to be an ancestral name) when some lucrative opportuni-tay presents itself. MormBots and other pious frauds are especially fond of the genealogy hustle (and the clans that don't quite pay their respects to the LDS elders are awarded black marks next to their family tree (or weed as it were)).

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Crude went from $25 to $80+ bucks a barrel, in five years (that's how Rothschilds are born). The Federal reserve boys, realizing that oil prices have a direct relationship to the US economy as a whole (such as mortgages, credit, bonds, etc.), more or less adjust interest rates accordingly (though they were off until 2003 or so).

Trading units in crude oil are 1000 barrels each. Most shekelmeisters start with at least 10 contracts: 10,000 barrels (a big-time baron like Gates or Ellison probably has millions tied up in the crude casino). So starting--modestly, in capitalist terms---with 10,000 @ $25, you had $250,000 (minus the fees for brokers and other whores). Less than 4 years later, you got $800,000 in value (add another 0 or two for how the deep pockets boys in NY or Chi-town play)--actually with leverage, it could be more. That ain't working.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The "Loyal Opposition."

In Chinese, "We'll destroy old world and build a new one." Maoist art from the early Cultural Revolution (1966): note that the Worker crushes the crucifix, Buddha and classical chinese texts with his hammer.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Candide Lemma (Steven Pinker on Design)

Pinker is a psychology professor at Harvard University, and best-selling author and linguist.

""....Our own bodies are riddled with quirks that no competent engineer would have planned but that disclose a history of trial-and-error tinkering: a retina installed backward, a seminal duct that hooks over the ureter like a garden hose snagged on a tree, goose bumps that uselessly try to warm us by fluffing up long-gone fur.

The moral design of nature is as bungled as its engineering design. What twisted sadist would have invented a parasite that blinds millions of people or a gene that covers babies with excruciating blisters? To adapt a Yiddish expression about God: If an intelligent designer lived on Earth, people would break His windows.

The theory of natural selection explains life as we find it, with all its quirks and tragedies. We can prove mathematically that it is capable of producing adaptive life forms and track it in computer simulations, lab experiments and real ecosystems. It doesn't pretend to solve one mystery (the origin of complex life) by slipping in another (the origin of a complex designer).

Many people who accept evolution still feel that a belief in God is necessary to give life meaning and to justify morality. But that is exactly backward. In practice, religion has given us stonings, inquisitions and 9/11. Morality comes from a commitment to treat others as we wish to be treated, which follows from the realization that none of us is the sole occupant of the universe. Like physical evolution, it does not require a white-coated technician in the sky.""""

Pinker, unlike many of the neo-Darwinists (Dawkins hints at the issue, but does not really develop it) points out a central problem of any putative "Design arguments": a Designer would by definition have knowingly designed the bacteria that caused the black plague (--and all other nasty organisms, whether viruses, or T. Rex). However obvious that point is (it was obvious to Voltaire, the Marquis Of Arouet, and really to the more skeptical of the Founding Fathers such as Franklin and Jefferson (who kept a bust of Voltaire in his study)), it remains a rather powerful counterargument to theological "naturalism"--and really to any religious claims. For Voltaire, the Lisbon quake of his time (and the tidal wave which resulted in the deaths of 10,000 people) offered ample evidence of a lack of a perfect Designer--and the Indonesian tsunami of 12/2004 Lisbon x 30. Yet neither tsunamis nor plagues (nor world wars) phase the modern fundie: each sunday he marches into his chapel and gives thanks to his volcano "God".
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