Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Near Death

Mario Beauregard, a research scientist at the University of Montreal, writes an interesting article on near death experiences in Salon Magazine.

NDE= near death experience

OBE = out-of-body experience

Although the details differ, NDEs are characterized by a number of core features. Perhaps the most vivid is the OBE: the sense of having left one’s body and of watching events going on around one’s body or, occasionally, at some distant physical location. During OBEs, near-death experiencers (NDErs) are often astonished to discover that they have retained consciousness, perception, lucid thinking, memory, emotions, and their sense of personal identity. If anything, these processes are heightened: Thinking is vivid; hearing is sharp; and vision can extend to 360 degrees. NDErs claim that without physical bodies, they are able to penetrate through walls and doors and project themselves wherever they want. They frequently report the ability to read people’s thoughts.

The effects of NDEs on the experience are intense, overwhelming, and real. A number of studies conducted in United States, Western European countries, and Australia have shown that most NDErs are profoundly and positively transformed by the experience. One woman says, “I was completely altered after the accident. I was another person, according to those who lived near me. I was happy, laughing, appreciated little things, joked, smiled a lot, became friends with everyone … so completely different than I was before!”

Of course, nothing will persuade the materialist that all mental events  derive from the brain and no mental event happens outside the brain, and all mental events are brain events. It reminds me of Mussolini’s dictum: ” all within the state, nothing outside the sate, nothing against the state”

All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benitomuss109829.html#Y5QoFYlOXkLssmjI.99
All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benitomuss109829.html#Y5QoFYlOXkLssmjI.99

Hmmn…materialism as a form of brain fascism.

Materialism – the doctrine that everything in the universe is of one substance: matter and its motions, and nothing else – is the dominant world view of this century and the last. It has precisely zero chance of lasting another fifty years, except as a relic, like fascism or communism. It is so twentieth century.

Anyway, for  the interested, here are a few books worth your attention on the subject of mind, awareness, and consciousness,  and why consciousness is primary:

Out of our Heads, by Alva Noë (2010) The author is a philosopher.

The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, by Tor Nørretranders (1999) The author is a science writer.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by Julian Jaynes 1976. The author was a classicist [Jaynes was almost certainly wrong in part but absolutely brilliant]

The Purpose-Guided Universe, by Bernard Haisch (2010) The author is a physicist

Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, by Stephen M, Barr
(2003) The author is a physicist.

The Master and His Emissary, The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, by Iain McGillchrist (2011) The author is a psychiatrist.

Biocentrism, by Robert Lanza (2009) Lanza is a medical doctor, whose book is a more popular rendition of the ideas and arguments found in Bernard Haisch and Stephen Barr.

Brain Wars, by Mario Beauregard (2012). Beauregard is a brain researcher at the UdeM. Also by him:
The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul

Genetics has more influence on political orientation than environment

The modern doctrine is that sexual orientation is hard-wired, while political orientation is a matter of free will. Each is probably a mixture of both,  but the news here is that political orientation is influenced by genetics. Kevin Smith and John Hibbing conducted the study, based on the analysis of identical twins.

(Medical Xpress)—A research paper appearing in the academic journal Political Psychology re-affirms the genetic underpinnings of political beliefs, refuting critics who challenged previous research that linked politics with genetics. The new paper, “Genetic and Environmental Transmission of Political Orientations,” is the lead article in the December edition of the journal. It is based upon a 2009 survey of nearly 600 sets of in their 50s and 60s, sought through the Minnesota Twin Registry. “The data from the twin studies is strong enough now that if you don’t believe political attitudes and behaviors are genetically inherited, you can’t believe that breast cancer is genetically inherited and you can’t believe that addictions are genetically inherited,” said Kevin Smith, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln political scientist who co-authored the study.

The more recent paper backed up earlier research of theirs in 2005 that concluded:

The 2005 paper directly challenged conventional wisdom that children are taught their political attitudes by their parents, with their beliefs later being shaped by life events and experiences. “We find that political attitudes are influenced much more heavily by genetics than by parental socialization,” the researchers wrote in the 2005 paper.

Another treatment of this article is found at Huffington Post.

What did the researchers find? The identical twins’ political views were consistently more similar than were those of the fraternal twins, and further statistical analysis revealed that these differences were partially the result of genetic influences.

“I know people get bent out of shape about this,” Smith said in a written statement. “The environment is important, it’s just not everything. You can talk about biology and you can talk about the environment. Who we are is a combination of both.”

Their work is consistent with what Jonathan Haidt has been showing with his Moral Foundations Theory.

Moral Foundations Theory is a social psychological theory intended to explain the origins of and variation in human moral reasoning on the basis of innate, modular foundations. At present, the theory proposes six such foundations: harm, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority, and purity; however, its authors envision the possibility of including additional foundations. The theory was first proposed by the psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Craig Joseph, building on the work of cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder, subsequently developed by a diverse group of collaborators, and popularized in Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind.

Although the initial development of moral foundations theory focused on cultural differences, subsequent work with the theory has largely focused on political ideology. Various scholars have offered moral foundations theory as an explanation of differences between political liberals and conservatives and have suggested that it can explain variation in opinion on politically charged issues such as gay marriage and abortion. In particular, Haidt has argued that liberals stress only three of the moral foundations (harm, fairness, and liberty) in their reasoning while conservatives stress all six more equally.

 

People who tend conservative are more cautious, more conscientious, more concerned with loyalty to the group, and hence more socially concerned, more concerned with seemliness, holiness, and quicker to disgust. Liberals tend to more concerned with procedural fairness, equality of outcomes, and freedom from oppressive social arrangements than are conservatives. It seems entirely reasonable that political orientations are the results, and not the sources, of profounder pre-political notions and sentiments: such as holiness, profaneness,fairness, disgust, oppression, sociability.

Studies like this confirm what everyone already knows. They are controversial only to a narrow segment of ideological liberals who insist that everything is environmental, and nothing genetic, except of course, homosexual orientation.

Harper and Putin; Putin and Holy Mother Russia

Our Prime Minister has been leading the charge against Putin’s land grab. In this Mr. Harper is to be commended for doing best what Harper does: calling out the world from moral torpor to assert the supremacy of right. So ten points to our Prime Minister. Yet his assertion that Putin is acting out of a Cold War mentality is, I believe, in error. The Crimean incident is produced from a deeper well of history than the Cold War, which was the temporary arrangement between victorious parliamentary capitalist powers and the victorious communist power to divide the world among them, 1945-1990, after the defeat of national-socialism. Matthew Fisher in the Post quotes Harper saying:

“We simply, as a world, cannot afford the risk of Europe going back to being a continent where people seize territory, where they make claims on other neighbouring countries, where the bigger military powers are prepared to invade their neighbours or carve off pieces,” Mr. Harper said.

However much I agree with the Prime Minister, and I do, this is not the whole story. Something much larger is going on My take on Putin is to listen to what the Russian leader says he is doing, rather than to what westerners say he is doing. In that regard Father Raymond de Souza provides a deeper insight into the Russian psyche than any understanding predicated in Russia as an old failed-communist state. It is to Russia as the only Orthodox Christian political power of consequence that we must refer.

“To understand the reason behind [the referendum result] it is enough to know the history of Crimea and what Russia and Crimea have always meant for each other,” Putin said. “Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.” In 988, Vladimir was baptized in the Crimean coastal city of Khersones (Chersonesos) and the date marks the beginning of Russian Christianity. After his baptism in Crimea, Vladimir’s family was baptized in Kyiv. Russia thus finds its cultural and national roots in the baptism of Kievan Rus’. When Putin says it is Orthodoxy that unites Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, he is placing himself in a line that stretches back a millennium to events that took place not in Moscow, but in Kyiv and Crimea — hence the importance of Ukraine in Putin’s politics.

This struggle between Latin Christendom and Orthodox Christendom goes back a thousand years. I do not say that the struggle is religious in origin, though it may be. I mean only to say that the antipathy to the West in Russia is of long standing.The divisions between us are not of recent invention. The myths that animate Russian culture centre on the resistance of Orthodoxy to the pretensions of the Roman Church (i.e. the Papacy) to Christian supremacy, as much as they do the resistance to Islamic oppression from the Tatar Mongols and the Turks. This brings me to the demographic catastrophe besetting Russia. Every year Putin loses hundreds of thousands of Russians from failure to reproduce, from premature deaths, from abortions. The Russian birth rate is collapsing. Something must be done to make Russians want to breed; and belief is the main reason why people bring forth children into the world. If that need to believe is to be animated once again, the only reasonable candidate for the task is the Orthodox Church. It is both the tool at hand and is fully embedded in Russian national consciousness. What, you ask, is the relationship between fertility of civilizations and faith? Is that not a stretch?  Not if you read “How Civilizations Die: and Why Islam is Dying Too”, by David Goldman, who makes a persuasive case that it is religious faith that peoples the world, and that nothing else suffices. Goldman cites the United Nations population division statistics (at p.233) to show that Russia’s population decline from its 2010 level to what it will be in 2100, on constant fertility, will be 53.3% – more than half of the current population. Imagine a Canada where the prediction of Canadian population would go from 33 million now to 16 million 90 years from now. Goldman invites us to think about larger issues than our hedonic culture allows. As he writes:

“The problem of cultural survival, – the possibility that a people (or a majority of a people) might cling to a backward or even barbaric culture, because that culture offers them a bulwark against mortality, – does not occur to Enlightenment political philosophy”

Tsar Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has a much much larger problem to address that western economic sanctions. He has to rekindle religious faith in a land from which it was excluded by force of arms, massacres, prison camps, and relentless materialist propaganda (à la Dawkins backed up by secret police) for eighty-five years. he has to get Russians breeding again, and that means to stop drinking, smoking and carrying on, and turn to producing babies in stable families. It is a huge turnaround. It can only begin with the restoration of faith in themselves, in their Church, and in their God. Putin intends just that. 450px-Russian_Total_Fertility_Rates

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Russia

 

 

The Alternate Universe of Doug Saunders

A debate was held last night in Ottawa between Doug Saunders, of the Globe and Mail, and author of Myth of the Muslim Tide, and Salim Mansur, Associate Professor of Political Science at Western University, on the topic “Resolved: Muslim Immigration is No Threat To Canada Or The West.” The MacDonald-Laurier Institute was the sponsor, and the War Museum provided the space.

Doug Saunders spoke first. His argument, as I recall it, went like this:

  • Controls on Muslim immigration would not have prevented most of the major Islamic terrorist attacks in Christendom – a word he never would have allowed to pass his lips (9/11; London subways)
  • Muslim birth rates are crashing abroad and are falling rapidly in their host countries;
  • accordingly there is no way for the demographic pressure of Islam to have significant political impact;
  • It is not Muslim immigrants who commit atrocities, it is Muslim converts and second generation Muslim immigrants.
  • If we have so little faith in the power of our civilization to repel political Islam, we are in trouble indeed.
  • fears of Islamic terrorist tendencies are similar to those that attended mass Catholic immigration from Southern Europe in the 19th century
  • the overwhelming proportion of Muslim immigrants who come here want to integrate to this civilization.

Doug’s observation on the catastrophic decline of Muslim birth rates all around the world is a true and under-appreciated fact. Overall his presentation was smooth, WASPy, plausible (until one thought about it), fact-based, kept within his time limits and yet inspired many to ask: “what planet is he from?”. There was an overwhelming sense conveyed by his arguments that there was “nothing to look at here, move on.” Islamic fanaticism was part and parcel of all fundamentalist religious beliefs, no different in kind from Christian or Jewish fundamentalisms. He clearly saw the source of terrorism in the unvarnished statements of the  Abrahamic religions per se, and not in anything specifically Muslim.

By way of opposition, Mansur insisted that Islam has been taken over by a pernicious doctrine of Salafism, that Salfism is wrecking the former pluralism of Islamic world, and that we ought to be on guard against significant Muslim immigration. He said he had fled one such Islamic civil-religious war and was shocked to see that it had caught up with him in Canada decades later. Mansur insisted that Islam had once been pluralist, but that Saudi money had infected Islam with what he called “Bedouin barbarism”.

Mansur insisted that numbers were a driver even if they were small; that elections are matters of going for the marginal voter, not the middle of the road majority, and that if 3%, 5% or 7% of the Canadian population were Muslim, as it is expected to become, that fact would have dramatic effects on freedom of speech and resistance to Sharia.

Mansur observed that former immigrant waves had come from the same Christian civilization, whether Catholic or Russian Orthodox, and that there was a qualitatively different aspect to modern Islamic immigration, as it came from a different civilization. He cited Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations with approval.

As the threats from fundamentalisms, Mansur observed that the Reformation   had happened 500 years ago in Christianity, and [I add] had occurred for Jews later in the Enlightenment period. Islam was unreformed.

At the question period, a Muslim woman in a hijab, in a perfect Canadian accent, suggested to Saunders that there was a felt pressure on young Muslim women to adopt the hijab involuntarily, and another Muslim woman , sans hijab, said the same in a foreign-born accent. This was all contrary to what Saunder’s Muslim researchers were telling him, said Saunders.

Saunders argued strictly to the proposition being debated, which was about Muslim immigration rather than Islam itself. But a moment’s reflection reveals the falsity of his narrowly construed argument. If the second generation of Muslim immigrants born here, and Muslim converts, are the source of domestic terrorism, then why is this not related directly to the presence of Muslim proselytizers and Muslim families already here?

The MacDonald-Laurier debates usually end with an audience vote. Brian Lee Crowley, the Institute’s head, thanked the debaters without calling for a vote. Presumably the sensitivity of such a vote at a debate sponsored by his Institute would have made fund-raising more difficult. I could think of no better argument for Mansur’s proposition that the MacDonald-Laurier Instutute thought better of having the proposition put to the audience. Like most instances of discussion about things Islamic, the vague but real menace that you will be boycotted, bombed, sued, threatened, or even killed for disputing Islam, or allowing a forum in which it could be disputed,  suggests that, in fact, Muslim immigration should be very carefully controlled for explicit political and cultural reasons.

As for Doug Saunders, all his reasoning did not amount to a persuasive case: he dwells in some alternate universe. The tone, the implicit condescension, the avoidance of obvious large and unpleasant facts, makes him a perfect fit for the  Globe and Mail.

Theory is determining what is being observed

“Theory determines what is observed” is a line attributed to Einstein. I once heard the expression used by a senior scientist speaking to John Holdren, Obama’s principal scientific advisor. He was attempting to get Holdren to perceive that the theory of anthropogenic global warming was determining what was being observed.

The semi-mystical belief system of warmists is aptly described by Sean Thomas in the Telegraph. After reviewing centuries of headlines crying “worst flooding ever”, “worst cold ever”, he concludes:

Perhaps man-made climate change is all in the mind – because, in our instinctive terrors, we always think that something wicked this way comes, especially from the sky: as a punishment from God, for things we have done. This paranoia, should it exist, would be hardwired into the human psyche, so we would rarely notice it – as the mind deceives itself.

If this is true, it means that lefty and greeny believers in man-made climate change are merely the Mormons of Meteorology, the Wahhabi of Warmism: they are the psychic equivalent of apocalyptic religious maniacs, forever spying signs of the promised Endtimes, and yet forever being disappointed.

What bothers us skeptics is that, for the Warmist, all events are evidence that man-made global warming is causing “climate change”, and that nothing fails to be evidence. Nothing denies, everything confirms: kind of like the love of God for a Christian. Personally, I prefer to reserve my beliefs for what cannot be proven. When holding a pen in my hand, I do not believe the pen will fall towards the earth when I let it go, I know it will fall. Pardon me if I prefer to believe in God than “climate change”. My God is a more interesting and helpful Imaginary Friend.

So I say to the warmists, recognize your beliefs as beliefs, and spare the rest of us from forced belief in your religion. It is your insistence that your beliefs are facts that makes me think you are akin to the paranoid hearing voices through toasters and air-phones. Everything conduces to your beliefs; but I cannot hear the voices emanating from the air-phones and toasters, and I resent being made to pretend.

 

Dark Enlightenment

For those who are curious about the places where you really should not go on the Internet, to taste the dubious fruits of seriously reactionary thought – I do not mean conservative, I mean reactionary – you can start with this rather dispassionate survey here from Vocativ, which is an interesting site in its own right.

What is the Dark Enlightenment? As the term suggests, the Dark Enlightenment is an ideological analysis of modern democracy that harshly rejects the vision of the 18th century European Enlightenment—a period punctuated by the development of empirical science, the rise of humanist values and the first outburst of revolutionary democratic reform. In contrast, the Dark Enlightenment advocates an autocratic and neo-monarchical society. Its belief system is unapologetically reactionary, almost feudal.

Having braced yourself for your encounter with stuff so far from electoral politics that it has disappeared through the event horizon, the  definition of which is surprisingly apt:

a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer…

you may now safely observe the blogs I am about to direct you to. Start with Occam’s Razor, which is frankly anti-democratic and reactionary, and in particular to “The Dark Enlightenment/NeoReaction gets Mainstream Notice”.

There are enough links for and against for you to follow that you can waste your time productively in the murkier recesses of reaction, and hysteria about reaction.

The essential contention of the reactionaries is that there exists an established church of opinion, which is called the Cathedral, whose laws are to be obeyed.  The laws of the Cathedral are the summary of the generally anti-white, anti-Christian, and antinomian beliefs that animate contemporary political discourse. Whether you agree with the reactionaries or not, you will probably recognize that the Cathedral represents  the core beliefs of the far political Left.

I exclude from the category “far Left” people who might want more government spending, or higher taxes, or less social inequality. Many people to the left of me are in the zone of reasonable political disagreement. I am talking about the people whom I believe to be morally deranged by anti-white racism, anti-male sexism, and anti-Christianism, among other symptoms.

The Left is hysterical about the existence of political differences. It drives them bonkers that there can be difference of opinion on, say, anthropogenic global warming, and people writing in the obscure corners of the opinion environment who believe that liberal democracy is heading us all straight to hell, or keeping us locked up there, as the case may be.

I remain much more confident about the capacities of public discourse to hold back and eventually reverse the Leftist tide, than either the reactionaries doubt or the far Left fears. In this I may utterly mistaken. I am creature of the Enlightenment in many senses:  I have no use for atheism,  I remain confident that reason will prevail, and these two beliefs are not contradictory. I am also confident that representative democracy is the only one suitable for sustaining self-government. I am a conservative, rather than a leftist,  because I believe we must govern ourselves well or else we shall be governed by others, and that requires serious education of the soul. I am a liberal, rather than a reactionary, because I believe that, more often than not, we are able to govern ourselves.

 

Happy delving into the depths of genuine political debate. Do not forget to come up for air.

Links:

http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/12/the-dark-enlightenment-is-new-right-lite/

http://dailycaller.com/2013/11/08/its-not-racist-to-seek-an-exit/

http://davidbrin.blogspot.ca/2013/11/neo-reactionaries-drop-all-pretense-end.html

http://anarchopapist.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/the-rightist-singularity/

Liberalism and Hate -2

Talking with Duggan’s Dew this morning, I related my excellent annual lunch with an estimable friend of mine: Liberal, liberal, and a good man. We disagree on everything except good manners, paying one’s bills, avoiding vulgarity and the other fundamentals of civilized existence.

You name it, we disagree: Obama, the plight of males in a female-dominated world, anthropogenic global warming. The list could be longer but there were only so many subjects that could be discussed in the course of a quite pleasant lunch.

In reciting my discussion,  Duggan’s Dew pointed out that the one thing the liberals can agree on is a vehement dislike of conservatives. All the world’s problems could be solved, one is led to think by liberals, if only conservatives, especially those of their own race and social class, did not exist. Our habit of pointing out things we consider to be facts and implications of race, class, nature, tribe, sex, rank, age, intelligence and stupidity aggravates them. The only arguments they can muster, when reduced to facing these facts, is to accuse of the various forbidden “isms”. It prevents thinking, reduces debate to name-calling, and established to their satisfaction their moral self-congratulation on being so  superior. (My lunch companion is and was eminently free from such habits, which is why we still lunch together.)

As Thomas Sowell once called it in the subtitle to “The Vision of the Anointed”: “self-congratulation as a basis for social policy”.

I opened this book to a random page and read:

 Among the amazing rationales for compensatory preferences for selected minorities to be imposed by courts is that such preferences merely offset previous preferences for members of the majority population….

But this again raises the question which arises in so many other contexts: is the law to attempt intertemporal cosmic justice or simply apply the same rules  to all in the only temporal realm to which it has jurisdiction – the present and the future? Moreover is the decision to opt for intertemporal cosmic justice one for which judges have any authorization, either from the Constitution or from statutes passed by elected officials? Such straightforward questions are often evaded by being redefined as “simplistic”….

“As in so many other contexts, the word “simplistic” was not part of an argument but a substitute for an argument. (at pp233-234)

I think the facts of life are conservative, in the sense that there is much more limited scope for remaking ourselves than many imagine. The arguments which ignore the facts of life, and particularly human inequalities,  are wrong, however benignly intentioned. We have the better arguments, but we have a massive uphill battle to fight to create the conditions for being understood.

I like treating people as equals. I like being treated as an equal. I want to live in a society where we do so.  But to live in a society that denies the implications of all the differences among mankind, and treats those who point them out as thought-criminals, is to live in a totalitarianism. I will not have it. And  if this means not going along with contemporary follies, so be it.

Saint Suzuki of the Church of Gaia considers himself a failure

Failed to turn us into a North Korea, that is.

The Vancouver Observer reports:

The federal government has been vigorously spying on anti-oil sands activists and organizations in BC and across Canada since last December, documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show.  Not only is the federal government subsidizing the energy industry in underwriting their costs, but deploying public safety resources as a de-facto ‘insurance policy’ to ensure that federal strategies on proposed pipeline projects are achieved, these documents indicate.

Before the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel hearings on the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline, the NEB coordinated the gathering of intelligence on opponents to the oil sands. The groups of interest are independent advocacy organizations that oppose the Harper government’s policies and work for environmental protections and democratic rights, including Idle No More, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, EcoSociety, LeadNow, Dogwood Initiative, Council of Canadians and the People’s Summit.

Excellent! Keep up the good work. People who would send us back to the levels of prosperity (or poverty) we knew in 1913, or 1813, or what they have in North Korea, are active enemies of civilization and should be monitored.

I do not think enough people are aware that the end goal of “environmentalism” is the destruction of a free and capitalist society.

David Suzuki feels as if he has failed because the transformative leap into full-scale destruction of industrial society has not taken place yet.

MacLean’s Magazine records him saying:

“Many of the battles that we fought 30 or 35 years ago, that we celebrated as enormous successes . . . Thirty-five years later, the same damn battles have started again. That’s where I think we failed,” Suzuki says. “We fundamentally failed to use those battles to get that awareness, to shift the paradigm. And that’s been the failure of environmentalism.”

It is more accurate to say that Canadians failed to shift awareness to the ecological paradigm because they were not persuaded that returning to the energy usage of 1949, or 1919, or 1880, could be accomplished without returning to the poverty (you may call them levels of wealth) of those times.

Further, they failed to convert to the religion that says man is a noxious weed and our existence on Gaia an offence to Great Mother Earth, a religion whose logical outcome is a sincere wish to reduce human numbers by mass exterminations. Suzuki and his tribe have done their best to use the battles to shift the paradigm; the reason they have failed is not for lack of trying. People want freedom and prosperity, and they have a strong feeling that the two are linked.

Suzuki wants to reduce our freedom and our prosperity, as a necessary outcome of his doctrines. Environmentalism masks itself as a concern for clean air and water, a concern which all rational creatures share. Behind environmentalism, however, is the age-old anti-human ideology that we can return to a tribe living in harmony with nature if only we surrender our rights and freedoms to the priesthood of the ecology, who will assign us to our menial tasks, and appease Gaia with sacrifices which we must make because we have sinned against her, and the rule of ecological shamans is the propitiation of our sins. They will reduce our numbers through poverty, immiseration, and disease, probably sped along by timely mass exterminations to accelerate the cleansing of our planet from the disease of humanity.

No, Doctor Suzuki, we did not fail to understand you. We understood your doctrines all too well, and all the resources of the political left, the CBC propaganda platform, and the zillions raised from the faithful have not sufficed to turn us into self-annihilating zealots. You have every right to consider yourself a failure, thank God.

 

Sometimes I read annoying books

Sometimes I read books, ones that compel me to keep calling out to the authors: “Surely you must have a better argument than that! Surely you can at least try to see and answer some obvious objections!”.

Mostly these books are written by intelligent people who have no philosophical training, so that they think they have discovered the equivalent of America, when they have failed to notice the landscape  already well-populated. The gravestones of Plato and Aristotle, David Hume, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche: these they pass by, not recognizing the issues have been discussed before. They are philosophically illiterate.

The question they ask is large, but the answers they derive are trivial. If man evolved (as we all agree) how did we arrive at consciousness through natural and sexual selection?

How did man evolve a consciousness of the minds of others, as well as consciousness of one’s own existence? This phenomenon they call “theory of mind”, which is an attribute humans normally develop, and is present to a greater or lesser degree in the more intelligent other species.

The book in question is called “Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs and the Origin of the Human Mind”, by Ajit Varki and Danny Brower. In essence, their argument is that the blockage in man’s evolution towards higher mental functions was self consciousness. Every species faces this blockage. Only one species has fully made it through this blockage. The idea they advance is that if one were the only self-conscious mind in the pack, then one would be at a competitive disadvantage in surviving. One would be too aware of death, too little inclined to perform the risky acts that lead to breeding success.

 The novel idea is negative selection against achieving full ToM [Theory of Mind], as opposed to positive selection for this trait. In other words, unless one could first get past the immediate negative consequences of a full ToM (particularly awareness of one’s own mortality), the likelihood of ever getting to use the positive features of ToM are slim to none. This is the Rubicon that we humans seem to have crossed over. (p115)

….Each time one individual among our ancestors managed to achieve a full stable ToM, she or he would have faced the psychological barrier of watching others die and thus becoming aware of his or her own mortality. A reasonable mechanism for eventually crossing this barrier is the ability to hold a false belief about the situation, that is denying reality.(p116)

….it seems plausible that the process involved partial loss of an existing neural mechanism rather than the addition of a new one. (p117)

 

The book’s premise is just as simple as could be:

If one were to fully and continuously contemplate one’s existence and the repercussions of its end, it would lead to constant anxiety stress depression and paralyzing behaviour in ordinary circumstances (p145)

Following upon the main argument, the book  engages in trashing of fundamentalist religious notions, beliefs and attitudes as the denial of reality, while cautiously allowing for common ground with those who accept the scientific facts yet leave room for spiritual approaches.

The truth or falsity of what they believe is their main point – the supposedly debilitating effects of a theory of mind on reproductive fitness -  is not really germane to my real objections to this book. My objection is way larger.

While I agree that fundamentalism – which is a doctrine about knowledge -  is in error, I am not taking their peace offering which would allow me my “spiritual approaches”.

The premise that most annoys me about this book and its authors is their assumption that they are defining “reality”. Their calm and imperious belief that their mindset defines the outward bounds of the thinkable is the source of my objection and annoyance. Why is a particular philosophical position of the authors “reality” and all other approaches to the significance of human life “denial”?

Who is defining reality here anyhow? They are confusing their doctrines for reality, their interpretations for facts.

Varki, a cancer physician, and Brouwer, a biologist and geneticist, are so deeply entrenched in materialist doctrines that they cannot see out. They are classic illustrations of the philosophical illiteracy of militant materialism.  The following list , for which I am indebted to Rupert Sheldrake, summarizes their views of facts and science.

1. science already understands the nature of reality in principle, leaving only the details to be filled in.

2. nature is mechanical

3. matter is unconscious

4. the laws of nature are fixed

5. the total amount of matter and energy is always the same

6. nature is purposeless

7. biological inheritance is material

8. memory is stored as material traces

9. the mind is in the brain, mental activity is nothing but brain activity

10. telepathy and other psychic phenomena are illusory

11. mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.

I would say on the basis of this book that the authors share every premise of the materialist world view.  Here are Varki and Brouwer on the subject of  Richard Dawkins, the Lucifer of the materialist interpretation of reality.

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins eloquently emphasizes that reality (i.e. that which is truly real and being continually revealed by science) is  itself more magical than all of the false realities that our minds construct. Read this book [i.e.Dawkins]  if you really want to appreciate what reality is….

“After all…, you are nothing more than a kind of hologram made up of subatomic particles that come together to form atoms, which come together to form molecules, which in turn form the organs of your body, including your brain, which in turn generates your mind, which is what you are using right now to understand this reality – for only a fleeting period of time, in cosmic terms. And the daily realities facing many of us are not that pleasant. It is highly unlikely that any other animal can truly appreciate reality at this level. But denying reality helps us tolerate the ugliness of that very same reality. (p196)

O, Bless You, our materialist elucidators of fact! How long have we dwelt in ignorance but for your awakening of us from delusion!

How could I possibly have believed in my own autonomy and worthiness? How could I have sinned so greatly against my meaninglessness?  How could I have been so deluded to think myself a creature in a creation so vast and magnificent that the awe I feel was directed towards a sublime force of love and light that created this awesome universe? How could I ever imagined my life had meaning?

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I urge all reasonable people to not allow yourselves to be bullied by Dawkins and his intellectual followers. Varki and Brower have written yet another in the long list of books explaining away everything that makes us human as “denial” and “illusion”. I sometimes think you have to be educated to believe such twaddle. Materialism is a doctrine, an interpretation, and not science and not reality. At least most religions these days know themselves to be interpretations, while materialist science does not.