Friday, March 7, 2014

The World has failed the Syrian children

Like one who brings an important
letter to the counter after
office hours: the counter is already closed.
Like one who seeks to warn the
city of an impending flood,
but speaks another language. They do not understand him.
Like a beggar who knocks for the
fifth time at the door where he has four times been given
something: the fifth time he is hungry.
Like one whose blood flows from
a wound and who awaits
the doctor: his blood goes on flowing.
So do we come forward and report that evil has been done us.
The first time it was reported that our friends were being
butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred
were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered
and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of
silence spread.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, no body calls out
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When
sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer
heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

by Bertolt Brecht


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thoughts on a friend exiting the stage too early

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances."
- William Shakespeare

A friend died recently. We were not in touch the past couple of years besides the occasional social media contact. I wanted to reconnect with him but never did these last few years. He was a tough person and a compassionate person a combination that is rare and a welcome repose from the mediocre when you find it. His passing was a surprise for he was relatively young and physically a fighter and strong in body. I still do not know what took him from this life. His family faith was Islam. He liked the same movies I did in Braveheart and Gladiator and he appreciated my video "Waking From Dogmatic Slumber".
 I took notice because few people on my personal social media site appreciated that video but he did. He was the type of person that would be in the fox hole with you. Slow to judge quick to assist. I wish I would of reconnected with him.
And now his consciousness is no longer bundled together. Human life is fragile and passing. For the living it is an illusion of normalcy. Consciousness is the dream of the living. Eternal dreamless sleep awaits.
There is a quote from the movie "The Thin Red Line" that states: "If I never meet you in this life let me feel the lack."
I was glad to meet him in this life and now I feel the lack.

Rest in peace brother. A peace and rest that is beyond Dreams. Beyond Space and Time.  Not even darkness can penetrate it.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal."

"Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal." - Robert Heinlein

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”   
Robert Fulghum

"Reason is poor propaganda."- Robert Heinlein

A Manageable World

It seems in society you have to pick sides to play the game. To be non tribal is difficult for the social primate.
And if you don't pick sides in this game of life you end up with little resources and community to draw support from. We are social animals par excellence. There is a group in Washington DC trying to bridge the partisan divide and I appreciate their desire to be more pragamatic and less dogmatic however they still have to label themselves. Their label is "No Labels". So there is the irony even when you are "no labels" you are condemned to be labeled by necessity. The limits of language and the necessity of labels is part of the human drama. I think a tragic and unfortunate part at times when you consider the impact of playing the tribal game has had on our species. To move nations you must give people a uniform and a target even if it is just in the language game.

"Once you label me you negate me." - Kierkegaard
I think that happens alot with partisanship and tribalism in politics and religion. Labels are necessary but they can be used to simplify a complex reality and simplify people different from you. The narcissism of small difference.  
"man cuts out for himself a manageable world" - Ernest Becker


Are Human Beings Determined?

Daniel Dennett - "the most difficult and the most important philosophical problem confronting us
today" (Daniel Dennett, Reflections on Free Will)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nature's indifference to Human Symbolic Status

A Man kisses a statue of the Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin

Humans kiss statues, Birds defecate on them. (accumulated grime, algae and bird droppings)
Our symbols convey that we are central, paramount, and immortal but nature's message conveys that we are a part of , equal to, and mortal creatures of nature's system. When a chicken has its head cut off the world still spins and
when a man's is cut off the world still spins. It is not just the fact that a man's head was decapitated like a chicken that is the horror but that it is even possible that nature allows for such a sight, that physics allows for such an
outcome as higher consciousness on a fragile and vulnerable meat stick.

Whether it is the Adam and Eve myth or the Noah myth mankind is the central actor and God will destroy all of nature or change all of nature due to the actions of Men. Man is the center of the Cosmic drama in the Biblical message. But not only in the Biblical message does Man become the center but civilization itself is trying to free man from the decaying power of nature through its symbols of immortality and the will to technological immortality.

Nature's message paints a different picture where man is no longer the central actor but rather just another part of nature in the long evolutionary history of life on Earth.

Some Humans may deny they are a part of Nature but Nature denies Human superiority in the way it treats the Human body and the Human immortality symbols. Viruses and Bacteria will ravage Humans as they will other animals and a Human Body will provide nourishment to a Crocodile or a Big Cat just the same.

Man wants to be the central actor in the cosmos, on earth, in history. But nature's message runs something else in the ear if you pay attention. Nature may declare the glory of God...some God...but it does not declare the glory of man. Nature is indifferent to our self aggrandizing symbols whether they be secular or religious.

“Religious fundamentalists may deny that evolution exists, but in the natural world it is religion that does not exist.”
John Maisey of American Museum of Natural History

Doves which were freed by children flanked by Pope Francis are attacked by a Black Crow and a Seagull

"An animal who gets his feeling of worth openly express man's tragic destiny: he must des­perately justify himself as an object of primary value in the uni­verse; he must stand out, be a hero, make the biggest possible con­tribution to world life, show that he counts more than anything or anyone else. It doesn't matter whether the cultural hero-system is frankly magical, religious, and primitive or secular, scientific, and civilized.
It is still a mythical hero-system in which people serve in order to earn afeeling of primary value, of cosmic specialness, of ultimate usefulness to creation, of unshakable meaning."

Ernest Becker

"It's not the end of the world at all," he said. "It's only the end for us. The world will go on just the same, only we shan't be in it. I dare say it will get along all right without us.”
Nevil Shute, On the Beach

Friday, February 7, 2014

Photo of Earth from Mars

You are here! – As an Evening Star in the Martian Sky
This evening-sky view taken by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows the Earth and Earth’s moon as seen on Jan. 31, 2014, or Sol 529 shortly after sunset at the Dingo Gap inside Gale Crater.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU

Universe Today

Foundational Filters and Mental Maps

With most of these human debates it comes down to First Principles and Epistemology ( the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources?)
How do we know what we know? From what source do we put trust in to verify it? No one person is an expert in all fields and no one person has the resources and time to verify the massive amount of claims and information... we
must rely on our axioms, biases, presuppositions, a posteriori and a priori knowledge, and assumptions. We must pivot off of a foundation. We must start somewhere to arrive anywhere. The Map I think that has the most reliability and explanatory reach and power is the Scientific Map because it is a universal map. As Sir Martin Rees stated Science is the ultimate Global culture. It can be applied on a universal scale and is not limited to one region.

The foundational filter. There is no blank slate. There is always a filter or a mental map we come with to any debate or knowledge and that usually determines where our conclusions end up. Unless we agree on the premises and the epistemological method on how we obtain reliable information and what knowledge is trustworthy the conclusions will vary. Reality or Truth is not relative but the filters and mental maps that it passes through are dependent on the particular brain. The food is the same how it is digested and excreted is different. Does naturalism inform your metaphysics or does your metaphysics inform naturalism.

What I find interesting is that each person is fashioned by a variety of events, genetics and geography, experiences... and those can dictate which sources of information we trust. I am no relativist... I believe there is reality and truth but I do notice that many claims especially metaphysical are determined by geography and experience. As Hume said reason is the slave of the passions. I don't see any escape from this human dilemma. That is why conflict seems inevitable in human history. The human brain is not made of generic soil and the seeds planted may be different as well. What knowledge is coming in and how is it processed?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Baruch Spinoza on Free Will and Determinism

 "We are only free in respect to objects which we moderately desire, because our desire for such can easily be controlled by the thought of something else frequently remembered, but that we are by no means free in respect to what we seek with violent emotion, for our desire cannot then be allayed with the remembrance of anything else.

However, unless such persons had proved by experience that we do many things which we afterwards repent of, and again that we often, when assailed by contrary emotions, see the better and follow the worse, there would be nothing to prevent their believing that we are free in all things.

Thus an infant believes that of its own free will it desires milk, an angry child believes that it freely desires to run away; further, a drunken man believes that he utters from the free decision of his mind words which, when he is sober, he would willingly have withheld: thus, too, a delirious man, a garrulous woman, a child, and others of like complexion, believe that they speak from the free decision of their mind, when they are in reality unable to restrain their impulse to talk...

Experience teaches us no less clearly than reason, that men believe themselves to be free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined; and, further, it is plain that the dictates of the mind are but another name for the appetites, and therefore vary according to the varying state of the body. Everyone shapes his actions according to his emotion, those who are assailed by conflicting emotions know not what they wish; those who are not attacked by any emotion are readily swayed this way or that. All these considerations clearly show that a mental decision and a bodily appetite, or determined state, are simultaneous, or rather are one and the same thing, which we call decision, when it is regarded under and explained through the attribute of thought, and a conditioned state, when it is regarded under the attribute of extension, and deduced from the laws of motion and rest…

Now I should like to know whether there be in the mind two sorts of decisions, one sort illusive, and the other sort free? If our folly does not carry us so far as this, we must necessarily admit, that the decision of the mind, which is believed to be free, is not distinguishable from the imagination or memory, and is nothing more than the affirmation, which an idea, by virtue of being an idea, necessarily involves.… Wherefore these decisions of the mind arise in the mind by the same necessity, as the ideas of things actually existing. Therefore those who believe, that they speak or keep silence or act in any way from the free decision of their mind, do but dream with their eyes open.

"Human Beings are Determined" by Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Natural Selection's Brain Building


Three Scoops Of Ice Cream
A lizard brain is about survival — it controls heart rate and breathing, and processes information from the eyes and ears and mouth.
When mammals like mice came along, the lizard brain didn't go away. It simply became the brain stem, which is perched on top of the spine, Linden says.
Then evolution slapped more brain on top of the brain stem.
"It's like adding scoops to an ice cream cone," Linden says. "So if you imagine the lizard brain as a single-scoop ice cream cone, the way you make a mouse brain out of a lizard brain isn't to throw the cone and the first scoop away and start over and make a banana split — rather, it's to put a second scoop on top of the first scoop."
That second scoop gave mammals more memory and a wider range of emotions. It also allows a mouse to do things a lizard can't, like using experiences to anticipate danger instead of just responding to it.
To create the brain found in apes, Sherwood says, evolution added a third scoop. It allows apes to reason and live much more complicated lives than mice.
"In these brains, you can find all of the very same parts that you would see in a human brain," Sherwood says. But there's a difference — the brain of an adult human is about three times the size of a gorilla brain.
 The human brain continues to grow rapidly for the first five years after birth. It takes 20 years before all the circuits are l
In one sense, we've had to pay a heavy cost for our big, inefficient brains: Childbirth is difficult, childhood is long, and our brains consume 20 percent of the calories we eat.
But Linden says these adaptations turn out to have some surprising payoffs, like romantic love.
"If our neurons weren't such lousy processors and we didn't need 100 billion of them massively interconnected in order to make a clever brain out of such lousy parts, then we wouldn't have such a long childhood," Linden says.
And without that long childhood, he says, evolution wouldn't have equipped us with the force that bonds parents together to protect their children.aid out and connected up, Linden says.


Thomas Jefferson's letter to his Nephew

Thomas Jefferson's letter to his nephew, from Paris, August 10, 1787:

Dear Peter, — I have received your two letters of December 30 and April 18, and am very happy to find by them, as well as by letters from Mr. Wythe, that you have been so fortunate as to attract his notice & good will; I am sure you will find this to have been one of the most fortunate events of your life, as I have ever been sensible it was of mine. I enclose you a sketch of the sciences to which I would wish you to apply, in such order as Mr. Wythe shall advise; I mention, also, the books in them worth your reading, which submit to his correction. Many of these are among your father's books, which you should have brought to you. As I do not recollect those of them not in his library, you must write to me for them, making out a catalogue of such as you think you shall have occasion for, in 18 months from the date of your letter, & consulting Mr. Wythe on the subject. To this sketch, I will add a few particular observations.

1. Italian. I fear the learning of this language will confound your French and Spanish. Being all of them degenerated dialects of the Latin, they are apt to mix in conversation. I have never seen a person speaking the three languages, who did not mix them. It is a delightful language, but late events having rendered the Spanish more useful, lay it aside to prosecute that.

2. Spanish. Bestow great attention on this, and endeavor to acquire an accurate knowledge of it. Our future connections with Spain and Spanish America, will render that language a valuable acquisition. The ancient history of that part of America, too, is written in that language. I send you a dictionary.

3. Moral Philosophy. I think it lost time to attend lectures on this branch. He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong, merely relative to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature, as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality, and not the to kalon [beautiful], truth, &c., as fanciful writers have imagined. The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. This sense is submitted, indeed, in some degree, to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock which is required for this: even a less one than what we call common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, & often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules. In this branch, therefore, read good books, because they will encourage, as well as direct your feelings. The writings of Sterne, particularly, form the best course of morality that ever was written. Besides these, read the books mentioned in the enclosed paper; and, above all things, lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous, &c. Consider every act of this kind, as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties & increase your worth.

4. Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country. Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor, in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he relates. For example, in the book of Joshua, we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said, that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis, as the earth does, should have stopped, should not, by that sudden stoppage, have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time gave resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth's motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities? You will next read the New Testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions: 1, of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven; and 2, of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition, by being gibbeted, according to the Roman law, which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile, or death in fureâ. See this law in the Digest Lib. 48. tit. 19. §. 28. 3. & Lipsius Lib 2. de cruce. cap. 2. These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned under the head of religion, & several others. They will assist you in your inquiries, but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all.

Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, & that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a God, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love. In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision. I forgot to observe, when speaking of the New Testament, that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us, to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration, as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, and not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some, however, still extant, collected by Fabricius, which I will endeavor to get & send you.

5. Travelling. This makes men wiser, but less happy. When men of sober age travel, they gather knowledge, which they may apply usefully for their country; but they are subject ever after to recollections mixed with regret; their affections are weakened by being extended over more objects; & they learn new habits which cannot be gratified when they return home. Young men, who travel, are exposed to all these inconveniences in a higher degree, to others still more serious, and do not acquire that wisdom for which a previous foundation is requisite, by repeated and just observations at home. The glare of pomp and pleasure is analogous to the motion of the blood; it absorbs all their affection and attention, they are torn from it as from the only good in this world, and return to their home as to a place of exile & condemnation. Their eyes are forever turned back to the object they have lost, & its recollection poisons the residue of their lives. Their first & most delicate passions are hackneyed on unworthy objects here, & they carry home the dregs, insufficient to make themselves or anybody else happy. Add to this, that a habit of idleness, an inability to apply themselves to business is acquired, & renders them useless to themselves & their country. These observations are founded in experience. There is no place where your pursuit of knowledge will be so little obstructed by foreign objects, as in your own country, nor any, wherein the virtues of the heart will be less exposed to be weakened. Be good, be learned, & be industrious, & you will not want the aid of travelling, to render you precious to your country, dear to your friends, happy within yourself. I repeat my advice, to take a great deal of exercise, & on foot. Health is the first requisite after morality. Write to me often, & be assured of the interest I take in your success, as well as the warmth of those sentiments of attachment with which I am, dear Peter, your affectionate friend.

P.S. Let me know your age in your next letter. Your cousins here are well & desire to be remembered to you.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to his nephew Peter Carr, from Paris, August 10, 1787; Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: Writings, New York: Library of America, 1994, pp. 900-906

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Art of Humankind

Art resides in the space between the tension of humankinds desperate ambitious reach combined with humankinds crushing limitations.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thus in my ear does nature's message run

Bullets burn and Sex feels good. I could attribute that to the metaphysical explanations of gods, demons, and sin or I could listen to nature's message and realize that the human body evolved and adapted to survive, reproduce, and die like other organisms on Planet Earth.

"Man crawls and dies: all is but born to die:
The world ’s the empire of destructiveness.
This frail construction of quick nerves and bones
Cannot sustain the shock of elements;
This temporary blend of blood and dust
Was put together only to dissolve;
This prompt and vivid sentiment of nerve
Was made for pain, the minister of death:
Thus in my ear does nature’s message run."

"Really I am not much impressed with the people who say: "Look at me: I am such a splendid
product that there must have been design in the universe." I am not very much impressed by the splendor of those people. Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is merely a flash in the pan; it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions and temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending -- something dead, cold, and lifeless".
Bertrand Russell