The New Terrapin Gazette
…the notion of formative cause is relevant to the view of undivided wholeness in flowing movement, which has been seen to be implied in modern developments in physics, notably relativity theory and quantum theory. …we see that certain developments in modern physics imply a sort of insight into nature that is in respect to the notions of formative and final cause, essentially similar to ways of looking that were common in earlier times.
Speculation Informed By History: The Next Major Advance Of Science
The two philosophies of Nature
“Philosophy” means the love of wisdom. Wisdom regarding matter, energy and time, and wisdom regarding the emergence and behavior of life-forms constitute the domain of science. One might well note with dismay that the former is today in rather good order and the latter has always been profoundly troubled and remains far from complete. For example, the dispute between Bohr and Einstein continues under investigation, but the fundamental questions surrounding life, the origin of mankind and the nature of consciousness remain unanswered. All too often, superstition, hoaxes and outright abuse of academic freedom mar biology, while physics carries on with intellectually honest efforts to reconcile differing views of reality.
A consideration of the history of physics may provide insight into what will be required for the biological sciences to break out of their current (unrecognized) confines.
Of course biologists do not agree with that evaluation of their status. Beginning with Mendelian genetics and continuing with the revolution that the discovery and exploitation of DNA have inspired, biology seems to have made tremendous strides; in health care, vaccination, surgery and improved pharmaceuticals have been of great benefit. However…the fundamental questions remain either unanswered or shrouded in myths and guesswork: first, how life arose is a complete mystery; second, the emergence of mankind is very poorly understood, if not misunderstood; and third, the mind-body problem is no closer to resolution than it was hundreds of years ago. In fact the entire subject of consciousness and the operation of the mind remains either beyond investigation or blurred by nonsense.
Recall Raymond Tallis’s Aping Mankind (of course you read that volume and studied it carefully, as it was reviewed here). Tallis explains why vaunted fMRI studies are deceptive and ludicrously wide of the target, such that the study of the mind has become confused with the study of the brain, and no one has found a way to link — so to speak — the organ with its obviously extant but ineffable “product”. Science is not only stalled; it is guilty of self-delusion, for it claims to know all manner of things that it does not. Tallis is very clear and utterly convincing on that.
Then Recall Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos, which begins with the declaration that human evolution has never been convincingly clarified and explained. That leads to the realization that Darwin’s speculations are not scientific, but mythological. Those nineteenth century ruminations, though a charming antique, simply do not meet modern standards required of an explanation. That is to say, Darwin’s exposition is to biology as Ptolemaic cycles and epicycles were to astronomy.
In those two critical, fundamental areas, the life sciences fail, and dogma replaces demonstrable theory.
A few centuries ago, the same was true of the physical sciences. What happened to liberate them and make them productive?
Better tools enable understanding and technology
Until the late seventeenth century, physics and astronomy in particular hardly existed. Though stargazing and attempts to understand how the planets moved had long been undertaken, knowledge of the heavens was hobbled by a lack of analytical procedures (the astronomers literally did not have the mathematics required to interpret their observations, and there was no theory of dynamics to guide their work). Dogma — the unworkable Ptolemaic system — prevailed, though it did not fit the facts. Eventually observation improved (Tycho Brahe) and Kepler figured a few things out. The breakthrough came with the development of the calculus (von Leibniz, and slightly later, Newton) and a working understanding of gravity (Newton); those brilliant accomplishments set astronomy free. The invention of the telescope was helpful, but not as fundamental as the calculus, which was immensely useful far beyond astronomy.
Another tool was added to the kit of the physical sciences when, roughly two centuries later, James Clerk Maxwell published his equations. That accomplishment is too often overlooked in the history of physics and technology.
Without these three tools, technology would today be in an almost inconceivably primitive state.
The life sciences
By sharp contrast, the study of life continues to depend on mythogenic ruminations and half-explanations that ignore common sense. Those errors produce a discipline that is more taxonomic than genuinely explanatory. With that limitation, there comes a particularly unfortunate pattern: poor, incomplete and mythological explanations for biological phenomena are clung to, stifling research and militating against genuine advances.
The prime example is the theory of evolution. Now be clear: “theory” does not mean guess or speculation or approximation of the truth; it means explanation. A true theory clarifies some phenomenon by exposing its causes and processes, thereby making it comprehensible.
Too often, this explanatory process does not rise above the level of the generation of a new myth that glosses over the full truth.
Many questions can be begged by the inadequate new explanation, and the skeptics who point that out are frequently ignored. Is there such a thing as an ego? Does it make sense that stomach acid is responsible for peptic ulcer disease? What is the actual vector of malaria (“bad air”), and does a normal intake of salt cause high blood pressure? Why doesn’t everybody get multiple sclerosis?
It is particularly damning that modern life science, for all its impressive sophistication, has no explanation for the origin of life; nor can it rationally explain the evolution of organisms (Darwin was only partly and generally correct, and his work falls far short of genuine theory); it is also at a total loss to clarify the arising of consciousness and all its manifestations (art, music, literature both spoken and written, ethics, political systems, religions, the entire universe of the imagination, none of which have survival value). Its sub-disciplines of psychology and health care have shameful histories, remain far too cultic to be considered truly scientific, and have scored only mediocre victories over suffering.
Those few examples only begin to summarize the dismal picture. Freud, a cocaine-using creature of his time and place, “treated the hysteria” of some very culturally-symbolic females, less than twenty of whose clinical records inspired him to “found” a “new science” that he considered on a par with physics and chemistry — and fleshed out by resorting to Greek and Roman mythology. His simple answers to complex, very culturally-dependent patterns of behavior and responses to a stifling environment were a paradigm for generations of healers — whose job today, if they are psychiatrists, is simply to prescribe a plethora of medications that affect the nervous system (a phenomenon which no one who has ever had one martini too many should find remarkable). Perhaps no better example exists to illustrate how humanity embraces the absurd when confronted with the distressing.
Is this science?
Turn, then, to what is universally considered scientific health care, where experimentation in the laboratory and clinical setting is under firm control and results are statistically analyzed. One need only mention the names Semmelweis, Lister, Jenner, Pasteur, Fleming, and Marshall and Warren to illustrate the historical and modern fact that medicine is stubbornly cultic. Physicians continue to perform chelation therapy for vascular disease. Improper use of antibiotics by physicians contributed to the emergence of bacterial strains that are untroubled by the medications. The cardiac bypass was fully adopted by surgeons before any clinical studies were done to ascertain its effectiveness, and when that was finally determined, the chest-cracking operation was shown to be no more effective than was medical management. At present, the low-sodium diet is finally under attack, but doubtless it will be yet another decade before the truth is widely recognized and admitted: while too much salt is dangerous — just as too much water is — the old saw that salt (via osmosis) causes high blood pressure is nonsense. In fact too little salt in the diet causes high blood pressure.
The point: the understanding of the biology of the human being stands in sharp contrast to the state of physics.
That embarrassing truth holds for both the healing arts and the history of the human species. When the guesswork of a nineteenth-century amateur naturalist proposed a mechanism for species change, hard evidence was not available to demonstrate that the hypothesis was more than plausible. Well over a hundred years later, the proposal that humans evolved from infra-human primates has not been comprehensively elucidated. Instead it has produced at least two cult-like camps, both of which claim to have solid evidence for their views. Neither camp is fully rational.
Accordingly, research into the subject is goal-directed, yet each side claims to seek the truth.
There is a solid basis on which both sides should stand. It includes the following facts:
1. The age of the earth can not be disputed, physical science having proved beyond reasonable doubt that the planet was formed many hundreds of millions of years ago. The geological features of the earth were not formed by catastrophic events extending only over a few thousand years. The principle of uniformitarianism is correct.
2. Religious belief and theology have no place in scientific research. Of course ethics must be present in all human activities, but that does not open the door to faith. Ethics is not the product of religion, though many today assume that morality must be based in this or that article of faith in supernatural mandates and the teachings of religions.
3. The hypothesis that humans evolved from creatures that would have to be considered apes if they were extant today is not only legitimate, but extraordinarily, overwhelmingly likely to be true. What remains unknown is the mechanism of that development. In general, Darwinian concepts are grossly inadequate as explanations for the appearance of humans. Darwin’s account of the mechanism of evolution is to biology as Ptolemaic cycles and epicycles were to astronomy.
Science knows what happened. It does not know how it happened.
The puzzle is huge, for the concept of evolution begs the question of how non-living matter came alive.
(Cheeky aside: perhaps the firm line that distinguishes humans from simians is man’s scientifically unjustifiable conceit. Could it be that homo sapiens is a misnomer? Might humans be a peculiar variety of ape?)
The next Promethean development
At present, the life sciences are struggling to escape from a cul-de-sac they do not see. They advance only slowly, not keeping up with the physical sciences, and their ability to explain things is woefully inadequate (yes, in spite of all the highly-advertised “breakthroughs” that clutter the tabloids — and remember, most of those are the work of physical scientists). The healing arts are roughly in the position astronomy was in after Copernicus published his work, and they await their Kepler, von Leibniz and Newton to allow them to advance as they deserve. What is needed, in other words, is an analogue of the calculus, along with some foundational insights of the sort Newton provided.
One cannot say just what this breakthrough might be, or whether it might arrive in the current century. It may be nothing like a new form of mathematics. It may or may not owe something to work done by Bohm, von Bertalanffy, and others who have tried to suggest new paradigms for greater insight into the mysteries of life and consciousness.
At this point, one can merely suggest that something critical and fundamental is missing. That unidentified something could be blocked by unquestioned assumptions and incomplete explorations, or it may be unnoticed by researchers who have been distracted into chasing this or that Will-o’-the-wisp.
Finally, reconsider Nagel. His book, reviewed here, makes clear what the goal of science should be, and it suggests what a genuinely revolutionary research tool would be able to do. At present, mankind has only an appallingly primitive understanding of life and consciousness, and, as Nagel suggests, those enigmatic phenomena are linked somehow to an understanding of time/matter/energy. Humans are part of the cosmos, in other words, and the implications of that profound truth are not yet grasped.
Notes And Snippets
The root cause
How many times has NTG tried to make this point?
The ambassador answered us that [their right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.
The above passage is not a reference to a declaration by al Qaeda or to an Iranian fatwa. Those are the words of Thomas Jefferson, then the U.S. ambassador to France, reporting to Secretary of State John Jay a conversation he’d had with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, Tripoli’s envoy to London, in 1786 — more than two and a quarter centuries ago. (Source)
If the second amendment is fair game, so is the first
The US government — ultimately that means Holder’s Department of Justice — is considering criminalizing criticism of Islam and Muslims. Remember, Pilgrims: collectivism must exercise control. Encouraged by the lap dog press, the authoritarian Ruling Bicoastal Elites feel it is only appropriate to muzzle the citizenry. The puzzle is why Islam is so favored by Team Obama; don’t the community organizer and his True Believers understand that they would be swept away by any future Islamist regime? To Muslims, Western advocates of prosecution of Islam’s critics are useful idiots. By considering the enforcement of sharia, Obamites and multiculturalists are not just mocking evolved civilization, they are taking the side of those who would like to send them to hell — and will, if they can.
The true crime here is the attempt to abridge the first amendment of the federal constitution. Do you recall that Senator Feinstein was asked whether she was not advocating voiding some parts of the second amendment? The point was, since one does not do that to the first amendment, why would it be proper to do it to the second? Well, Feinstein is intellectually very challenged, so her response was just infuriated babble. Now, bizarrely enough, it appears a number of influential individuals in Team Obama were perversely inspired by the critical remarks directed at the moronic harridan from California.
Meanwhile…is freedom of speech possible under the Obama administration? Sure, the contents of the conversations are not being recorded (as far as one can determine), but…a lot of folks fret about the next possible step. After all, Obama’s current policy is blatantly hypocritical. This is not a man who has a high regard for the federal constitution; recall his criticism of it as guaranteeing “negative rights” and no benefits. So…in for a penny, in for a pound, eh?
Next, you know that the Patriot Act is widely considered excessively intrusive and immorally authoritarian. The man who dreamed up that law claims that what Team Obama is doing now is excessively intrusive and immoral authoritarianism.
Related: a tip of the hat to reader GB for suggesting this informative summary of what the feds are up to — and are probably up to, as well. — Oops! More here. Damn, those feds are clever, aren’t they? First Stuxnet, and now this…sheesh! Well, it’s all in a good cause. People do need monitoring, and even if things are getting to the point made by the old joke about how, in the USSR, you don’t watch TV, it watches you, well, never mind. Obama was elected to run the country, so it’s his call, not yours.
Hello, Central. Give me some classified information, please.
Here’s a disgrace that should provoke a scandal: this report reveals only what The Powers That Be will admit to; if damage was done, that fact is being kept from you. The shame of it is that no one realized that linking all this information to telephone lines was a colossal blunder. It is as if the system had been designed by idiots. What is needed: a totally separate means of access, preventing the Chinese army from picking up the phone and looking at highly classified US information. You should be furious. — Now of course it could be that this is a clever plan to make the Chinese think they have been successful; that is highly unlikely, unfortunately.
Did this appear in your customary news sources?
It’s sad but true: some cultures include value systems that are simply inferior, and this news is yet more evidence of that fact. Lessons the West learned in World War I remained in place even as horrible deeds were committed in World War II. That paradigm does not apply to the Muddle East. Note the facts, and understand what they necessarily imply, Pilgrims.
Ich bin ein Berliner!
Europe-based reader GB informs NTG that the German word “Berliner” has some interesting meanings in its native land. When a West German uses the word, he is referring to a pancake…and pancakes come in types: a simple, flat pancake is called “an American”; if it is topped with chocolate, it becomes an “Afro-American” (previously, it was a “Negro”); if a sweet white topping is added, it is of course a “white American”. When John Kennedy famously proclaimed himself a “Berliner”, he did not intend the current meaning of the word — which is to say, his statement would today be understood as, “I am a jelly donut!”
Anthropogenic global warming update
Look out! It’s coming, and it’s…it’s…an ice age! Read all about it, and get ready for the greatest role reversal of the last two centuries, or at least since all the hard-core fascists in Italy magically vanished the instant Mussolini dangled from a lamppost. — Look, Pilgrims, be reasonable: it might get warmer or it might get cooler, and predicting the weather is a futile undertaking. The “science” is rife with fraud, the evidence is a puzzle, and about the only thing anyone can pin down are these facts: humans love to blame themselves for everything, and fads come and go. People thought they had brought on the Black Death, and resorted to superstitious nonsense to ward the disease off; there used to be a cult-like circle of idiots who preached that atomic bomb testing had changed the weather; in the 1970s, the coming ice age was popular, and people worried that all the plankton in the sea were going to die because of something humans were doing or had done. Give it a rest, everyone! Keep an eye on your government, and do try to tell your political bosses that cheaper petrochemicals and enhanced research on fusion energy would be good ideas. Don’t be stampeded by fads and alarmists, and don’t accuse decent folks of being just as bad as the bigots who insist there was no network of Nazi death camps.
Noble sentiments expressed by an exemplary wordsmith
What a magistral, candid and refreshing essay this is! Do read every word of it, and as you read, notice the effortless elegance of the prose, no matter how hard it hits. Sample quote: “…the almost complete abdication of black responsibility and the commensurately total dependence on government engendered by so obsessive and exclusive a fixation on white racism as the root of all racial evils has been nothing short of calamitous.” (The resident “grammar nazi” on the NTG staff notes that Podhoretz used metamorphosed, not the ignorant and damning morphed — hurrah!)
The Insatiable Behemoth
It is, as this newsletter said some time ago, a “Thomas Becket problem” caused by people who agree with Obama’s concept of government — and will act on their own initiative to advance the collectivist agenda. A Canadian publication puts it well: “There are thousands of statists out there who believe exactly what Obama believes. They despise the Constitution, they hate the concept of a truly limited government, and they will not hesitate to violate the law if it means an expansion of federal power.” (More here.) Obamoid thuggery — politically targeted harassment and punitive action against legal, ethical businesses and organizations like the Tea Party — is a clear predictor of what the future holds…unless the opposition to immoral federal intimidation grows a backbone. Problems: not all the thugs are Democrats, and the Republicans are not brave enough to fight effectively for honest and principled governance.
In fact the political process is not safe in the hands of politicians. For too many Republicans, the problem is not that the nation’s founding principles are ignored or that the federal government is more than willing to abandon ethics, but that power has been transferred to the Democrats.
The Tea Party understands this.
The failure of representative government is clearly demonstrated by politicians who are currently attempting to steal from Apple, Inc., the information technology giant. The US federal government has a complex tax code that was enacted by the legislative branch. Though Apple has always been in complete compliance with that code on both the federal and state levels, the company is now being badgered by indignant charges that it has committed a sin: keeping too much of its money. Do read the article at the link to understand these facts: US tax law is stupidly drafted; Apple has not broken it; the final result has hurt both the US economy and the tax revenues of the federal government.
Be clear on the sharp and all-important distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion! Then, know that Carl Levin, a Democrat representing Michigan, has a website that proclaims, “Apple Inc. has used a complex web of offshore entities to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes”. To the average person, that means Apple is guilty of deceit and improper, probably criminal, behavior.
Finally, do consider the attitude behind Senator Levin’s innuendo that some people have too much money, and if only the government could confiscate a portion of that excessive wealth, things would be better.
Instead of recognizing the irrationality of the US tax code, Levin and his allies blame Apple for not moving profits made from overseas sales to the USA, where the high level of taxation would put the company at a severe disadvantage with respect to its foreign (Korean) competition. The problem is not that Apple has done the rational thing, but that — again — Apple has money the federal government cannot, under its laws, confiscate. The implication: this is all Apple’s fault.
By attempting to impose US taxes on money earned by a foreign subsidiary that is not doing business in the USA and does not send its profits to the head office in the USA, Levin is attempting an act of piracy. He might as well try to seize a portion of the profits of Samsung.
That is the insatiable greed of big government.
At base, the problem is not Levin, or even the Democrats; nor is it the lackluster Republicans. It is the sheer size of the government, and the fact that the colossus is backed by a coalition of collectivist politicians, unions, ideologues, journalists, academics, and voters whose race-based support is solid. That coalition has placed Obama in office and now guarantees that he will stay there, virtually no matter what.
And the future? The Republican party is not equipped to overcome this aggregation of big-government enthusiasts. Even if the Democrats nominate a candidate who cannot command 95 percent of the black vote, the GOP lacks the courage, intellect and stamina to oppose both the Democrats and the monster that is the federal complex. That bureaucracy has, it is now obvious, legions of True Believers who are ready to do what they can to cripple those who would restore prudent constitutional governance.
That overwhelming challenge calls for true heroes — men and women who will articulate the founding ethos of the nation and rekindle the grim determination that brought the Republic to life.
A new use for copper.
This newsletter has suggested more than once that Obama, who never held any executive position before becoming the most powerful executive on the face of the earth, is an empty suit who does not like his job. Someone else noticed, and linked that evaluation to the shameless misbehavior of the Clintons. The result: a concise, scathing account of the abuse of power by egotistical rascals. Delicious….
Passwords: they have never been easier to crack, yet you can cope with the bad guys if you follow some basic rules. The article is long and a bit technical, but still recommended.
TV standup comedy from the USA.
Surprise! When regulatory/governmental bodies mess with the economy, they are very prone to pratfalls. Free markets are best.
Here’s the scandal, according to Krauthammer (just watch the short video at the top of the page). He’s correct.
Poor Eric Holder. According to his allies, he’s not a villain, he’s just a “progressive”! Well…read the commentary and judge for yourself. Meanwhile this newsletter thinks Holder should, as the song says, “have a number for a name”.
Same-sex marriage: the legal implications are complex, but comprehensible. Recommended.
Timeless literature is brought to the screen. The great novels never lose their relevance.
Commentary insists the IRS scandal is getting worse. This is information and opinion you won’t be likely to encounter in the major media.
What’s wrong? Victor Davis Hansen will tell you, and he’s absolutely correct. Highly recommended.
If you are in the mood for something consciousness-retarding, try a video of a North Korean all-girl, er, musical group. It’s a squeaky-clean, politically correct, sequined nightmare. For a small shock that distracts from the pap for a moment or two, advance to 1:11:30. — Oh, the things the staff of this newsletter does in its quest to enhance cross-cultural understanding…thank goodness for the healing powers of NTG’s Dead bootlegs (aah, Sugar Magnolia, Red Rocks, 7-8-78)!
This is the road Europe is on. It’s sad.
Here’s the problem. Now, how can it be solved when the West’s leaders are craven ideologues, and large blocs of voters are ensorcelled by grotesque fantasies? — The video commentary at the link is highly recommended.
A “wingnut” waxes indignant over Obamacare. Yes, yes, of course; why bother with the complaint? Because it’s insightful, on target, and brief. Recommended.
Assad says the Russian anti-aircraft missiles have arrived; the Israelis say they will destroy them; this report claims the rockets won’t be operational for another three to six months; this newsletter predicts that the world will never know exactly what happened and how it happened after it happens.
Inspiration move me brightly
light the song with sense and color
hold away despair
More than this I will not ask
faced with mysteries dark and vast
statements just seem vain at last
some rise, some fall, some climb
to get to Terrapin
The masthead includes a quote from the works of David Bohm.
The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Slackware Linux, Emacs, and Firefox.
Publisher: The Eagle Wing Palace of The Queen Chinee.