March 14th, 2013

Mind and matter: academic apostasy

A well-respected academic turns apostate, and reaps the whirlwind.

Such a state of affairs should be no surprise to readers of this blog, or readers of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. As Paul Rahe writes:

Every once in a while…something happens that shakes things up [in academia], and then one sees that things are, in fact, far worse than one ever imagined. Take, for example, the recent furor regarding Thomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.

Nagel is a distinguished professor of philosophy with an impeccable pedigree… On the 4th of July 2012, when he reached the ripe old age of 75, he was at the very top of the heap. But, thanks to his new book, he is rapidly becoming a pariah. The title is sufficient to explain why…

…[Nagel] has broken ranks, and he has been relegated to the class of apostates. It is a good thing that he is 75 and not 25. If he were just starting his career, this book would have ended it…

I would like to think that Nagel’s debunking of the scientistic orthodoxy now dominant in the academy would usher in a new age of sharp intellectual debate. But nothing that I see in the contemporary university suggests that such a dream is at all plausible. As long as the university is seen as a political instrument, there really are no grounds for hope.

It is not that professors should agree with Nagel. But instead of merely countering his argument, most (not all) of those who disagree are demonizing him.

Rahe says that it was not always this way in academia. But it has become this way:

When I was an undergraduate at Cornell , then Yale and a graduate student at Oxford, then Yale once again, the American university was an exceedingly lively place in which students were encouraged to explore a diversity of perspectives. The people in charge were, by and large, New Deal liberals — moderate in manner, open to argument, and distinguished first and foremost by their curiosity. They welcomed into the ranks of their colleagues both those to their left and those to their right — for they did not regard the university as an instrument for transforming the world. They supposed, instead, that it was a space within which one could spend one’s time trying to understand that world. Intellectual sparring partners were, in their opinion, a great boon.

That dovetails with what Bloom wrote in his book, too. Born in 1930, Bloom dated the sea-change to the Sixties. Rahe, a professor history at Hillsdale, is considerably younger than Bloom. I can’t find his birthdate, but he appears to be somewhere somewhere in his late 50s, old enough to have (as he writes) been schooled in a very different university in which a liberal and yet open-minded old guard still had respect for differing opinions well-stated. Now such respect has become all too rare.

48 Responses to “Mind and matter: academic apostasy”

  1. Don Carlos Says:

    Thanks, Neo. I have just bought Nagel, and will let you know.

  2. Sam L. Says:

    Diversity of thought, and rebelling against the establishment are the big no-nos, now. Opposition MUST be CRUSHED.

  3. thomass Says:

    You can usually still find a few evolution skeptics among mathematicians. Even newly minted ones in their 30s… I think they can get their heads around the arguments about ‘given enough time and chances wouldn’t X develop?’ and they think/say no.

  4. sharpie Says:

    The Washington Post recently ran an article titled, “Doubts about John Hopkins research have gone unanswered, scientist says.”

    The political driven funding of “science” corrupts science. The result in this instance: One scientist dead under suspicious circumstances, another ostracized and ruined.

    Nagel’s book affirms that a reformation of Science is on the way. I hope it will be along the lines of Erasmus where true tolerance wins out over the quest for certitude.

  5. Mead Says:

    Despite years of disillusionment, I still have trouble grasping the extent to which many academics today aren’t really intellectuals at all, in the sense of caring about intellect. It sounds harsh to say it, but a lot of them seem to be careerists and status-seekers who prefer the safety of groupthink and unchallenged authority to the pleasures and risks of open debate.

    Sometimes I think there are two kinds of people in academia, those who get their greatest pleasure from learning and discovering and those who find their greatest pleasure in feeling smart. It seems like the trend lately is for the latter to push out the former.

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    The truly educated never graduate.

    Academia is predicated upon graduation, upon credentials, upon certification.

    That is why “Most “scientists” [and academics and 'intellectuals'] are bottle washers and button sorters”. Robert Heinlein

  7. physicsguy Says:

    Just bought it for my Kindle through your amazon sidebar. It will be great to compare his thoughts to one of my other favorites: Mind and Matter by Schrodinger… yes THAT Schrodinger. He was, naturally, the first to propose consciousness as arising from the basic indeterminacy of quantum mechanics.

  8. Ray Says:

    But Dr. Bob at one cosmos blog has been calling materielistic Darwinism false for years. Why all the uproar over Dr. Nagel?

  9. Baltimoron Says:

    The ironic thing is that someone who truly disagreed with Nagel’s conclusion would have no good reason to waste their time refuting it.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    Ray: they thought Nagel was one of them.

  11. Paul in Boston Says:

    If you want to see the “intellectuals” head explode ask them if evolution applies to humans as well as other animals. Point out that all Olympic speed records are held by men of West African descent. All Olympic distance records are held by men of East African descent. Black infants walk about two months earlier than white infants. Despite the huge inducement of multi-million dollar salaries, the NBA is almost exclusively black. In the NFL with the same inducement, except for quarterback, about 80% of the speed/skill players are black.

    But, even controlling for “class”, black IQs are on average one standard deviation below whites in the US. Could it be that the difference is genetic?

  12. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Paul in Boston,


  13. mizpants Says:

    Nagel is not only a distinguished academic; he’s also regarded as one of the most important living philosophers, a truly original mind and a brilliant writer. I know about his reputation as a philosopher because my husband is an academic philosopher. I know about his writing style because he’s just about the only contemporary philosopher (with the exception of my husband) I enjoy reading.
    These new Darwinians are monstrously intolerant.

  14. Ann Says:

    Rahe mentions that Harvard’s Steven Pinker said on Twitter that Nagel’s book showed “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker” and links to a piece in The New Republic by Leon Wieseltier, “A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher”, which pretty much agrees with Rahe’s take on all this.

    Steven Pinker has responded to Wielseltier in the comments on the piece. This part of his response indicates that he pretty much does think he and others like him are fighting the forces of evil:

    “The fact that Nagel’s wildly intemperate subtitle (that Darwinism is ‘almost certainly false’) will give ammunition to disturbing anti-science, anti-reason forces in the contemporary political power structure is, of course, not in itself a refutation of his argument. But surely it is not inappropriate of reviewers to bring this issue up. Nagel—and Wieseltier—have to know that there is a powerful and well-funded lobby in this country that is trying to discredit the entire institution of science as a close-minded, ideological propaganda front which is determined to promote a secular, materialistic, anti-Judaeo-Christian liberalism. This is emboldens them to blow off the scientific consensus about man-made climate change, corrupt science education, suppress research on gun violence, and criminalize lifesaving medical research. For several years Nagel has been expressing casual opinions and overstating claims in ways that are guaranteed to credit and energize this lobby. While the substance of his claims have to be evaluated on their merits, it is completely legitimate to criticize the way he has expressed them. This is not about the culture war. This is about the future of the planet.”

    So, I guess it’s bring on the Inquisition for folks like him.

  15. Artfldgr Says:

    When I was an undergraduate at Cornell , then Yale and a graduate student at Oxford, then Yale once again, the American university was an exceedingly lively place in which students were encouraged to explore a diversity of perspectives.

    right… because the ideas after that could come from anywhere, and no one would be able to question or say we shouldnt entertain ideas like that, from there, etc.

    THEN, once the stuff that was trash was allowed in through a open query concept taken too far like a judo throw… they closed it again with the new crap stuff, which was locked down by very very complicated logic that would take someone like Nagel who was being true to merit, and so on.

    when the gordian knot is tied in the head
    you cant used Alexanders solution

    once they closed it to ideas, they then proceeded to keep the other venues open and declare that the stupid crap that yoru grandfather was too smart to not do… is really the smart stuff that is a better answer and grandad was just too afraid to seize the new and move forward with a better answer as he could only support the status quo.

    with the push pop game going (you push down the side you want to lose and unbalance the rules, and you lift up the side you want by letting the responsibility slide off their backs. then the dishonesty of the ones lifted, results in them becoming nasty, punitive, violent, etc… taking out their confused frustrations on what is allowed rather than what is the cause)

    you realize that every large modern country has colleges that teach how to do this? (or do you think CIA destabilized places by winging it? how about Russia? England tavistock? Israels mosad guesses their way?)

    it becomes very clear that if you dont succumb to GLEICSHALTUNG, then the benifits of god (the state) will be removed from you (a biblical concept we all understand even if we now hate the bible)

    if he is in line with the system, he is rewarded
    if not, he will be erased… or half erased…

    and it will work, because when people try to reverse the erasing. it wont work. because people like venderluen and others similiar will not read the stuff they wrote, and so will help erase them.

    in 30 years there will be someone like me, harping on a group to read Nagel. but alas, the group will not read who is erased, as they know the part of their job even if they are not conscious of it. to resurect the past is to make the walking dead…. to go backwards, its anti progress…

    but todays nagel is yesterdays Ruta U, Dodd, Chase, and tons and tons of others…

    how do the dead white guys become dead?
    the people wont read them..

    how do you prevent their death and erasure
    read them – and find out why the effort to erase

    after all, the rest of their victims are just ignored out of existence and need no effort and remembrance to remove…

    Nagel will be half erased like Langston Huges, and not like others.

    people want to know how to stop and change this and understand it.

    well, they erase all this stuff so you cant change it and understand it. with the most important and most dangerous stuff being the stuff erased most.

    an historical example in miniature is “the road to serfdom”. that book derailed them for 30 years!!!!

    sure took them a long time to erase that!!!

    Sangers autobiography would cook their gooses
    as would her papers and all that.

    but thats a crank that reads all that old stuff…

    as i said. they put up Xs and skulls on sticks to keep you away from what you need most… and if you cooperate with that, your like a baby against an adult at chess – all the while the opposition is stroking you and telling you how smart you are… right. your so smart you dont need to do that extra work and read and preserve and remember.

    oh, and whatever you do. do it slowly…
    because if someone is going to tell them that they are going to war, the person listening wont believe unless it happens in a month. very unrealistic, as the setting up of such is an endeavor that takes years of preparation – countries dont go to war like drunks at a bar who get knotted up

    The Russian Navy will receive 24 warships by 2016: 6 nuclear-powered submarines and 18 surface ships, and in addition the military will get 30 special operations and counter sabotage boats. The projects and classes of warships were not specified. According to State Armaments Program Russia will spend 5 trillions rubles for the Navy reinforcement by 2020.

    Russia will get 78 warships in total by the end of 2020 according to Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu.

    you dont go from a weak position where no one wants to be the bad guy and hurt you, to a war position in a blink… you also move leaders around, work coalitions, steal technology, and even get your opposition to help you…

    but whatever you do…
    dont let your opponent read about ideas…

    Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.
    Joseph Stalin

    when they took your ideas and collective memory of them away, they disarmed you before they started taking the guns away.


    well, how would you keep your guns? you would argue with rhetoric and concurrence of the past, and then you would win. but if you don’t know the past, haven’t read the most damaging arguments, AND THEY HAVE…

    want to guess where you end up?

    you end up with someone yelling in the senate as to how much they know, and saying things that reference “imploding bullets” and “dismemberment at Newtown”… and the other side cant respond to it.

    you get bad science at the public’s expense because the public cant tell the difference… you get a public that thinks science and sociology is all based on empirical work, and so they side with it. but they have not read web, and how that was abandoned (but you want to bet the left knows web a highly respected pillar of their source of power?)

    you get a public that does not actually know what collectivism really means (and i am not referring to the means it tries to achieve that!!!!), and will mean to their lives, which they live to their individual goals and with choice.

    Since the battle is fought with words, and we erased the past and are not interested much in keeping it by reading it… its not too hard to understand things.

  16. Artfldgr Says:

    When novelty replaces invention, watch out….

  17. Artfldgr Says:

    what happened to Nagel?

    when he was young, and most of his life, he looked up to his mentors, didn’t question them, and expanded their ideas, not tried to unseat the pantheon.

    but i guess nagel had a revelation besides the one we are discussing. “how long you gonna keep looking up to people who you are now equal to?”. Does a man who becomes a god by drinking ambrosia, still worship the neighbors?

    once he was in the neighborhood it was only a matter of time before he would start seeing the foundations and would see no reason to not challenge them as an equal.

    as the article points out, if done early in his career, it would have killed it. But if done early, he probably would not have an argument worth erasing.

  18. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Ann quoted: “This is emboldens them to blow off the scientific consensus about man-made climate change, ”
    I firmly believe that the day will come when evolution is seen as the fraud that climate change is.
    As for academic silencing of opposing viewpoints:
    Ben Stein’s:
    Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

  19. Tesh Says:

    Real science isn’t about consensus, it’s about truth.

    …I used to want to be an astrophysicist, but I looked at the politicization of science and gave up on making a career there. That was 12 years ago. Not that long ago, really, but it’s gotten even worse since. I don’t regret my choice to stay out of it… but I regret that such a choice was even necessary.

  20. Artfldgr Says:

    I think they can get their heads around the arguments about ‘given enough time and chances wouldn’t X develop?’ and they think/say no.

    actually, given the understanding we have as to how it works, their “No” is correct.

    here is the problem…
    old age man saw patterns, understood what they signaled and their accuracy to a degree, exploited what they noticed, and didnt NEED to have an explanation. (so much for the academics idea of that need)

    new age modern man, doesn’t believe that process above is valid!!! new age modern man needs a cogent basis and reason that they accept before they will accept that something is a ‘fact’.

    didn’t you ever wonder why the lefts predictions of things having to do with the social biological are so wrong and so hostile to past custom (despite a fetish for foreign customs).

    because the left wants us to fit their needs and so their ideas skew towards those that would prevent them from denying it was possible or good to do. (the leaders picked it and pushed it more as it was something destructive. they were so wrong but so sure they were right, that its like a social blender running around trying to solve problems – and completely ignoring 20 other social blenders running around doing the same thing)

    old age man would protect his wife, keep her safe. when pregnant he would try not to rattle her cage, and would try to keep things calm.

    want to guess what we know today about what stress hormones and things can do to babies that ends up existing all their lives? fetal alcohol syndrome being an artificial example.

    old age man did things according to those patterns they notice and what was useful being handed down the line through social memory (the memory that binds everything else together, and exists as a collection of ideas in all the minds). some of the stuff was hoaky as some people tried to take advantage of the process as they noticed that good advice was followed. and if you cant win an argument, might as well pretend what you want is good advice, eh?

    well modern man focuses on proof to not listen to all of it and winnow the bad from the good. he will throw the baby out with the bathwater as long as he thinks what he is doing has meaning, even if he doesn’t understand what the outcome would be. if you cant tell good from bad, or up from down, you might as well pick what you want and pretend thats right, eh?

    ANOTHER reason is secular atheism. and i bet your going hunh…
    you see… in order to not believe in god, you have to ignore things that others have thought are evidential, and replace it with another reason.

    you certainly cant accept that how it is, is how it was created, and that the story is wrong, but the gist is right… and thats not where the hunh is resolved…

    its resolved in that to accept evolution mathematically, they have to know how it works. they do not accept that it can work, yet they dont know or even have a foggy idea of how, despite lots of erudite papers of which i have spent years reading (And working on the math of evolution).

    to them it has to be either or, and it has to be resolvable.
    and they even ignore their own art doing it!!!!!

    Gödel’s incompleteness theorems are two theorems of mathematical logic that establish inherent limitations of all but the most trivial axiomatic systems capable of doing arithmetic. The theorems, proven by Kurt Gödel in 1931, are important both in mathematical logic and in the philosophy of mathematics. The two results are widely, but not universally, interpreted as showing that Hilbert’s program to find a complete and consistent set of axioms for all mathematics is impossible, giving a negative answer to Hilbert’s second problem.

    fancy way of saying that we cant know everything as everything is not derivable or accessible within the system that your in. (but a meta state could peer down into it and see what you cant – and yet, in that meta state, there would also be things that you cant get to).

    it also has to do, i think, with their sense of progress…
    in that area of math, the amount of progress is not much.
    (and i know the solution or rather the root of it)

    compared to artificial intelligence, genetic algorithms and that domain of math, still cant grow a multicellular type solution that can actually solve a problem which is unstated.

    none of their toys actually evolve in the way that would give them fuzzies.

    oh, they evolve in the micro level where you can solve problems. but they are abysmal at the organizational level where you would want it to create a solution in which the answer is a group of beings that started from a single state.

    [sorry, but this has been an aspect of my own personal work for years as i am on the edges of the field, but not anyone whose work would be paid attention to, or could publish given how i write and the wrong CV in their eyes]

    by the way, they are not even close…
    even though the answer is right in front of them all the time

    the way i put it to my friend is.
    at some point you know enough to solve the basis of your problem
    pulling wings off more flies wont solve the problem with your problem

    in the abstract it so easy its amazing they cant see it…
    but sadly, we no longer have the kind of schools that created people like Einstein, and Emmy Noether. (and now they are giving bronx science a hatchet job. first articles attacking the test and the make up of the student body because of that test. 8 nobel prize winners and they claim the test doesnt do anything. now they are creating a hazing scandal for one of the sports teams. so you can say by by to bronx sci in the future)

    Amalie Emmy Noether

    Emmy, was an influential German mathematician known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics. Described by Pavel Alexandrov, Albert Einstein, Jean Dieudonné, Hermann Weyl, Norbert Wiener and others as the most important woman in the history of mathematics, she revolutionized the theories of rings, fields, and algebras. In physics, Noether’s theorem explains the fundamental connection between symmetry and conservation laws.

    but in the feminist episode of big bang theory pushing women in STEM, the best example that Sheldon Cooper could come up with was the feminist loved Madame Curie….

    so ultimately they CAN get their heads around the idea of shaking a planet up and getting us. but that number they derive is determined by the presumptions they used to construct it. and if they have no model, and do not replace a total random thing with a small start and a PROCESS which would really drop the numbers down to believable to them.

    whats 2 raised to the 64th power?

    whats 4 raised to the 32nd power?

    the human genome is made of base pairs
    you can record the state of each position made up of two of them
    (sense and antisense) by using a four letter alphabet. ACTG
    that’s the simple view

    if you laid the three foot long molecule out on the table
    and you considered it to be one long number in base 4
    the potential permutations would be
    4 raised to the 3500000000th power

    a number so large that you cant get your mind around it…

    so forget the origin problem
    forget the organizational problem (which i solved)
    and just string bases together randomly

    if you could get through a billion of them a second to test them
    you still cant get through even a small amount of the potential in the time since he beginning of the universe.

    “The number of atoms in the entire observable universe is estimated to be within the range of 10 raised to the 78th to 10 raised to the 82nd”


  21. Artfldgr Says:

    THAT Schrodinger. He was, naturally, the first to propose consciousness as arising from the basic indeterminacy of quantum mechanics.

    the emperors new mind postulates that the reason AI will fail is that the atoms in our brain and such things have access to the quantum level of operation in reality, while our computers do not have access to that. (to not do a large post, they are digital, they remove as much of random as possible and push it off to way beyond the existence of the machine).

    The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and The Laws of Physics is a 1989 book by mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose.

    Penrose presents the argument that human consciousness is non-algorithmic, and thus is not capable of being modeled by a conventional Turing machine-type of digital computer. Penrose hypothesizes that quantum mechanics plays an essential role in the understanding of human consciousness. The collapse of the quantum wavefunction is seen as playing an important role in brain function.

    The majority of the book is spent reviewing, for the scientifically minded layreader, a plethora of interrelated subjects such as Newtonian physics, special and general relativity, the philosophy and limitations of mathematics, quantum physics, cosmology, and the nature of time. Penrose intermittently describes how each of these bears on his developing theme: that consciousness is not “algorithmic”. Only the later portions of the book address the thesis directly.

    Penrose states that his ideas on the nature of consciousness are speculative, and his thesis is considered erroneous by experts in the fields of philosophy, computer science, and robotics.

    i stand in the middle..
    he is right in that the kind of system that biology presents exploits anything that it can or has access to that it perceives that it can work. brains being analogue and chemical and electrical, quantum things can effect it if it doesnt pare it out, but uses it in some way. (early neural net programs which were more simulator of the actual biology and less mathematical, would not run on different machines. they discovered that somehow the software and its operation started to exploit the timing of the chip and other things unique to that system. (there was some security developed from this way back, but i dont know if it went anywhere)).

    Following the publication of this book, Penrose began to collaborate with Stuart Hameroff on a biological analog to quantum computation involving microtubules, which became the foundation for his subsequent book, Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness.

    The Emperor’s New Mind attacks the claims of artificial intelligence using the physics of computing: Penrose notes that the present home of computing lies more in the tangible world of classical mechanics than in the imponderable realm of quantum mechanics. The modern computer is a deterministic system that for the most part simply executes algorithms. Penrose shows that, by reconfiguring the boundaries of a billiard table, one might make a computer in which the billiard balls act as message carriers and their interactions act as logical decisions. The Billiard-Ball Computer was first designed some years ago by Edward Fredkin and Tommaso Toffoli of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    that was my last post…
    its been a bad day at the office… ha ha..

  22. Francesca Says:

    Little did we know the pervasive influence that the sixties would have and have even until today, and not for good. Rebellion breeds yet more rebellion until it becomes an end unto itself. That’s where we are today.

    Who knows if we as a people can recover our common sense?

  23. Paul A'Barge Says:

    @Artfldgr, TL;DR.

  24. Paul A'Barge Says:

    Rahe is 64. He says this in the comments of his piece.

  25. Paul A'Barge Says:

    Steven Pinker is a fascist. Tell him this on his Facebook page.

  26. blert Says:

    Well, at least he’s assured of his fifteen-minutes of hate.

  27. n.n Says:

    Judge a philosophy not by its articles of faith but by the principles it engenders.

    That said, people need to distinguish between science and philosophy. I welcome people with both perspectives, but favor those who are capable of their distinction.

    As for the “truth”… Well, we may or may not discover it in our post-mortem, or perhaps earlier at some unspecified time. Then again, maybe we are just an emergent phenomenon, which will simply lose coherence and be heard no more. Either way, this is a revelation that can only be divined through faith.

  28. sergey Says:

    Neo-Darwinism is wrong because of logical and mathematical issues, as was demonstrated by leading German geneticist Richard Goldschmidt as early as in 1940. He was maligned and ridiculed by scientific community for this transgression, but his book “Material basis of Evolution” was republished by Stephen Jay Gould in 1960 and once again in 1980. But ideological commitment of scientists to Neo-Darvinism still blocks any rational discussion on this matter until now.

  29. sergey Says:

    The big problem here is that it can be impossible to separate philosophical and scientific issues in such complex problem as evolution. It is simply is not known if behavior of complex self-organizing systems can be entirely understood by scientific method. It can be insufficient for such understanding.

  30. SteveH Says:

    The problem appears to be in the post modern personality makeup of humans. A personality that can’t be humbled and posseses an insatiable desire to have nothing bigger or smarter than themselves.

    The mind incapable of being humbled by the unknowable mystery of existence is a mind closed in the extreme.

  31. physicsguy Says:

    Tesh: that’s too bad. Name me one area of human endeavor where politics is some form or another, doesn’t exist. You can’t; it’s part of being human.

    That being said, science is not immune to the ravages of the Baby Boomers who are now starting to, thankfully, exit stage right. Yes, the politics in science greatly increased as the BB’s came into their own. But why let that stop you? We need the younger people to come in and clean up the mess. Since I am in constant contact with the 18-22 year olds, I know there is some light ahead if things can just be held together until they can take over.

    This from myself, a Baby Boomer who is ashamed to be part of what I call the Worst Generation.

  32. Baltimoron Says:

    I also read the TNR article Ann links above. The funniest thing to me about Mr. Pinker’s response was that he accuses Mr. Wieseltier of not having read a book review in the Nation that Wieseltier actually quotes in his article; this while accusing Wieseltier of sloppiness.
    You can find that book review here by the way. I wasn’t too impressed with it . The only place where the try to make an in depth criticism of Nagel’s book (towards the bottom of the article) reads like a restatement of the original problem.

  33. Tesh Says:

    @physicsguy, I’m not talking about interpersonal politics, those are inevitable, and nowhere near as noxious or corrosive as the other politics.

    I’m talking about “big P” Politics, if that puts a better label on it. Or, the unholy fusion of pseudoscience, consensuscience, cargo cult nonsense and public policy that makes most modern science into a mere organ of the State rather than an exercise in intellectual honesty and curiosity.

  34. kolnai Says:

    Sergey -

    Well said.

  35. DNW Says:

    Paul A’Barge Says:
    March 14th, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Steven Pinker is a fascist. Tell him this on his Facebook page.”

    One of the noteworthy things about the armchair nihilists of academia is their generally collectivist stance. Quite a few are in fact self-aware enough to grant that their philosophical premises undercut any objective grounding for imperatives they might issue. But, when challenged, they smugly shrug from their legally protected publicly funded perches and retort, “so what”?

    They are busy directively evolving a new humanity on your tax dime. For a time, and with the proper management and deployment of the state dependent client class, democratic formalisms may prove useful. When they are not needed any longer, then that baggage can be dropped and further rhetorical homage will no longer be expedient.

    Who are you to object anyway; based on your pre-modern notions of intrinsic meaning, teleology, rights, and whatnot?

    As I have said before, I don’t think that conservatives in general have been capable of assimilating just how morally uninhibited and alien these two-bit Nietzscheans really are.

    Though it seems to be dawning on some of them now.

  36. DNW Says:

    Tesh Says:
    March 14th, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Real science isn’t about consensus, it’s about truth.

    …I used to want to be an astrophysicist, but I looked at the politicization of science and …

    sergey Says:
    March 15th, 2013 at 3:43 am

    The big problem here is that it can be impossible to separate philosophical and scientific issues in such complex problem as evolution. …

    SteveH Says:
    March 15th, 2013 at 6:25 am

    The problem appears to be in the post modern personality makeup of humans. A personality that can’t be humbled and posseses an insatiable desire to have …

    All useful takes. But, I personally don’t know what the etiology of the underlying politicization/no-exit/totalitarian impulse/collectivizing problem is. Even assuming that it is driven by “one”.

    We do know that a certain metaphysical view is used to rhetorically justify and seemingly dis-inhibit (I cannot recall from my studies if there really is such a term) certain behaviors. And, we perceive that unbridled egotism has some role to play.

    But the question for me is why the inevitable, driving, collectivizing, no-demurrers-allowed attitude seems such an important part of the phenomenon. That is to say how it follows , either logically [most now admit it doesn't] or psychologically, from the premise of materialism; or, as they now prefer to say since the concept of matter itself has become problematical, “naturalism”.

    Maybe it’s just a feature of the biology of some persons, some sub-segment of humanity; this impulse, for creating tyranny under the rubric of “solidarity” and progress.

    Or maybe there is an existential reason which I can intellectually grasp and even call out, but am incapable of confirming via shared feelings; one, which has to do with a left-nihilist’s psychic need for both company and a rousing marching song on the road to hell.

    It sure is weird, these physically mild men, with their rousing rending ambitions to rule over and shape all manifestations of consciousness itself.

  37. sergey Says:

    Naturalism is a basic methodological assumption of scientific method. But this is a natural human tendency to see the methodology of their trade as fact of nature itself. This is a fallacy, of course, this assumption simply determines limitations of scientific method. And if Schroedinger is right about quantum indeterminism as a basis of mind and free will, and I believe he is, than science of mind is impossible (at least natural science of mind).

  38. sergey Says:

    The same applies to evolution theory. Gene mutations, after all, are quantum mechanical phenomena, and if such events really are not random, but the tools of Providence (salient fact is that in any possible experiment they still be seen as random), the naturalistic theory of evolution is not possible, too. Exactly this is termed in Hebrew mysticism as “hidden guidance” of Universe by supernatural forces.

  39. artfldgr Says:

    @Paul A’Barge
    no contribution, why waste precious life as you do?
    if you ahve nothing to contribute except you page down
    then what worth are you in the world?

    thank you for making and proving the case that i put forth

    you get a kewpie doll to show why the reason things are the way they are is because of a collective of people like you.

    it certainly is not from people like me

    i did not help erase the people who said things that they left desperately wants you to forget so they can use you…

  40. sergey Says:

    The main objection of Einstein against quantum theory was not scientific, but philosophical and religious: “God does not dice”. Yes, He does not, but to us, mortals, it still looks like He does. And no scientific experiment can prove otherwise. But this only means that natural science can never discover the ultimate truth, and what we see or discover by science is in a sense an illusion. Quantum mechanics simply liberated us from all-permeating naturalism and made it possible for us to be either believers or non-believers as we wish, without sacrificing reason and rationalism. This also is as God wishes it to be.

  41. physicsguy Says:

    Tesh, I knew you were talking about the big “P” politics…. so was I when I referenced all the damage the Baby Boomers have done.

  42. sergey Says:

    DNV: Atheists fear death. Everybody does, but atheists fear it overwhelmingly, desperately, and need unhealthy, neurotic defensive mechanisms to cope with it. They use denial and suppression, and came together in herds to reinforce their elusive sense of meaning which they can not find in their empty souls. They became desperate when remain alone and need noble Cause and Sturm und Drung as a substitute for religion and serenity.

  43. njartist49 Says:

    Well Artfldgr, you might enjoy this of Rupert Sheldrake. I first read his work in the 1980s. He too, has come to question evolution and is being drummed out of the “science” community.

  44. DNW Says:

    sergey Says:
    March 15th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    “DNV: Atheists fear death. Everybody does, but atheists fear it overwhelmingly, desperately, and need unhealthy, neurotic defensive mechanisms to cope with it. They use denial and suppression, and came together in herds to reinforce their elusive sense of meaning which they can not find in their empty souls. They became desperate when remain alone and need noble Cause and Sturm und Drung as a substitute for religion and serenity.”

    I’ve said something same thing in words not too much different from your own: Saying that they probably suffer from an existential terror of insignificance, a fear of being a limited self of the kind which their worldview implies. Emotionalism, martial allusions, proclamations of cosmic unity, visionary agendas and social drama, themes of glorious self-sacrifice, or the sacrifice of others in the name of progress and brotherhood, etc., provides them with the distractions and antidotes they need to escape from depression and despair and to feel alive.

    I still think the notion is partly accurate, and to some extent validated by their ever recurrent boasts that they have moved beyond any fear of death. They protest too much.

    No doubt a vaunting self-asserting bronze age warrior, fearless of the inevitable, could also say “I don’t fear death.” as he drove his axe down into the skull of someone annoying.

    The collective is not the step one is logically impelled to, by a recognition of, or supposition of, radical finitude.

    By the way, many of you probably received this in your e-mail today, but in case you have not…

  45. DNW Says:

    njartist49 Says:
    March 15th, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    “Well Artfldgr, you might enjoy this of Rupert Sheldrake. I first read his work in the 1980s. He too, has come to question evolution and is being drummed out of the “science” community.”

    Thanks for the link.

    You have hit upon two important points, one of which I will bypass. I’m going to remain agnostic on Sheldrake per se, and confine myself to another matter encapsulated by this remark from TED’s review board,

    ” According to our science board, Rupert Sheldrake bases his argument on several major factual errors … he suggests that scientists reject the notion that animals have consciousness, despite the fact that it’s generally accepted that animals have some form of consciousness … [and] argues that scientists have ignored variations in the measurements of natural constants …”


    “But, in truth, there has been a great deal of inquiry into the nature of scientific constants …”

    Ok then, bracketing Sheldrake himself, here’s the real problem (following Neo’s links) just as laid out by Leon Wieseltier:

    “The problem of the limits of science is not a scientific problem. It is also pertinent to note that the history of science is a history of mistakes, and so the dogmatism of scientists is especially rich. “

    Or as Edward Feser recently wrote:

    ” … the liberal, who claims to favor intellectual pluralism in the public sphere, needs constantly to be forced to put his money where his mouth is. “

    The popular term “goal post moving” has some particular relevance here. When politically motivated materialists are caught out deploying scientific rationales in their arguments which don’t withstand scrutiny, or are found to be based on outdated or suspect scientistic dogmas, their typical strategy is to immediately distance themselves from the line of argument they themselves or their comrades in social-war arms have just recently been seen deploying. Why, none of the best and brightest, those currently tenured at the best schools, are asserting THAT anymore!, they say.

    But it is what they themselves, these everyday warriors have been arguing that is relevant.

    Take for example this remark deposited with our friend Haidt.

    Thus, Harriet Baber philosophy professor at the University of San Diego, on the average man and his sensibilities [preserved within a quote I had made, as she was later granted a mulligan by Haidt after she realized the likely effect of her unguarded outburst]:

    “Why should we regard the moral universe of the lower classes and primitive people as a consequence of their ability to taste more moral flavors than those we poor WEIRDs can distinguish? … lower class people try to give a rationale in terms of harm for their gut feelings that sex between siblings, cleaning toilets with flag rages, etc. is bad by contriving scenarios involving harm. These poor, dumb, ignoramuses … I’m a liberal, one of your WEIRDs, and an academic. But I have nothing but hatred and contempt for working class Americans and members of non-Western cultures. And, c’mon Haidt: don’t you think that if these people get some education and financial security, they’ll become as WEIRD is us? The 6-dimension moral structure you describe is a defect—the illusion of stupid, unreflected, uneducated people. Our aim should be to dismantle their detestable shit cultures …”

    Then there’s Alex Rosenberg of Duke [and the Duke rape case infamy]: laying down the rules which will explain to you why ultimately you had better not talk nonsense back to him about your natural rights and such,

    ” It’s fermions and bosons, and everything that can be made up of them, and nothing that can’t be made up of them. All the facts about fermions and bosons determine or “fix” all the other facts about reality and what exists in this universe or any other if, as physics may end up showing, there are other ones.”

    Then there’s the scant-bearded little atheist warrior PZ Myers, on the modesty of his overarching aims:

    “Science is our weapon, our god-killer. It’s the greatest tool humanity has ever invented —

    … my brothers and sisters in atheism. We are not sheep; there are no shepherds here. I look out from this stage and I see 4000 pairs of hunter’s eyes, 4000 hunter’s minds, 4000 pairs of hunter’s hands. I see the primeval primate hunting band grown large and strong. I see us so confident in our strength that we laugh at our enemies. I see a people thinking and planning, fierce and focused, learning and building new tools to conquer new worlds.

    You are not sheep. You, my brothers and sisters in atheism, are a fierce, coordinated hunting pack — men and women working together, and those other bastards have cause to fear us. So let’s do it: make them tremble as we demolish the city of god.”

    Why shouldn’t they be granted mulligans, eh?

  46. sergey Says:

    Sheldrake did not invent morphogenetic field, it was experimentally discovered by a Russian biologist Alexander Gurvitch in early 20 century. I had discussions about his discoveries with his grandson, leading Russian embryologist Belousov, and was allowed to see recent experiments done at Chair of Embryology at Biological Department of Moscow University. I have seen by my own eyes, directly and using microscope, developmental anomalies resulting from mis-resonance of two batches of loach spam. They were isolated from each other and could communicate only through quartz tube walls. (Actually there were 2 containers from infrared spectrograph filled with water with a batch of loach spam in each.) They were put one atop another, put into thermostat to hatch, and if stages of development of batches were the same, we could see normal development. But if they were in different stages, the earlier batch had less anomalies than usual, but the later batch had de-synchronized developmental patterns and lots of anomalies. They were also such anomalies which never were seen in normal conditions, like a loach with 6 heads, splitting of tail segment and so on. The emissions of very faint light quants were registered by photoelectron multiplier and recorded. When coded by sound according their wavelength and played, they produced nice harmonic melody for normal development, and cacophony for abnormal development.

  47. sergey Says:

    Correction: not spam but spawn.

  48. sergey Says:

    Works of Gurvich are described in

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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