Auto Added by WPeMatico

They are getting smarter

Wolves in Banff National Park have been reported to have approached a park employee and chased him a short distance as he roared off on a snowmobile.


“The snow-making equipment is loud, the ski-doo is loud, so the fact that they didn’t seem to be deterred by that is a concern,” he told Postmedia.

“It could have been curious behaviour, it could have just been an instinctual response to follow something that was moving away, or it could have been more aggressive than that — we don’t know.”

The pack has been involved in several incidents this year that have worried parks officials.

In June two wolves from the pack, including the alpha female, were killed by wildlife officials after they boldly approached campers at the Tunnel Mountain and Two Jack Lake campgrounds.”

Considering that the death penalty is imposed for even approaching humans, they are bold indeed. There are times when I think that the death penalty should be imposed on certain classes of criminal for the same  reason. But that would involve a decision that some anthropoids walking on two legs are not really human, and we will not go there today, if ever.

And on a more serious note, those who feed wolves are condemning innocent creatures to death. Do not do it.

Bacon and eggs



The basis of any proper breakfast is fats and sugars, with additions of protein and caffeine. Fruits may supply your sugars if you are that way inclined, but  for me, sugar in my coffee serves as well. As for fats, the most obvious source is bacon, which has the added virtue of being a pleasure denied to observant Jews and Muslims. Thus you can enjoy a sense of sinning against political correctness as you chow down on your morning strips of bacon. Bonus!

Unfortunately, the cause of bacon has suffered in recent decades because of the cholesterol scam, in which our health was supposed to have been menaced by animal fats per se, rather than by excessive meat consumption coupled with smoking and inactivity.

Smoking and inactivity will kill you younger than almost any combination of ingested substances: it may even be more deadly in combination than breathing asbestos.

By this time we should be aware that the original cholesterol study was as factually sound as global warming studies are today. Countries whose mortality rates and causes of death that did not conform to the preconceived outcome were excluded. The people measured were survivors of World War 2, many of whom had gone through the war and the Depression. Then they reached post-war prosperity and were dying young of heart attacks. They smoked like chimneys, as people did in those days. On the basis of this pseudo science, where association is causation, a fifty-year-long campaign by the vegetable oil industry was launched, the effect of which is still with us.The American Heart Institute, which lobbies for the cholesterol boogey-man, is funded by the vegetable oil producers.

We are still convinced that animal fats are dangerous to health, even when they are not.

The cholesterol narrative ( a polite word for mularkey) had to be modified, and by now it has been abandoned, even if your physician still clings to it. The story of good and bad cholesterols fighting it out for dominance in your blood stream is  attractive; it allows doctors to bully you into diets for which your body may not well adapted. The Mediterranean diet may well work for people of Mediterranean descent. It does not work for me. A diet rich in meats is appropriate for people who live in countries where the cold requires fires and insulation for many months of the year. A diet without cheap carbohydrates is required for any aboriginal culture that knew only meat, fruit and berries until the coming of the white man. Look at the obesity in Pacific Islanders or Canadian aboriginals, and you can see a problem that a diet normal for some humans is inappropriate for peoples unaccustomed to starches and alcohol. Both drugs and diets vary in their effectiveness according to our biochemical inheritance, which has been shaped by what we have eaten for millennia.

One of the considerable pleasures of a recent visit to Austria, Slovenia and northern Italy was the presence of cold cuts. It is thought perfectly normal to serve a dinner or snack composed of slices of prosciutto, ham, salamis, and cheeses, with maybe a carved carrot for colour. Pickles and horse radish composed the vegetables. Beer and schnapps supplied the alcohol. For this carnivore, it was heavenly. To find an entire food culture that is not obsessed with eating vegetables was a revelation.

Back to bacon in this country. Fat supplies and carries the flavour. One of the effects of the cholesterol scare was the progressive breeding of pigs to have less fat. The effects on Canadian (and American) pigs has been the breeding of dry, largely flavourless pork. To eat pork in Europe was to be reminded that it can be a delicious, flavourful experience. We eat beef with fat, why not pork?

One of the food movements that bears watching is the restoration of the pig to an honoured place in the pantheon of meat. As you have the power as a consumer to summon forth what you want, try exploring the butcheries of the nation for fatter, more tasty pork. A trivial increase in your food spending can have gigantic effects on what is available to eat. The relative abundance of patés, cheeses, local wines, and local breeds of meat can be affected by what you insist upon at the meat counter.




Gaia has plans for us

man and fire


Patrick Moore, the former head of Greenpeace,  displayed the best and fastest briefing I have ever seen on the entire history of the earth’s climate and its relationship to CO2. This was at Moses Znaimer’s Idea City last year.

This is the Idea City presentation, about 20 minutes long.
This is the presentation on Youtube, which is about 5 minutes long.

I had not been aware that the earth has recently (last few million years) come close to a CO2 level at which plant life dies from want of carbon dioxide. Now humans are busily pumping CO2 into the atmosphere and thereby saving the earth from catastrophic plant death.

Do you remember the Gaia Hypothesis?


The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. Topics of interest include how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms affect the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere, the maintenance of a hydrosphere of liquid water and other environmental variables that affect the habitability of Earth.

I confess I am attracted to the Gaia Hypothesis,  and I believe (that is the word, believe) that we are a part of the picture and do not stand outside of it merely because we are a conscious species. Indeed we may be more fully implicated in Gaia precisely because we are a conscious species.

Here is what Gaia would be thinking:


Facts: Chicxulub asteroid strikes earth 62 million years ago and destroys dominance of large reptiles over next few million years. Out of Gaia’s control. How to react? Do nothing and let time pass.

Mammals emerge as dominant taxon. Furry and warm blooded, they invade ecological niches impenetrable to cold blooded species.

Indian plate strikes Asian plate 33 million years ago Himalayas thrust upwards. Monsoon rains pour down upon impenetrable mountain barrier. Too much CO2 is absorbed from atmosphere into the water, as CO2 striking limestone turns into carbolic acid. Earth’s CO2 decline accelerates.

Glaciation increases in terms of duration, extent and severity.

 Gaia: I/we/she/it am getting colder, because too much CO2 is being absorbed into the oceans and the rocks, and too little is in the atmosphere. Ice ages too long, solar output will not fix the problem. Anyway the Sun and I are barely on speaking terms.

Pause while Gaia thinks for a million years.

Gaia: Why don’t I/we/she/it find a way of releasing the trillions of tons of CO2 locked in the earth’s crust? Options: a) increase volcanic activity b) evolve a species that will burn the immense reserves of carbon stored in earth’s crust, or c) wait for a giant asteroid to rearrange the surface of the earth and allow for the emergence of new species.

Decision:All I/we/she/it got from the asteroid were smelly clever rodents and fur bearing tree climbers. Volcanic activity is tried and true but that might require too much heat loss from my core. Hmmn…. What about those apes? Can we make them more clever? Let the cold continue. That will dry out their jungles and force some out into the savanna. Let’s see what happens….

A million years later, in the blink of Gaia’s innumerable eyes, the apes are the top predators, part vegetarian, part carnivore. They think they are running the planet. They are burning fossil fuels to run their economy. CO2 goes up, plant life recovers, the threat of plant death is removed, ice ages may diminish in duration and severity.

Gaia thinks: okay, I/we/she/it have got the CO2 level back up to what I/we/she/it need them to be. Now how do I get the apes’ population under control? I/we/she/it know! Birth control and prosperity!

Gaia is a complete empiricist. She uses whatever can be used to stabilize herself in her comfort zone, including these new-fangled apes.

It is a good story, isn’t it? Maybe it is also true. Of course, it is also possible that Gaia is but an emanation of an even larger Creator, and He/She/It is driving the process at an even more gigantic scale. Maybe Chicxulub asteroid catastrophe was a ‘forcing’ event, as the ecobabbulists like to say. Plans within plans.







Jospech brant


Sebastian Junger has written several books of lasting importance, including War and his latest, Tribe, on Homecoming and Belonging. I recommend you read both.

This from Tribe:

The most alarming rhetoric comes out of the dispute between liberals and conservatives, and it’s a dangerous waste of time because they’re both right. The perennial conservative concern about high taxes supporting a non-working underclass has entirely legitimate roots in our evolutionary past and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Early hominids lived a precarious existence where freeloaders were a direct threat to survival, and so they developed an exceedingly acute sense of whether they were being taken advantage of by members of their own group. By the same token, one of the hallmarks of early human society was the emergence of a culture of compassion that cared for the ill, the elderly, the wounded and the unlucky. In today’s terms that is a common liberal concern that also has to be taken into account. These two driving forces have coexisted for hundreds of thousands of year in human society and have been duly codified in this country as a two-party political system. The eternal argument over so-called entitlement programs –and more broadly, over liberal and conservative thought — will never be resolved because each side represents an ancient and absolutely essential component of our evolutionary past.”

Sex: we are having more of all kinds

A statistically robust study reports that more Americans are engaging or have engaged in homosexual activity over the course of the last  forty years. The change is caused by people who report having had sex with both men and women and not by the growth of the exclusively homosexual.

 “People over time are reporting more same-sex sexual experiences than ever before,” said Brooke Wells, a social psychologist at Widener University’s Center for Human Sexuality Studies.

The behavioral trend, reflected in an annual survey conducted between 1973 and 2014, was fueled largely by people who had sex with both men and women. There has been little change in the number of people reporting exclusively homosexual behavior.

The changes were reported Wednesday in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The research team included faculty from Widener, Florida Atlantic and San Diego State universities. A total of 33,728 people answered the survey over the 41-year period.

The number of U.S. adults who said they had at least one same-sex sexual partner doubled between the early 1990s – that question wasn’t asked earlier – and the early 2010s, from 3.6 to 8.7 percent for women and from 4.5 to 8.2 percent for men. Bisexual behavior rose from 3.1 to 7.7 percent, accounting for most of the change.

The survey found that only 1.7 percent of men and 0.9 percent of women said they had exclusively homosexual sex.

This study discredits the figure of 10% that was given for homosexual population, which was a political fiction of the gay lobby.

The surprise for some will be how to reconcile ideas of gay and straight with the fact that some people, a growing minority, report engaging in sex with both men and women. The difficulty lies in deep- rooted ideas which  are held by the straight and the gay alike.

People have been brought up in a language that defines us as either gay or straight, like an immutable Platonic ideal. Some are spheres, some are cones. No cross over, ever. So sexual orientation is a category, a classification,  rather than an activity. The gay movement has never, to my knowledge, deviated from this ideological stance, and neither has the Anita Bryant crowd.

The line the Gay Lobby peddles is that people are immutably gay or straight,  that homosexuality is an innate condition, that one is born that way, and that to deviate from this view is a heresy.

I recall Cynthia Nixon, a star of the late series Sex and the City, once dared to offer some non-conforming views. She has had both male and female lovers. She expressed herself this way about it:

She recently caused controversy among the gay community when she told The New York Times that homosexuality was a personal choice for her.

The notion that she had a choice in the matter outraged the ideological orthodoxy of the gay movement. [Yes, Dorothy, there is such a thing}.

But now, Cynthia Nixon has sought to clarify her comments further in a statement to The Advocate, telling them that bisexuality is not a choice, but her decision to be in a homosexual relationship is.

The same people who would be outraged to hear that intelligence is 75% inherited, for instance, foam at the mouth when it is suggested that some people might exercize choice in the sex of their partners. How can bisexuality not be a choice, when the sex of one’s partner is a choice? How can free will have a role if the one’s sexual orientation is 100% inherited?

The only way to make sense of this distinction between an inherent ‘bisexuality’, and a free choice of a person to bed a man or a woman, is that ‘bisexuality’ is being abstracted into another kind of Platonic essence distinct from one’s actual choice of bed partner, which is an activity. So we are back to the Platonic solids again, and we simply add a dodecahedron to the sphere and the cone.

I object to the abstracting of an essence from a pattern of activity.

At various times and  places, in various cultures and religions, homosexual and heterosexual relations have been practiced by one and the same person without any social stigma, and at other times and places, in other cultures and religions, homosexual activities and desires have been repressed by force of law, religion and culture, and self-repressed in consequence.

We happen to be in one of those rare moments in time when we can observe  that our culture, for better or worse, is transforming from an extremely homophobic one to something somewhat more tolerant. But we are still carrying around two incompatible ideas in our heads: that homosexual activity is not a choice, but is the expression of an immutable pre-existing condition,  and that somehow the fact that it is not really a choice makes it all right. It is okay to have same-sex sex if we belong to Team B, but not if we belong to Team A. That would be wrong. Team A should never cross over into Team B. That would be like going to the dark side. If people choose to have homosexual sex, then somehow it is wrong, but if they have no choice in their orientation, then somehow it is okay.

The gay political movement has accepted this specious argument. So have most straight people. The data reveal that, as sexual attitudes change, and repression lifts, more people either admit to homosexual activity or, as I think, feel free enough to indulge in it. There cannot be a near doubling of ‘bisexuals’ in forty years if sexual orientation is genetically immutable, like eye colour. But if our behaviour is mutable according to fashion, and  levels of repression, or the absence of repression, then we can and do change.  To ascribe the propensity to have sex with one sex rather than with the other as ‘genetic’ seems a completely unnecessary stretch.

Our language and thinking are still embedded in the previous era. Even if we have become more accepting of ‘gays’, we still firmly believe that people ought to be one or the other.

To use the word ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ in this sense is to use the language of Platonic abstractions. I do not think for second that all those men and women , those 8.2 percent of men and 8.7% of women in 2014, are ‘gay’. Neither does calling them ‘straight’ add to our understanding. They are just people having sex.

Except for that small minority of people who are exclusively homosexual (1.7% of men and 0.9% of women), I think it is misleading to categorize people who have had sex with their own as well as with the opposite sex as ‘gay’. Sex is an activity, not a condition. Something we do, not something we are.

This is Heresy #1 to both Team A and Team B. If sex is something we do, rather than a condition that we are, then sexual activity is rather more like preferring golf to tennis, than it is like being Protestant rather than Catholic, and more like both of them than it is to be blue-eyed or brown eyed.  “He’s a golfer, but plays good tennis too”. Why do we have no trouble with this formulation, but feel awkward with “he likes women, but plays with the men too”? Why is sexual orientation treated as the Big Deal of identity politics? Because we are uncomfortable with sex.

I can see a strictly Christian view of the matter would say that sex should only occur inside marriage. (I do not agree but I can see the consistency of the claim). I can see a socially conservative view that would prioritize the claims of children to a stable home environment over the claims of parents to sexual freedom, and thus that, regardless of sexual activities,  child-rearing must prevail over all other claims. I agree with this view.

That society must give priority to child raising is not in question. What ought to be in question is our either/or attitudes, held by Team A and Team B alike, that one’s choice of sex partner is the exclusive result of an  immutable genetic disposition. The right of people to engage in sex with their own sex, or with the opposite sex, should be a free choice of the will and not, as gay identity politics would have it, an expression of something as unchangeable as eye colour.

We have bought into the existence of pain-inducing and false abstractions, which hinder our understanding of ourselves and the human species. Both sides of the gay/anti-gay debate seem to have accepted these Platonic abstractions as real . Contrary to ideology, many more people seem to be acting on the realization that one’s sex partner is a choice of the heart and the will, and not the expression of an immutable biological condition. A future age will wonder what on earth we meant to do when we divided the world  into ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. We are just human. We can be sexually attracted to almost anyone in some conditions, and attracted to no one in others. Dividing the world into the Platonic abstractions of gay and straight hinders us from understanding both ourselves and other people.




Eat fat, grow old

eat steak

Today’s news from the dietary fat front, in the Telegraph.

Thirty years of official health advice urging people to adopt low-fat diets and to lower their cholesterol is having “disastrous health consequences,” a leading obesity charity warned yesterday.

“Eating fat does not make you fat,” argues a new report by the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Public Health Collaboration, as they demanded a major overhaul of official dietary guidelines.

The report says the low-fat and low-cholesterol message, which has been official policy in the UK since 1983, was based on “flawed science” and had resulted in an increased consumption of junk food and carbohydrates.

The document also accuses major public health bodies of colluding with the food industry, said the misplaced focus meant Britain was failing to address an obesity crisis which is costing the NHS £6 billion a year.

Or, putting it in more contemporary language, the report says that low-carbon high renewable energy message, which has been official policy in the UK since 1995, was based on “flawed science” and had resulted in increased poverty and lower social welfare.

We shall have to wait another forty years for that one, though. Maybe twenty five. But it will come as surely as the moon goes through phases, and the geese fly north in spring.

Or you can emulate my cousin Reggie, below.



What science fiction got wrong

We were drinking at Irene’s the other night, guys of a certain age. We were contemplating what science fiction got wrong, what assumptions science fiction writers made in the 1960s that did prove true.

If you were young in the sixties, you were exposed to Robert Heinlein, J.G. Ballard, A.E.Van Vogt, and many others. One man who appears more and more significant as time passes is Philip K. Dick, 1928-1982, whose stories have been the basis of numerous science fiction movies, most notably Blade Runner, but also including Johnny Mnemomic, Total Recall, Minority Report and others. I have just finished reading a handsome hardback compendium of four of Dick’s most significant short stories.



Philip Kindred Dick, 1928-1982

It is curious and interesting that Dick was no better at predicting the technical attributes of what was, in 1965,  the near future of 2015, than any of the more conventional science fiction writers. Despite imagining psychoactive drugs engendering collective participatory social hallucinations, and the commercial battles for world control that would come from such hallucinogenic drugs, he was as unable as Heinlein to imagine how different the world would be socially from 1965 to 2016. Moreover, the common theme of the science fiction writers was that transportation would be the area of human endeavour   subject to the greatest changes, not communications and computers.

Thus, for all of them, it seems, it was possible to conceive of colonizing Mars by 2015, but that women would still work as secretaries answering telephones. There would still be switchboards, and paper messages left by one’s secretary.

It is quite bizarre, how completely unforeseen was the effect of the computer in the science fiction of the era 1950-1975.

Today, contrary to the order foreseen by the imaginations of 1965, the communications revolution is invading transportation. The combination of massive computer power, and ubiquitous wireless networks, will keep driverless cars on the road and not colliding. What will Google do with all the terabytes of information that the automated car will collect every block, every mile of driving? It will process the information to improve the algorithms governing the car. Cars increasingly are computers with engines and wheels attached.

You have probably heard the story of the poor computer who (should I say “which”?) was tricked by humans into talking and responding like a devoted Nazi? It is going to take as much learning as a human has to go through to prevent  other humans from conning the interface bot into a completely false appreciation of reality. How do humans treat the rube from the country? the sucker born every minute? We con them. We cannot help it.  We engender lack of trust and a resulting degree of skepticism in younger minds as a cruel duty.

If every science fiction writer I know assumed that transportation was going to be revolutionized first, and computers and their social impacts were almost completely unforeseen, then how good are we at envisioning the future, thirty to forty years out?

Which is a way of saying that Nicholas Taleb was on to something vitally important in The Black Swan. There is the known, the (known) unknown, and the unknowable, and of all of them, the unknowable is an immensity beyond …knowing.

We will rely massively on driverless cars long before we have colonies on Mars. That is predictable now. Thus it is safe to say that, projecting forty years out, society will be different in ways we cannot now imagine. Whatever that change is, it will have nothing to do with Islam, the role of women, energy policy, gay rights, human fertility and reproduction, or anthropogenic global warming. It will be unimaginable.



Sean Gabb on why we need to change the subject

Sean Gabb is a British intellectual who assaults the encroachments on freedom from a libertarian point of view. He is not an Ayn Randist; his views are much more historically informed, and I have paid tribute to him elsewhere in this blog.

His latest target is the proposal to put through an electronic surveillance bill in the British Parliament.

First, he draws attention to the complete failure of any analysis of the failure of statist measures to achieve their objectives. Reviewing the literature from 1930 to 1970, he concludes that every criticism of statist measures in the UK that could have been made was made, correctly, and it had no effect. The state continued to expand regardless of any criticism no matter how well reasoned and persuasive.

He asks why this was so.

Gabb writes:

To make use of Thomas Kuhn, there is, at any time in any society, an overall paradigm that both explains the world and provides an agenda for action. For a very long time in this country, the paradigm has been statist. The justifications may overlap and change from time to time – the welfare of the working classes, racial and sexual equality, anthropogenic climate change, the demonization of Moslems and paedophiles and the unhealthy, and so forth. But the paradigm is one that accepts an enlarged state as both inevitable and desirable. Books like A Diet of Reason and Education and the State do no more than draw attention to anomalies….

If our present social paradigm is to be destroyed, it is necessary to make people lose interest in it. I cannot be bothered with a minute critique of the Investigatory Powers Bill because, as said, no one important listens to us – but also because proving how our Internet records will end up with ISIS or in North Korea will get nothing more than a shrug and a few soothing words about the “safeguards” in the Bill. We need to do better than produce anomalies of detail….

All through the twentieth century, our people tried to shift the paradigm by purely intellectual activism. Given the altered correlation of forces within the universities, they worked on a scale that we cannot now match. They still failed. The reason was that they were trying to apply their lever to the wrong point….

Intellectual activism is not a waste of time. Someone needs to articulate the counter-paradigm. But this is not sufficient in itself to overthrow the dominant paradigm. It should be seen rather as one line of attack in a largely cultural assault. We need our economists and philosophers. We also need our writers and artists and musicians. We need our own unofficial and unregulated – and that probably means secret – schools. We need our own structures of family life and arbitration. Our counter-paradigm must be seen to exist across the whole spectrum. We cannot try to privatize defence procurement, or bring back gold, and expect the tone of Hollywood and the BBC and the publishing industry to change accordingly. We must provide our own full-spectrum alternative. Plainly, we have done almost nothing in this direction. Hardly surprising if we life in a grotty police state….

To be clear, I do not believe we are living in a police state in Canada. Yes we have an expansive state, and there are many reasons for this, some of them utterly beyond anyone’s conscious control. As to Britain, the argument that it is a police state could be made more easily, especially when you see the arrests and prosecutions of white people for what are essentially the frank expression of everyday views on matters of race and religion.

The following is the tale of one Matthew Doyle, who tweeted something considered offensive by the thought-police after the Belgian airport bombings this past week. His story perfectly illustrates what Gabb is fighting against:

A man who tweeted about stopping a Muslim ‘women’ (sic) in the street and challenging her to “explain Brussels”, has said he will sue the Metropolitan Police after charges of race-hate against him were dropped.

Matthew Doyle, 46, from South Croydon, no longer faces the charge after the Met Police was told it had jumped the gun and did not have the power to make the decision without consulting the Attorney-General or the CPS.

“I cannot understand why I was detained, my flat trashed, my passport seized and two PCs, two tablets and my phone taken,” he said.

Mr Doyle, a partner at a south London-based talent and PR agency, allegedly posted a tweet on Wednesday morning saying: “I confronted a Muslim woman in Croydon yesterday. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said ‘nothing to do with me’. A mealy mouthed reply.”

The tweet, which appeared to refer to referred to this week’s bomb attacks on the Belgian capital’s main airport and Metro system, received hundreds of angry responses.

Regardless of the merits of Mr Doyle’s tweet or his underlying views, that the police in Britain are seizing the property of a man who posts an “offensive” tweet, according to a very expansive idea of racial incitement, is close to insane, and yet Britain is living under this form of police control now, with full support of the political classes.

“I was denied a shave, shower, food. I was stripped of any dignity to appear in court without looking like a dishevelled hobo that I am not,” he said.

He also accused ‘”nameless Twitter trolls” of “fanning the flames” and accused the Met of being “foolish” for bowing to social media rows.

He said: “It is not only foolish of them but I will be making a complaint against them and damages for trashing my flat, taking all my electronic stuff from my flat and forcing me to leave London.”

When first rate intellectuals like Sean Gabb are saying that opposition to some particular surveillance legislation is futile until we change the culture, he is on to something important. If rational intellectual opposition could have worked, it would have worked. It has not, and he is bold enough to ask why.

As Gabb showed, nearly everyone in 1600 thought that there were malevolent supernatural powers with whom humans could communicate, and that communication with these powers ought to be illegal. People were tried and hanged for witchcraft because people believed in these supernatural malevolent powers. A century later in 1700, no one believed in witchcraft. What had changed? In Gabb’s view the fact that intellectuals had pocket watches by 1700 did more to persuade people of a mechanistic universe than any amount of rational agitation against belief in witchcraft. In short, the subject – the focus of attnetion-changed.

I do not know what the answer is to controlling the expansion of the state. It may be, as Sean Gabb suggested about the effect of the pocket watch, that the near miraculous devices in our pockets, those telephone/camera/star chart/calculating/social media connecting/encyclopedias/ geo-positioning calulcators will turn society’s collective attention away from the state towards other things, and that they will accomplish the equivalent of the mental transformation that saw belief in witchcraft disappear between 1600 and 1700.

Whatever that force, thing, idea may be, I agree that the most important act we can engage in is actually to withdraw our attention from the state in order to refresh ourselves in our own lives, communities, and beliefs.

I have been much happier since I withdrew my attention from the CBC, and more recently, broadcast television. Part of the way to cope with the media and the political circus it supports is shift one’s attention to matters of more permanent importance, as one defines it.





Life is unfair, chapter 3832

Intelligent people are genetically predisposed to be healthier, sez the Telegraph.

For the first time, scientists have shown that intelligence is linked to good health, so those blessed with brains are also less likely to become sick, develop disease or die early.

The reason is down to genes. An international team, led by the University of Edinburgh, have discovered that the same gene variants which make people smart, also protect them against illness.

Those who performed the best on memory, verbal reasoning and reaction time tests, were less likely to have genes linked to high blood pressure, develop diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes or have poor overall health. They were also likely to be taller and have larger brains, the study found.

The only conditions that intelligence appeared to increase were schizophrenia, autism and bipolar disorder.

Which is reasonable considering that those three conditions are misworkings of the mind itself.

When are we going to abandon the notion that we are are equal in anything but a moral sense? Genetics – the instructions that make our bodies and minds – largely determines intelligence, health, personality and character.

Culture is what turns us from savages into citizens, and I am in favour of higher, broader and deeper culture, but it cannot be attained without good genetics.

Otherwise we are in Straight outta Compton. Or 21st century Kandahar. Or 14th century London, in a violent, brutish, impoverished life.

So here’s a toast to culture, self restraint and public order! And three cheers for good genes!


Another must read for Barrelstrengthians: Norbert Elias’ The Civilizing Process which is worth reading at almost any price. Elias’ book is the basis of Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature, which debt Pinker freely acknowledges.