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The universe is entirely mental

“The universe does not exist outside our consciousness”.

“Consciousness is the only carrier of reality.”

“The brain is the second person perspective of the first person experience.”

“The universe is the second-person perspective of someone else’s first person experience”

“Life is the image of dissociated processes of mind”.

“The universe does not exist outside of our consciousness of it”.

 

Professor Pangloss, meet Dr. Doom

 

 

The most important thing about prediction is the time scale over which you are measuring. The probability of the extremely rare event rises to certainty with the passage of time. For example, the history of the earth for the last two million years shows that the next ice age cannot be further away than two to five thousand years. If we extend the time scale to several tens of millions of years, it is likely that the earth will pass through epochs considerably warmer than we are in now.

So it is with historical timespans, which are far shorter . The human race has been undergoing a massive population expansion since 1800 because of science, increasing energy resources, and a feedback loop between increasing wealth and increasing resources to deal with disease.

Yet the very forces that have created the population explosion are everywhere reducing human birthrates. Why? Because as women become certain of the survival of their babies, they have fewer of them. Just as the burden of humans on the planet reaches a peak, the human species declines in numbers. These are demographic certainties: the dearth of children since the 1970s has been felt in every part of the world, including especially the Islamic parts. Within three generations human fertility has crashed from 6-8 live births to about 2 live births per woman. Read David Goldman’s It’s not the End of the World, it’s just the End of You: the Great Extinction of Nations.

It was with interest and pleasure that I have been absorbing Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome. Harper is the first historian of whom I am aware to have taken seriously the impacts of disease and climate change on the fate of the Roman Empire. He addresses the reader’s attention to the startling scale of death in the three waves of pestilence that not just decimated, but halved, Roman populations in the period 200AD to 550 AD. There were three near-global epidemics that swept through the Empire, each assisted by the ubiquity of trade links and safety of travel that imperial security allowed. One was probably the first exposure of humans to what we later called smallpox. The second was an Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever. 

The third, which swept through the Empire when the Emperor Justinian was trying to restore civil order and prosperity in the mid-500s, was bubonic plague, which broke out in AD 542. The population of the eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire fell by half in one year, from 30 to 15 million, and kept on falling for several decades after as plague returned. Imagine the stink of corpses when everyone is dying and not enough people are available to bury them.

Coupled with volcanic outbursts that clouded the sun, and variations in the rainfall in central Asia, which sent the Huns westward in search pasturage, causing them to crash into the Goths who crashed into the Roman Empire, these waves of disease, worsening climate, and barbarian invasions had utterly wrecked the western Roman Empire by AD 400. Brian Fagan records in his book, The Long Summer, that the cultivation of the grape and the olive used to take place as far north in Gaul as the current French-Belgian border, but that, after the Roman Climate Optimum suddenly collapsed around 400 AD, the olive tree grows no further north than its current line in France’s Massif Central. Can you imagine what it would do to US agriculture if the climate of Saskatchewan moved south 400 miles? In the space of ten years?

Compared to scientifically literate histories like The Fate of Rome, Edward Gibbon’s attempt to blame the fall of Rome on the rise of Christianity, the personalities of Emperors, and barbarian invasions, seems more like an exercise in oratory and Latinate English than anything accurate.

Which brings me to the genial, clever Professor Steven Pinker and his Enlightenment Now. Pinker presents the best case possible that progress in the past several centuries has been real, and that catastrophists are wrong. I have every reason to believe this story; I am a rational optimist myself. Pinker and his teammate, Matt Ridley, both make the irrebuttable case that the world has been getting massively better for all. I wish there were more people who were aware of how much and how rapidly human life has improved since 1800, since 1900, since 2000. In that sense it is important to point out how much I agree with Pinker.

And yet, the pace of evolution is accelerating as population becomes denser. The pathogens that struck down the Roman Empire in repeated waves are entirely recent mutations.

As Harper explains:

The last few thousand years have been the platform for a new age of roiling evolutionary  ferment among pathogenic microbes. The Roman Empire was caught in the the turbulence of this great acceleration….

The primacy of the natural environment in the fate of this civilization draws us closer to the Romans, huddled together to cheer the ancient spectacles and unsuspecting of the next chapter, in ways we might not have imagined.

We are as grass, and while the arguments for impending catastrophe are much weaker than supposed, it is unwise to think that all will be well. The influenza epidemic of 1918 killed 3 to 5% of the world’s population, 50 to 100 million people, more than the World War that preceded it.

Civilizations and empires can end because of diseases and climate change. They have already done so several times. There is no reason to suppose we are immune, notwithstanding the cheerful and truthful news from the likes of Steve Pinker and Matt Ridley.

Professor Pangloss, meet Doctor Doom.

 

The y-axis indicates deaths per thousand

File:1918 spanish flu waves.gif

Why are the equinoxes not statutory holidays?

As we come from a country where seasons forcibly affect our beings, where we suffer from winter, rejoice in spring, relax in summer and get to work in the fall, why do we not have appropriate holidays to mark the seasons?

Yes I acknowledge that Christmas (25th December) is laid over the winter solstice (December 21st) in the northern hemisphere, by religious and social fiat. That is one out of four.

Easter varies by 28 days (a lunar month) + 7 days. It is celebrated  on first Sunday after the first new moon after the spring equinox. As a movable feast, it is useless as an equinoctial celebration. As the observance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Easter is too explicitly Christian. It has never taken off the way Christmas has, largely because the pagan origins of Yule coincide with the solstice, whereas Easter was made a movable feast by a decision of the Church in the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The summer solstice is overlaid with  St Jean Baptiste Day in Quebec and a week later English Canadians get July 1st, but neither is explicitly about the summer solstice.

We are too busy working on September 21st to pay much attention to the autumnal equinox, but we ought to mark the passing of the year more formally.

My plea is for a set of holidays that acknowledge we are on a planet that revolves around a sun, and which tilts and wobbles. We do not mark sufficiently our place in the universe.  Having holidays like this would allow parents and educators to instruct the ignorant. If you think I exaggerate, I can relate my experience of a nice 50-year old taxi driver I had in Washington, D.C. last year, for whom the relationship among the solstices, the tilt of the earth, and  the relationship of the seasons to these facts, was a revelation. I am not kidding, and he was not kidding me.

So yes, folks, for this and many other reasons, I favour statutory holidays on the summer solstice, and the spring and autumn equinoxes. Christmas is well covered, thank you.

Wizards versus Prophets: How to feed 10 billion people

The Atlantic carries a useful discussion of two schools of thought, one of which is broadly eco-doomist, and the other is ameliorist. The dispute takes place in the vital issue of agriculture, and the author situates the dispute as one between William Vogt (1902-1968) and Norman Borlaug, (1914-2009) father the Green Revolution. It will come as no surprise that they knew and despised each other.

Vogt published his views in 1948 in a book called the Road to Survival, which, according to Wikipedia set forth

…his strong belief that then-current trends in fertility and economic growth were rapidly destroying the environment and undermining the quality of life of future generations. Vogt’s most significant contribution was to link environmental and perceived overpopulation problems, warning in no uncertain terms that current trends would deliver future wars, hunger, disease and civilizational collapse.

Road to Survival was an influential best seller. It had a big impact on a Malthusian revival in the 1950s and 60s. After its publication he dedicated many activities to the cause of overpopulation. From 1951 to 1962, he served as a National Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Borlaug, says Wikipedia:

…was often called “the father of the Green Revolution”,[5][6] and is credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation.[7][8][9][10] According to Jan Douglas, executive assistant to the president of the World Food Prize Foundation, the source of this number is Gregg Easterbrook‘s 1997 article “Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity”, the article states that the “form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths.”[11] He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

As a Bengali-born professor of economics once told me, in relation to the Green Revolution, “when I first came to Bangladesh I could see the ribs of the rice farmers; now I can’t”.

The Atlantic article is entertaining and informative, but it fails to mention the vital point, which determines whether Vogt or Borlaug will win the argument. As soon as women can be guaranteed that they will have one or two surviving children, they cease to have more. Everywhere in the world, industrialized or not, population growth is crashing. This process is occurring with great suddenness in Islamic countries. The world population will be 10 billion by 2050; what the article fails to mention is that it will be 7 billion by 2100, according to David Goldman, who bases himself on UN population projections and the latest birth rates.

These issue are explored in David Goldman’s How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is dying too). The book overturns a number of beliefs that were drummed into us in the 1970s and beyond: overpopulation, ecological disaster, resources running out, doom, in short.

Goldman advances the view that throughout history, but especially now, population decline is mostly to be feared, because it throws economies into a tailspin. Fertility rates have fallen below replacement in nearly all wealthy countries, and are doing so in Islamic countries.

In the great ideological debate about human nutrition, one can only hope that Borlaug’s practical optimism will prevail. The eco-doomist vision has never failed to produce want, misery and failure. Stick with the optimists, it will be tough enough even if they are right.

Of the questions that need to be asked bout human society in the next decades, the relevant one is whether we will still breed in 2050 enough to avoid social and economic collapse. There will be enough food, enough water, and enough resources. The truly important question is whether there will be enough humans to enjoy them by 2100. Spengler maintains that birth rates are falling between the green line and the yellow line in the UN population projections, shown below. (I leave aside the important question whether the remaining humans will be slaves or masters of their robotic machinery).

World Population Estimates

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population_estimates#/media/File:World-Population-1800-2100.svg

Goldman says the green line is the correct one.

 

The Jayman: you have to read him

From the Jayman, who for your interest and information, is Jamaican.

Clannishness and how to mitigate its dire effects on (lack of) development, trust and progress.

My earlier entry (Clannishness – the Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain) established that there are deep distinctions between Northwestern European peoples and most of the rest of the world, and that these differences have a huge impact on the world, including on levels of human development, the strength of democracy and democratic institutions, scientific output, and levels of social trust. If you’re unfamiliar with this division, the previous entry and materials linked within cover it all in extensive detail.

But the question is, how did it happen? How did these divisions come to be? Well, of course, my answer is evolution through natural selection – specifically, gene-culture co-evolution.

Before we can ascribe these differences to evolution, it must be understood that these differences have a genetic basis. That is, they are heritable. This means that genetic differences between different peoples lead to differences in their behavioral traits, which, collectively, manifests as cultural differences. We should be clear that all human behavioral traits are heritable, with “nurture” (as it’s commonly thought of) playing a minimal to nonexistent role in each. As John Derbyshire put it, “if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”. See my Behavioral Genetics Page for more. The rest of this entry proceeds assuming an understanding of this reality.

Now, it’s also very important to understand that evolution proceeds quicker than you’ve been led to believe. Certainly a lot faster than mainstream ideology posits (i.e., claiming that human evolution somehow came to a halt 50,000 years ago) which is demonstrably nonsense:

 

Figure 1: Age of human selected genetic variants

Figure 2: Distribution of Lactose Tolerance

Global-Lactose-Intolerance

As seen in both the age of genetic variants and the distribution of lactose tolerance, much human evolution took place within the last 5,000-10,000 years.

But evolution can proceed within the space of a few centuries, as governed by the breeder’s equation. A few centuries of sustained selective pressure can make a considerable impact on the characteristics of a human group. We see that with Ashkenazi Jews, whose high IQ (and many other traits) evolved only within the last 2,000 years.

With all of this out of the way, what selective pressures explain the differences between Northwestern Europeans and the rest of the world? Here, we can, for now, only hypothesize. As opposed to the reality of the differences, which is easy to establish, how these differences came to be is a harder puzzle to untangle. That said, we do have some good ideas.

 

Read on:

http://www.unz.com/jman/clannishness-the-series-how-it-happened/

A warning: the Unz Review contains views of wildly incongruous and incompatible positions and personalities, from bananarama Left to Pat Buchanan on the Paleolithic Right.

 

How to create animosity by government fiat

This is a sign found at the entrance to a trail in the Gatineau Park. The entrance to the trail is an hour’s drive away from Ottawa. Few use it, maybe several dozen a weekend. The trail leads into a ski trail and a set of snow shoe trails. They are called “ski” trails because the National Capital Commission occasionally maintains them from falling trees, and repairs bridges across streams. They are called “snowshoe trails” because they scarcely exist except in the minds of dedicated snow-shoers who maintain them by hand. These trails take one into the deep woods and places unseen by the skiers, whose trails more closely approximate narrow highways.

What does this sign mean?

  • You cannot reach the snow shoe trails by means of the common access trail? or
  • You can reach the snow shoe trails but as a snow-shoer you have to create your own path beside the ski trails?

Supposing it means the latter, why create two classes of user of the Park? One class, the skier, has superior rights. Why?

  • Most of the time the snow showers create the path for the skiers by being the first out on the trail after the snow has fallen.
  • Does a skier have the right to push off a snowshoer, or claim priority, for using his ski-trail?
  • Does the skier have the right to claim a trail as a “ski” trail by going over a previously-made snow shoe trail and thus forcing the snowshoer to make a new trail – at great effort I assure you – so that the higher class Brahmin skier can ski without his shadow falling on the unclean Dalit snowshoer?

I can see the logic of keeping the two classes of trail user apart where the NCC grooms the trails mechanically, but where all the effort to make trail is human, and the labour is shared, then I am ready to tell the skiers to go around me if they get stroppy.

95% of those who get rude or aggressive are French Canadian, in case you wonder.

We snow-shoers get to places seen maybe by a score of people a year, we happy few.

Oops. We were wrong about global warming. Sorry about that.

 

Alarmism over  global warming has been based on faulty (erroneously assumed) feedback loops between CO2 concentrations and rises in atmospheric temperatures.  So it says this morning in several places.   The entirety of global warming ideology is generated by computer models, where the assumptions are fed in by ideologically driven scientists The Global Warming Policy Forums reports:

The world has warmed more slowly than had been predicted by computer models, which were “on the hot side” and overstated the impact of emissions on average temperature, research has found. Michael Grubb, professor of international energy and climate change at University College London and one of the study’s authors, admitted that his previous prediction had been wrong. He stated during the climate summit in Paris in December 2015: “All the evidence from the past 15 years leads me to conclude that actually delivering 1.5C is simply incompatible with democracy.” Speaking to The Times, he said: “When the facts change, I change my mind, as Keynes said. —Ben Webster, The Times, 19 September 2017

The importance of this confession was that it was made by a leading warmist, not be a skeptic.

Toldja.  Only it is not that the facts have changed. The facts have always been the same; the ideological interpretation of the facts through computer models (garbage in, garbage out) has changed. What was Established Truth is now Fake News. Could we please unburn the heretics? Can we restore wrecked careers?

Ptolemaic cosmology, phlogiston, the aether, materialism à la Boltzmann, the missing planet between Mars and Jupiter, cholesterol and heart disease: the list of erroneous theories deeply believed in their day is as old as science and will not cease to grow. The struggles to get to the truth when science is politicized will never cease, unfortunately.

Don’t worry though. The catastrophists have a new one up their sleeve: CO2 increases are causing a lessening of plant nutrients.

The data we have, which look at how plants would respond to the kind of CO2 concentrations we may see in our lifetimes, show these important minerals drop by 8 percent, on average. The same conditions have been shown to drive down the protein content of C3 crops, in some cases significantly, with wheat and rice dropping 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

So if we get 15% more rice overall, hypothetically, and its nutrient value has dropped by 6%, could someone please do the arithmetic for me? I get 1.08 more food value, on that assumption (which has about as much validity as the CO2 feedback loops that were postulated by the alarmists).

In any case, as Einstein observed, theory determines what is observed. If the theory is that global warming is exclusively or predominantly man-caused, then  global warming will be observed and its relationship to human activity will be assumed. The trick for a real scientist would be to show that all causes of global warming, other than humans, were insignificant. Nowhere has this been tried. Nor will it be.

 

 

The anthropologist discusses race and his white grandchildren

 

In which the learned and well meaning professor tries to explain why, when polite people have been taught to be colour-blind, events cause people actually to talk about race. Which is not supposed to exist, right? Race is simultaneously supposed not to exist, and exists nevertheless. And he has white grandchildren.

“Ethnicity is essential to identity”, he says, and to suppress discussion of race is to handicap our children.

Ten points, sir, for honesty and truth.

Except, in my view, for the idea that race does not exist. Which is the grand denial of biology.

Everyone lies about porn, and everything else too

Study shows:

The popular feminist narrative would have you believe that porn is largely consumed by men, and that depictions of violent — or at least rough — sex would be a primarily male-dominated interest.

This is untrue, states researcher Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who says that porn featuring violence against women is significantly more popular among women compared to men.

His findings might explain the popularity of the BDSM-heavy “Fifty Shades of Grey” series of novels among female readers.

Speaking to Vox in an interview about how Google data proves that most Americans lie about their sexual preferences, the researcher and author of “Everybody Lies” asserts that more women enjoy the genre compared to male porn watchers — despite common sense and politically correct claims to the contrary.

Going to the Vox article from which this was drawn, we find it gets weirder.

Among other things, Stephens-Davidowitz’s data suggests that there are more gay men in the closet than we think; that many men prefer overweight women to skinny women but are afraid to act on it; that married women are disproportionately worried their husband is gay; that a lot of straight women watch lesbian porn; and that porn featuring violence against women is more popular among women than men.

Everybody Lies, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, is available from Amazon. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is a Harvard-trained economist, former Google data scientist, and New York Times writer. The last item should not deter your reading of the book. Big data is answering some questions that no one has an interest in telling the truth about.

Now, if only this kind of material could come to the attention of the Supreme Court, we might start to get some sensible rulings on pornography.

Quantum hocus pocus

 

Robert J. Sawyer is a Canadian science fiction writer, one of only three science fiction writers ever to win the Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. Accordingly, when I saw his book, Quantum Night, dealing with consciousness and quantum physics, I took the risk and bought it. The book started well, but its principal virtue – if that is the word – is how it reveals the essential conceits of the leftist mind.

The protagonist is a psychology professor at the University of Manitoba who has, it appears, developed a foolproof technique for discovering psychopaths. He is also a vegetarian, is highly ethically motivated, teaches the greatest good for the greatest number, and worries about world problems. He is earnest, charmless, and bright, and worries about deniers of anthropogenic global warming, among other things. Very conventional NDP attitudes, as the plot reveals.

The science-fictional basis of the plot  is that through quantum science principles it has been determined that the mind is generated out of quantum processes rather than classical physical processes. Okay so far. It is very unlikely that mind could be generated out of meat machines.

A word of explanation more. Have you ever driven to work, navigated the traffic, got out of your car and were climbing the steps into your building and suddenly realized that you drove to work on autopilot? That while you handled the steering braking and signalling, your consciousness – understood as the focus of attention – was elsewhere?

If you can imagine there are people who are like this all the time, then you can envisage the philosophical zombie. The difference between the philosopher’s zombie and my  example is that the zombies do not have thoughts that are elsewhere while they perform the tasks of life. There is no inner dialogue. There is no attention directed elsewhere while they manage to iron a shirt. They do not wake up and marvel that they got to work by driving while their thoughts were working on other problems.

In essence, the McGuffin of the book – the plot driver – is that, through quantum hocus pocus, it has been determined that there is a strict division of the human species into zombies (mindless conformists) , psychopaths (who are conscious but have no conscience) and the awakened, who have both consciousness (inner dialogue) and conscience (they empathize, feel regrets, and take the larger view). The ratio is something like 70/20/10.

The protagonist of the story is the man of conscience, as are most of the the other major characters. They belong to the top 10%, the psychological and moral elite.

The author, Mr. Sawyer, through his protagonist, fights racism, sexism and every bad political and moral tendency, yet he posits the strictest division of the human species into an immutable division more severe than the Hindu caste system.

The zombies obey, and fake their way through life adapting to the rules, like flocking birds. The psychos run businesses, governments and armies and exploit the zombies, and the enlightened try to clean up the mess created by the denizens of the unconscious and less conscious states of mind.

In this world view then, Putin and Trump belong to the 20% who are psychopaths. No question of moral choice arises in this vision. It is all biological. The superior class is more morally aware, perhaps, but the quantum construction of their minds makes them so. It is deeply un-Christian, and it is a kinder and gentler version of Hitler’s biological/racial determinism.

I know it is only science fiction, and that too much weight cannot be placed on it. But I think Sawyer’s work illustrates the Hindu-like caste system at the core of leftist thinking: the led, the exploiters, and the enlightened.

You are never allowed to disagree with people of this sort. Disagreement is merely the evidence for your lower level of spiritual and moral development. One is not allowed to have different views based on different interests, views, or tendencies of mind.

It is ironic – to say the least – that the people who are the most opposed in their ideology to the biological as the basis for explaining differences in historical outcomes between individuals and cultures find it convenient to imagine that the biological is the basis for human moral differences. This is a new caste system indeed, brought to you by an earnest NDPer out to do good in the world. And while Sawyer is a million miles from Hitler in decency and social concern, they both expound a deeply and I would say exclusively biological explanation of human differences.