IMG_1216
Blog powered by Typepad

« Tidbits of trivia | Main | Moldy oldie: "Evil" »

Comments

Great post. Please keep on blogging about politics, too. We need it!

I know lots of liberals -- and consider myself one. I've only met one or two personally who fit that simplistic stereotype. I would say that true liberalism, rather than believing that "everything is awful" believe that "things could be better, and some things that don't have to be are awful". Rather than positing an open-ended human perfectibility posit that human being do have positive features and given the right circumstances those features can come to the fore and even those that appear negative under some circumstances can act positively under others.

I hope I am neither liberal nor conservative but believe we have not yet discovered an economic system that has the ability to maximize human potential for the most people in that country. Too many variables we do not understand yet.

Liberals that I have seen believe if we spend enough money we can create a utopian society. Look at all the promises being made by the demo candidates. Money spent on so called military defense I suspect could be better spent on well-designed and implemented social programs. One of my favorite authors says it best.


"A nation that spends more year after year on military offense (and I mean offense) than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death". (Gunnels on the evolution of the soul)

Conservatives believe that if we let pure capitalism do its thing then things will work out best for everyone. Especially them. With enough tax cuts we can grow our way out of problems. I.e. tax cuts during time of war? (Yea that works) Please tell me where this is working in what country. Russia tried it and there are now more billionaires in Moscow than New York. The problem becomes you create a society of haves and have nots. Mostly have nots.

The middle class is the stable part of any society without it destabilization occurs. Gorby wanted German style socialism but the Russian masses wanted capitalism now they pay the price. Putin is trying to change that. That is why he is so popular, except with the some journalists that tend to die of mysterious causes.

Must find a middle path as the Buddha suggested. Socialism? Maybe, maybe not.

The euro is worth what compared to the dollar. What country is ranked number one in health care? What country is ranked last in health care of all the industrialized countries? What industrialized country has one out of every six of its population without health care? What industrialized country now has over half of its bankruptcy’s due to medical costs? The Germans get how many weeks of vacation? What socialist country just helped to bail out American “deregulated” banks in financial trouble. What socialist countries are going to be building our new fuel tankers to refuel our military aircraft?

Whoops long post hot topic for me.

There will never be utopia. Why? Because I believe our Universe is designed to be and function exactly the way it does for a reason. Everything happens for a reason, even the bad stuff. The more emotional the experience the more powerful and long lasting the memory it creates.

Why we are here by Art: http://www.nderf.org/holographic_universe.htm

“there was the daily reality of the world as it is”
“I was angry and/or depressed nearly all the time.“
“I feel much better now.”

You feel much better now because you have given up the noble fight of seeking to ally yourself with what is right. Instead, you have chosen to look the other way. But the forces of snafu are creeping up behind you. You have a purely subjective, purely temporary reprieve.

Of course people are imperfect. They are born selfish, and unless educated out of selfishness, they will stay that way. There are 6 million more imperfect people born in the world every month.

Obviously, the World needs wise philosopher kings who will rule for the good of the planet. If we cannot produce them, then we’ll have to create a http://yudkowsky.net/tmol-faq/tmol-faq.html#misc_after”>Singularity to do it on our behalf.

You say:
"How do humans, especially those in the west and particularly those in America, manage to get so very, very much right so much of the time?"

This is jaw-droppingly inappropriate self-congratulation. It must presumably be referring to the upholding of human rights or the satisfying of some human need. To be truly ‘right’ at present, an action or choice must first satisfy planetary, not human, needs. Individual human rights can only be on top of the agenda when planetary needs are met. Planetary needs means giving priority to environmental considerations, including the full protection of endangered species, coral reefs and wilderness, the lungs of the earth.

Planetary needs also require mass sterilization (I have been sterilized) to reduce human population numbers. And the planet requires that we prohibit the rape of non-renewable resources (never buy new unless you absolutely have to, and then choose very, very carefully). Nothing less will do.

Failure of all to do this will necessarily mean destruction of the whole of humanity because the planet has finite resources and limited means of self-regulation. All intelligent people inwardly know this, but too many choose to look the other way, because it is inconvenient to their short-term, self-centred, human happiness. It is mass self-hypnosis.

We have a beautiful, beautiful world. It is alive. Do not let it be ravaged and wrecked while you wallow in self-congratulation. Do not pretend that you are powerless to help. Do not pretend that it will all be sorted out by Divine Intervention.

When, due to environmental degradation and inadequate resources, there are huge famines and apocalyptic wars, no-one, not even Art, will be able to say, unless in the deepest dream of self-delusion, “I feel much better now”.

I hope you do keep posting about politics now and then.

Although I'm a liberal, I sometimes vote more conservatively, and I personally believe that we need both liberal and conservative viewpoints to get the best out of government. It seems to me that when we have a balance of each, and if it's not a constant partisan battle but actual negotiation takes place, and if that's not related to anyone's personal financial interests, then we can get some good things accomplished. The problem is that happens less and less often.

I'm not sure I agree with Mamet's analysis of what each is. I also think it's reckless to lump all liberals or all conservatives under one broad description. Many of us are crossovers in some way or other. I'm actually least trustful of those who say they always vote for one party or the other. I know I don't.

If liberals, as Mamet says, really do believe in the inherent perfection or goodness of all people, obviously we would never go to war or be anti-war, and we'd never worry about gun control, because if everyone is perfect why on earth would we need to worry about either? Both liberal and conservative leaders have gone to war. Both have owned guns and hunted or been in the military.

I believe in the inherent perfection of human beings in that we each have the potential for perfect behavior -- whatever that is. I have my own views, about harmlessness and compassion, but how do I know I'm right? But the cultures, governments, and economies we've created aren't often conducive to nurturing goodness, and I also think we each have the potential to do great harm.

In politics what appears to be the simplest answer rarely is. We're complex beings with complex psychology. Many of us seek power and control or judge others, mostly unconsciously, and it seems that people who crave power will go to all lengths to deceive, and exercise their greed and cunning, sometimes while thinking they're doing the absolute "right" thing. I doubt Hitler thought he was a monster. I suspect he thought he was working out how to be a perfect person, that he believed in his goals as right, and never considered or saw clearly the evil inherent in his methods.

We all possess that craving for power and our own skewed view of perfection in one degree or another. We're sometimes so out of touch with our own unconscious motivations, and so much big money, propaganda and branding is involved in politics, that the surface picture is often deceiving, regardless of liberal or conservative positions.

That's why I don't vote for one party or the other, but try to assess the individuals I'm voting for. When I get too emotional about politics, that's when I back off, because I don't think emotions belong in politics any more than religion does. (I don't, by the way, consider compassion an emotion. I think compassion and unconditional love are of a higher mental order than what we call emotions. I think they're related to conscience and moral fortitude, and that without them morality is empty.)

Unfortunately I think it costs too much to run for office anymore, in the US, for the truly honest ones to make it to any position of importance, except in a very few cases. Television has become an even more powerful tool than newspapers were in Hearst's day, and TV costs money. That's not any party's fault, it's not any group of working Americans' fault -- liberal or conservative. I think we're all responsible for letting things evolve that way. But once the people lose our power to big money interests, it's very difficult to get back, short of revolution.

I think in the past, big money has pandered to liberal politicians and voters to get their ends met through votes and legislation as well as through the courts, and I think it's pandered to conservative politicians and voters. I see a kind of pendulum effect there, over the course of the past few decades that I've voted.

Right now I see a lot of pandering to environmentally conscious people through "greenwashing" in advertising -- for instance an oil company paying for ads about how concerned they are for the environment, when we know they don't spend any more on that than they're forced to by law. Why don't they? Because a corporation isn't an individual acting on compassionate or idealistic values, but a money-making machine designed to seek profit first, often without regard for individual values. But people believe that advertising and feel good as a result, that they're supporting a "green" business.

I guess my point is that both liberal and conservative voters are vulnerable to having the wool pulled over their eyes by those with the means to purchase campaigns and advertising, or to promote simplistic messages that don't get at the truth below the surface. More so today than ever.

If there's one simplistic approach that I think still applies to politics today, it's "Follow the money." But even that is more complicated now, so I would have to add, "if you can follow it."

If there's a difference I see in liberals and conservatives, it's primarily that liberals are good at poking holes in conservative ideas, and conservatives are better at poking holes in liberal ones. Maybe we each need to practice poking holes in our own ideas first, and get them right. Then come together and see what we have.

Or, here's a revolutionary idea, maybe we should work together at coming up with answers.

Barry, you can't be sure of anything, because you're only human. Art might well be right. His link includes a line from Einstein that time and space, our universe, “is just a persistent illusion and I have a sneaking suspicion he’s correct. This isn't the main show, it's an illusion we have to endure to learn a few simple lessons.”

Don’t be deluded by the apparent reality of reality.

True Barry we need to keep these finite resources for future generations as well the view that there is an afterlife is not an escape we know that the earth has finite resources and people do care.

Just two quotes:

When taxes are too high,
People go hungry.

When the government is too intrusive,
People lose their spirit.

Act for the peoples benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.

Tao te Ching, Chapter 75
Stephen Mitchell translation.

Do you want to improve the world?

"Wanting to reform the world without discovering one's true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes."

Ramana Maharshi

A little history lesson. From 1932 to 1952 The liberal Democrats were in control of all three branches of government. They gave us a regulated Wall Street and industry, insured banks,a social safety net of social security, minimum wage, overtime, collective bargaining rights, unemployment insurance, wellfare, and crop subsidies. Most of our nation's infastructure was also built during this time as well as most of our nations schools and colleges. The nation prospered and turned into a political, military, industrial, educational, and economic giant.
For a short period of time under Kennedy and Johnson the Democrats had enough power to add Medicare, Medicaide, and food stamps to the social net.
The Republicans have had control of all three brances pretty much since Reagan. Clinton's eight years only took the Presidency away. Since Reagan they have deregulated industry in the name of Supply and Demand. That has brought about the Savings and Loan bankruptcies consting the taxpayers 1 Trillion Dollars (more than all the social programs of the New Deal and Great Society combined in fifty years).
Since Dubbya has been Der Decider we are spending now an estimated 3 Trillion dollars on a war we didn't need to fight and had no way of gaining anything. He's deregulated the banks and now they are all about to go under which will make the Saving and Loan debacle look like a picnic, our mortgage institutions were deregulated and they had a nice party, but the entire country is going to pay the tab for the next twenty years or more. Fuel prices are through the roof, most of our better paying jobs have been outsourced to other countries. Wow we're almost back to the bad old days of Herbert Hoover.
Don't give me liberal or conservative crap, it's if the politicians are legislating for the masses or for the rich. William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech still applies. If you legislate for the masses the rich get wealthy from the money that flows up. If you legislate for the wealthy they keep it and none of it ever trickles or filters down to the masses.

“How do humans, especially those in the west and particularly those in America, manage to get so very, very much right so much of the time?"

I am sure the one million Vietnamese or those millions wounded did not think we got it right. Or the several hundred thousands of Iraqis that do not believe we got it right. There is an old axiom that states countries usually deserve their leaders. Most of the world fails to understand that bit of wisdom.

“Do not pretend that it will all be sorted out by Divine Intervention.”

Nature, which I suspect is a manifestation of the divine, will take care of itself. It may not be pretty but it will be effective.

“This isn't the main show, it's an illusion we have to endure to learn a few simple lessons.”

What I find interesting is that it appears that the simpler the lesson the more difficult the lesson is to learn.

“Act for the peoples benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.”

The last part of that statement can be interpreted in so many different ways. I see governments as finding balance. Must level the playing field from time to time or a very few people would control all the resources. Remember during the depression people used to think they were doing the hungry a favor by letting them eat their dinner scraps in the back alley.

We may learn in the future that we are indeed our brother’s keeper or at least helper. Too much help destroys the human spirit, and too little help can also destroy the human spirit.

"Wanting to reform the world without discovering one's true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes." There is a ton of wisdom in that very brief statement.

I mean no offence with this, but am I the only one that found it amusing that a post about David Mamet's political views was still brought back to the Holographic Universe?


Pmprescott - What happened to your rule of thumb? Now its history lessons too!!

Have to say that I most identified with Ulysses:

"I would say that true liberalism, rather than believing that "everything is awful" believe(s) that "things could be better, and some things that don't have to be, are awful". Rather than positing an open-ended human perfectibility, posit that human beings do have positive features and given the right circumstances those features can come to the fore and even those that appear negative under some circumstances can act positively under others."

As an ex-evangelical, that once believed in the conservative religious viewpoint that humanity is utterly sinful and essentially depraved, I believe this more optimistic, yet realistic viewpoint gives humanity affirmational room to grow.

Exemplars of this tradition are many... Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Desmond TuTu etc. etc. Dreamers who imagined a different kind of humanity, yet understood the utter challenge of the entrenched inertia they faced.

"If you legislate for the wealthy they keep it and none of it ever trickles or filters down to the masses."

Sorry but this is an inaccurate statement. During the great depression the rich would allow the hungry and unemployed to eat their leftover dinner scraps in the back alley.

The trickle down theory that Reagan so successfully sold the American people appears to trickle up more than down. The end result. Bye bye middle class.

Anything that is taken to extremes is usually wrongheaded. I think both sides should attempt to meet each other halfway. Yes, any system will always have flaws, but I think we can do much better when it comes to issues like healthcare and the economy. Do we really want the market economy to rule every aspect of our lives?

“Do we really want the market economy to rule every aspect of our lives?” it is called materialism and it has to self-destruct. Any economic system that is not beneficial to humankind will self-destruct but not necessarily on our time frame.

Karma works for societies just as it does for individuals. If one looks carefully within the last few days a high profile politician took a great fall and that experience has karma written all over it. Not one so-called expert that I have seen interviewed on cable news has viewed karma and the development of the soul as a possible explanation for this person’s downfall.

When communism failed in Russia Americans cheered, I thought to myself don’t cheer too loud as deregulated capitalism may be right behind. What I find fascinating is that many want more of the same strategies that are causing the failure. This is a classic example of paradigm paralysis.

I suspect that only great suffering and hardship will cause a nation to change its existing economic paradigm.

“Or, here's a revolutionary idea, maybe we should work together at coming up with answers.”

Barbara not sure how much difference there is in your system versus ours (Aus) here we have a preferential voting system that results in domination of two major parties One was predominantly to the left and the other used to be to the right.

Today we tend to have the two parties moving to the centre and the difference in policy is at times hard to distinguish, so debate usually amounts to attacking the man not the ball (I believe this is a legitimate practice in your gridiron, but it is not allowed in our game) so they do not even get around to poking holes in each others ideas.

They are however polite with comments like “The Honourable member for … is a moron and is well know for his preference for woolly animals” which apparently negates his opinion due to his lack of intelligence and sexual preferences.

What can you say – those that get emotional over politics just feed the egos of the politicians and the majority of them are not worth the effort.

To those that leave sites because of political preferences I say

Feel the passion - Check the emotion.

Perhaps if we accept that there is not necessarily a definitive right or wrong way of solving problems based on ideology we can encourage the parties to start collaborating on finding and implementing solutions

Interesting comments. One reason I posted this was to see how people would react. What I've found is that when we identify strongly with a particular idea (such as a political ideology), we tend to react in a rather predictable, almost reflexive fashion when the idea is critiqued. I think that defining ourselves in terms of a "position" makes it difficult to really engage with any contrary position, because such engagement feels like self-annihilation.

This is true of strong self-identification with any position, whether it involves politics, religion, the paranormal, or the relative merits of DC and Marvel comics. None of us is immune to it, but with a little practice we can - at times - loosen the identification and see our ideas as something apart from who we really are.

The truth is, we can change all our ideas, and yet we will still be ourselves. There is no self-annihilation. The fear of it is a trick played by the ego to perpetuate itself.

If you doubt this, ask yourself how many aspects of your "self" have changed in the course of your lifetime. Then ask if you are still you, despite all these changes. You can change your political opinions, your religious beliefs, your marital status, your career, your place of residence, and everything else. You can even change your sex! But you will still be you.

If all your external circumstances can change, and even your beliefs can change, then what is constant? Only one thing: your essential identity, the watcher or witness who perceives your thoughts but does not get caught up in them.

“we tend to react in a rather predictable, almost reflexive fashion when the idea is critiqued.”

As I went through the comments I did not see that predictable reflexive fashion that you talked about. I thought everyone was very open and not fixed or claiming to have all the answers in his or her political position. Pale compared to a blog of ultra skeptics or a religious blog or for that matter most political blogs.

I think you were reaching for this one Michael to make a point. I expected much more rigid and defensive responses. I even made some provocative statements but to no avail. When I made some of those same statements on a republican blog oh my I was called names I cannot repeat here.

My comments on the socialist countries may have been considered by some the most out spoken or rigid or threatening.

I have been fascinated by people who are driving around in a BMW so while at a gas pump I often ask them “what do you think of the idea of socialism for America?” oh they say to a person no way it is horrible or something to that effect without realizing they are driving a socialist designed car and they have just contributed thousands of dollars to that socialist country’s well being even if it was built in the states, which some are.

"I have been fascinated by people who are driving around in a BMW so while at a gas pump I often ask them “what do you think of the idea of socialism for America?” oh they say to a person no way it is horrible or something to that effect without realizing they are driving a socialist designed car and they have just contributed thousands of dollars to that socialist country’s well being even if it was built in the states, which some are".

William there is no "Pure and Untainted" product out there, everything has been touched by some form of negative.

So with this said don't we all eat chemical laden produce?

We all know were being poisoned in a round about way. So whats the motivation for this practise?

It's about preserving a product but the real motive "greed and lust" its about making "money" with products that have longer shelf life etc.

Who cares if it effects our health, gives our children disorders or ultimately contributes to a death.

This happens everywhere in the world, what does your Govt or mine do about this with all the evidence on hand?

The answer is very little, we are no better than the countries you speak of. This is only one of the zillion examples out there.

So in a response to the BMW, well hey I like them and may even buy one someday, why not!

“Don’t be deluded by the apparent reality of reality” –Ross W.

“Wanting to reform the world without discovering one's true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns” –Michael H.

“You can change your political opinions, your religious beliefs, your marital status, your career, your place of residence, and everything else. You can even change your sex! But you will still be you” –Michael P.

You really need to pinch yourselves hard. I really did mention (as you seem to have conveniently overlooked it yet again) that there are 6 million extra people in the world every month. Escapism by tuning into your inner denial is * absolutely *, * positively * not going to stop that. It is * absolutely *, * positively * not going to stop the rape of the planet.

You will not in any recognisable sense “still be you” if society collapses, or if there are huge famines and apocalyptic wars. You will be starving and frightened. You will be a primitive, gibbering wreck. Or you will be dead – and so will all those you love.

If the World were a virtual reality, you would not give a fig about politics - you would be supremely indifferent to them. The fact that you care about politics means that at some deep level of your mind, you believe your lives are real. You believe the lives of your children and grandchildren are real. Yes, the world is real. Honestly. So integrate the separate compartments of your mind. Stop dreaming. Wake up!

Here's a solution Barry if everybody became celibate and sterilized (for double measure, don't want to be that 2% that could still hit the target)This could solve your problem and guess what else would happen.

We'd all die eventually and there would be no one left, so we still end up where your suggesting, ohhh but we saved the planet!

Sterilize after one child. You don't have to be deliberately obtuse.

Barry while your making that rule, why not impose some more rules that remove our right to freedom.

Go down that road and where would it end?

Barry I think your obtuse actually.

I apologise Hope.

"I suspect that only great suffering and hardship will cause a nation to change its existing economic paradigm."

One has to wonder why the brain-dead conservatives have such a problem with Keynesianism.

To Major:

My rule of thumb was not to post a comment longer than the original post. I looked at my comment and at the original post and don't believe I violate that rule.

Barry's feverish imaginings are a good illustration of Ace's point about the "paranoid/demented belief that 'everything is awful.'"

They're also a good illustration of my point that overidentifying with a set of ideas is a kind of madness.

Birth rates are barely at replacement levels in developed countries. The global population continues to rise because of high birth rates in the Third World. Those rates will fall as the Third World becomes more prosperous. Affluent people have fewer children; global affluence means lower birth rates worldwide.

Hysteria doesn't solve problems, but it does feed the ego, which loves to be puffed up by predictions of imminent doom. In my Objectivist days, I was always foreseeing societal collapse. It made me feel superior to think that I saw it coming when few others did. The same motive lies behind chiliastic religious movements (of which "scientific" apocalypticism is only a secular variant).

Let's see, some other points. The euro is stronger than the dollar right now. True. Currencies fluctuate in value. We'll see if the euro remains strong five years from now. Given Europe's endemic social and economic problems (high structural rates of unemployment, massive entitlement programs that are actuarially unsound, large populations of discontented and unassimilated immigrants), I wouldn't assume the EU will outcompete the US in the longer term. But time will tell.

PMPrescott (no relation, btw) gives us a history lesson in which the Democrats produced only good results and Republicans produced only bad results. I suspect this is very similar to the history lessons taught in public schools these days. But I can play this game, too. Democrats gave us entitlement programs that led to huge deficits, stifling bureaucracies, enormous waste, and looming actuarial crises; a complicated and burdensome tax system; fuel shortages brought about by price controls; the Korean War and the Vietnam War; the military draft; a dramatic escalation of crime rates, drug abuse, teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and abortions; the agenda of political correctness which has had a chilling effect on free speech; etc. Republicans gave us the successful end of the Cold War with the bloodless collapse of the USSR; lower tax rates and a simplified tax code; degregulation of oil and gas prices, which ended the fuel shortages; passage of the Civil Rights Act (yes, it was Republicans in Congress who passed it, over the objections of Democrats); the end of the draft (thank you, Richard Nixon); etc.

Is this tendentious and one-sided? Absolutely! Which is why I'm no more than half-serious about it. Truth is, both parties have notable successes and failures on their resumes.

"Wow we're almost back to the bad old days of Herbert Hoover." Another example of the madness that ensues when we become overly identified with our ideas. Our worldview becomes a set of blinders, and we can't see the reality that's right in front of us. At present, the US has a 5% unemployment rate, compared with 25% in the Great Depression. We enjoy astounding prosperity, comfort, and longevity. We take for granted our computers, color TV, air conditioning, automobiles, microwave ovens, cell phones, MRIs, CAT scans, laser surgery, jumbo jets, etc., etc. - marvels that 99% of all the human beings in history could not even have imagined, let alone aspired to. Only ideology (i.e., the machinations of the ego) could blind us to all this, and delude us into thinking that we're one small step away from Hooverville.

"If all your external circumstances can change, and even your beliefs can change, then what is constant? Only one thing: your essential identity, the watcher or witness who perceives your thoughts but does not get caught up in them.

This is absolutely true, Michael. But it's also true that it's helpful only to the degree that someone is aware they are perceiving life through their thoughts. It's very powerful once one begins to identify the self with the 'watcher', and not identify with the thoughts themselves.

Barry is an excellent example of someone who is yet to discover his 'watcher'. The thoughts he is choosing to give life to are frightening thoughts, and his reactivity to his own thinking has convinced him of it's veracity. The reality Barry is faced with on a daily basis is a frightening reality, and he's further frustrated by what he perceives as indifference demonstrated by others to issues that he sees as genuine and absolute.

Masters such as Maharshi spent their entire lives in an effort to help others understand one simple thing. We are the watchers, not the thoughts the watcher is watching. But for Barry, or anyone else who is yet to actually see their own watcher in action, anyone with a little perspective is seen as an escapist.

This is perfect example of what I've been pointing to for several months now. Every single issue humanity faces comes down to a global failure to understand how human beings actually operate psychologically. We are all at least a little blinded by our own thinking at all times, and very few are even aware we are doing so.

I personally get frightened at those times when I pay too much attention to how widespread humanity's failure to understand simple psychological principles actually is. Reading Barry's posts really drives it home, because I can see so clearly how a large group of people adopting any particular line of thought as can lead to http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2008/02/a-depressing-bo.html>genuine horrors that have been discussed before on this blog.

Those who fail the most spectacularly in understanding how their own mind operates are those who are the most vocal about imposing their ideas upon others. Maybe the saddest thing is they are always convinced their motives are pure, even as they build the gas chambers required to solve the problems they perceive.

“It made me feel superior to think that I saw it coming when few others did.”
Odd, because it makes me feel * inferior *. I cannot seem to get the message across. It is as though I am inaudible, except to those already of my persuasion..

“We enjoy astounding prosperity, comfort… We take for granted our computers, color TV, air conditioning, automobiles, microwave ovens, cell phones…jumbo jets…”
All this materialism is exactly what causes the problem! Remember I talked about the *‘rape of the planet’ *. Once again, you conveniently forgot the whole point of my argument!

"paranoid/demented”
I guess if that is to be your stance, it means you don’t want me on your blog!. Time I moved on.

There is a dicussion going on about dualism v.s physicalism here http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php?p=198#more-198

There's more

Dr. Steven Novella says:
The “easy problem” and “hard problem” of consciousness are more meaningfully described as the scientific questions and philosophical questions of consciousness. The context of my prior article was the scientific question - what causes consciousness. The materialist hypothesis - that the brain causes consciousness - has made a number of predictions, and every single prediction has been validated. Every single question that can be answered scientifically - with observation and evidence - that takes the form: “If the brain causes the mind then…” has been resolved in favor of that hypothesis.

For example, if the brain causes the mind then: there will be no documented mental function in the absence of brain function; altering the brain biologically will alter the mind functionally; mental development will correlate with brain development; and mental activity will correlate with brain activity (this holds up no matter what method we use to look at brain activity - EEG to look at electrical activity, PET scanning to look at metabolic activity, SPECT scanning to look at blood flow, and functional MRI to look at metabolic and neuronal activity).

This evidence cannot be dismissed as the “easy problem” nor as mere correlation. Brain function correlates with the mind in every way we would predict from the hypothesis that the brain causes the mind. From a scientific point of view, the mind is a manifestation of the brain.

As I have discussed previously, one way to dodge the obvious conclusion from this evidence is to confuse the question of how the brain causes the mind with the question of does the brain cause the mind. We certainly have much to learn about exactly how the brain functions to produce all mental phenomena, but this in no way diminishes the fact that the question of whether or not the brain causes the mind is settled - it does.

Dr. Egnor in his rebuttal is referring to another common fallacy used to dismiss the undeniable evidence linking brain function to mental function - retreating to philosophy, or more specifically to a conceptual realm that is not empirical and which defies common language. It is true that we lack the vocabulary necessary to define exactly what consciousness is. Egnor speaks of it as if the mind is a separate and definable thing, for example when he writes:

How can mind ‘substance’ interact with matter ‘substance’ without violating conservation laws in physics?

There is no reason to think of the mind as having “substance”, and you notice the quotations as tacit admission that this word is not adequate or accurate, but his choice is none-the-less very deliberate and meant to imply that mind has a separate existence. Yet there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.

Materialist neuroscientists also struggle to define what the mind is in satisfying prose. Some describe the mind simply as what the brain does, or as a epiphenomenon that emerges from the collective functioning of the brain (I prefer this latter description). Still others speak of our subjective sense of consciousness as nothing more than an illusion, but I think this description, while it has merit, is more confusing than illuminating.

I would describe the subjective sense of self, of existence, as the real-time processing of the brain that is constantly taking in external stimuli while engaging in an internal conversation - generating thoughts and feelings and comparing those processes to memory and sensory input. We know that in order to be awake the brain needs to be constantly activated (a process of the brainstem activating system), which suggests that this constant brain activity is necessary for consciousness, probably because it is consciousness.

Philosophers have asked what is probably a meaningless question - why is it that we “feel” that we exist, that we experience ourselves and the world - a phenomenon they refer to as “qualia.” I say this is meaningless because it does not yield any specific predictions or distinctions from a purely materialistic world. If the mind is just the brain experiencing itself and there is nothing more, then what would that be like? Why couldn’t that be exactly what we experience? How would a mind separate from the brain be any different?

The biggest problem with dualism is that the materialist neuroscience model explains all observed phenomena - there is nothing left for the dualists to explain. They are clinging to the notion of “qualia”, that subjectivity itself needs a separate explanation, but they have not made this case. Often they use mere semantics to make it seem as if something more is needed, but there isn’t. Further, the dualist hypothesis does not generate any hypotheses or predictions that distinguish it from the materialist hypothesis. Every prediction points to materialism as the answer.

The dualist hypothesis, which supporters put forward to fill the apparent gap of how the brain causes mind, only succeeds in replacing a non-mystery with an actual mystery. Namely, if the mind is something separate from the brain why is the correlation so strong? Why is it that any and every aspect of the mind can be altered, even eliminated, by modifying the biology, physiology, or anatomy of the brain?

Some dualists, like B. Alan Wallace, have “solved” the problem by saying that the brain creates the mind, but that the mind, once created, is something more than the brain. The problem with this is that it is non-falsifiable, and neither Wallace nor anyone else has figured out how to test this notion. Wallace has argued, post-hoc, that the brief delay (100ms) that occurs from the moment a neuronal network fires to the report of the subject experience of it firing is evidence for the mind being separated from the brain, but this is nonsense. The delay of 100ms is simply how long it takes for nerves to conduct signals and for the brain activity to work its way to conscious awareness.

Dualists also have no model or explanation for what the mind is, if not the functioning of the brain. They cannot even say what kind of thing the mind is. Simply placing a label, like “spirit”, on the mind is not adding any information or answering any questions.

Further, dualism does not provide any answers or solve any problems. In the wake of advances in neuroscience, the dualist position has retreated to arguing that, even though the mind correlates with brain function in every single way we look at it, the mind is something more than the brain. What is it? The answer is the equivalent of saying”magic.” What problems does this solve? None. What predictions does it make? None. What difference does it make? None.

So dualism has progressed from being simply wrong, back in the day when neuroscience was not advanced enough to demonstrate neuroanatomical correlates for everything we think of as the mind, to now being not even wrong - to being completely vacuous and irrelevant.

I think it is no coincidence that dualists and creationists have found common ground. Both commit these same logical errors. Intelligent design is an attempt to render evolution denial non-falsifiable, just as dualism has retreated from modern neuroscience until it has also become non-falsifiable. Both have rendered themselves not even wrong.

I cannot seem to get the message across. It is as though I am inaudible, except to those already of my persuasion.

Well, of course not, Barry. And yet, it never occurs to you that maybe it's the wrong message, or that you're looking in the wrong direction.

This statement is repeated by millions around the world each day, from the leaders of nations, to fractured political parties, to husbands and wives struggling with each other's idiosyncrasies.

It always goes back to thought, and the failure to understand our own mental apparatus. Solutions to all of the perceived problems on earth exist, but they exist on a different level of consciousness than most of the world is currently in. We have to raise our own level of consciousness first. The only way to bring about change in the world is to bring about change in ourselves, and it can only happen one individual at time. And that starts with seeing our thoughts as thoughts, and not as absolute.

Leo, that’s all standard science-speak, isn’t it? At the end of your linked page, is this final statement:

“there are no mental phenomena separate from brain phenomena - within the limits of our tools to detect such things.”

Most on this blog would indeed agree that scientists do not have the tools to detect such things. We may well be talking about hidden dimensions, which are postulated by string theory, but cannot be observed in our 3D plus 1 Time world.

Looking at many of the more transcendental NDEs, the experiencers state that their mental acuity and level of awareness was actually higher than normal, despite the absence of any brain activity on the medical instruments. They make statements like this: “One cannot argue with experience. Belief is not an issue”. And Michael Prescott has driven home time and again in his discussion of séance examinations how the experience of the sitters defies scientific explanation.

The problem is that anecdotal evidence is not accepted by science. Yet it is the main evidence in our real lives. Courts of Law depend on it. Refusal to accept anecdotal evidence from people who do not show signs of erratic behaviour or psychosis is often more than just saying,”You’re mistaken”. It is equivalent to saying: “You’re lying”. It betrays a fundamental mistrust of human experience and, in fact, of human beings. So, for example, do I believe Hope when she says she has had such an experience? Of course I do!

The scientific method is used by some hard-nosed scientists to assume the default position of humans as village idiots or closed-minded religious fundamentalists. But if these scientists dared to do that in their everyday lives, they’d very soon come unstuck!

Fortunately, not all scientists are like that. Francis Collins, for example, says that human consciousness is not ‘epiphenomenal froth’. He says we need to understand that human experience is ‘at the centre of our encounter with reality’, not peripheral to it.

The Universe of our five senses is obviously set up to allow us to believe in materialism if we insist on doing so. This is to give us a belief in free will, and to encourage us to commit to experience. If we all knew for sure that this reality was merely a prelude to something greater, life on earth would be much less meaningful to us. For some, it might even be completely meaningless!

“At present, the US has a 5% unemployment rate, compared with 25% in the Great Depression. We enjoy astounding prosperity, comfort, and longevity.”

Yes we do enjoy this astounding prosperity but at what price to others? And the 5% unemployment rate is very deceptive.

One can spend most or all of their life trying to made the world a better place and try to change those around them then discover the person they needed to change the most was of all people: themselves.

But if we get too caught up in our astounding prosperity, comfort, and longevity we can lose sight of those that do suffer from hardships, grief, and illness, etc. I suspect we are here to learn love and compassion not only for others, but ourselves.

Change yourself change the world. As Emmanuel stated in Emmanuel’s book one “where would your soul go to school if your world were perfect”.

I feel properly taken to task my history lesson can be looked at differently and semantically. With one exception. I teach U. S. History and what I've pointed out is not in the textbooks nor do I present my personal opinions to the students. Actually there's not much opportunity for that as the books and curriculum have been nuetered in the last 30 years from both sides of the political specturm to be almost meaningless.
Semantics does not explain away the loss of habeus corpus of American citizens (Jose Padilla), the coming show trials that would make Stalin proud, the use and defense of torture. Take Republicans and Democrats out of it. These are unconstitutional and unAmerican.

“This is to give us a belief in free will, and to encourage us to commit to experience.”

Very nice and concise way of stating the earth journey. Commit to experience, which can be a great teacher, or not.

“If we all knew for sure that this reality was merely a prelude to something greater, life on earth would be much less meaningful to us. For some, it might even be completely meaningless!”

Not sure this is true people that come back from NDE’s come back with this knowledge of the meaning of the earth experience and it appears to me they are even more committed. Of course they experience phenomena that most of us don’t. I have thought about this one for a long time and have mixed feelings on this one.

“These are unconstitutional and unAmerican.”

In the history of government there has always been a battle between citizens rights and government. What I find interesting is our constitution is treated as some kind of bible. Infallible. How could our founders have predicted professional politicians, corporate lobbyists, and the industrial military complex that Ike warned us about or even the population of the United States in the 21st century?

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the declaration of independence he wrote if the time came that government did not work for or represent the people then that government should be changed. He even suggested revolution.

Religion and politics two of our greatest indicators that we humans have a ways to go before we overcome our self-righteousness and selfishness.

Mamet's dichotomoy of perfectibility and tragic is derived from Thomas Sowell's seminal work, A Conflict of Visions, which anyone seriously interested in politics should tackle. That dichotomy is also more practiclly measured in Sowell's magnificent The Vision of the Anointed.

Mamet seems to have read Sowell and realized he had been on autopilot carrying the Vision of the Annointed (Perfectibility of man) when in reality his experiences revealed a tragic veiw.

Sowell should be on everyone's bookshelf.

As I did some research on the Internet on Sowell and his book the vision of the anointed several things came to my mind.

One is you cannot buy your way out of problems nor can you expect an industrialized society left alone to be a just society. History is full of injustices when one class of people controls another.

As the Buddha pointed out one must find a middle path and I suspect industrialized societies and governments must find a middle path. A government must strive to be a beneficial presence to its citizens. And being a sugar daddy or thinking pouring money into a program very seldom if ever is a solution and is not what I mean by being a beneficial presence.

I do volunteer work in one of those federal programs that Sowell so hates, but I can see the benefits to these children. And I have met adults that have gone through this program when they were a child and talk affectionately how it helped them in their lives.

Also he attacks community colleges and as a former student and instructor at a community college I saw first hand the opportunities it gives so many people as it did me as my education started at one those community colleges. Need to do more research on Sowell but he comes off as having an elitist ideology.

Blaming the current ills of our society on liberalism alone is failing to see universal laws and karma doing what karma does best: giving us feedback. I suspect one must move beyond liberal and conservative ideologies to see the reasons for the decline of any nation.

And how do we know it is a decline? Maybe it is something a society has to go through to learn and advance our souls. Maybe things are right on track but we are too unknowing or unaware to see this perfection called karma teaching us with perfect feedback.

"karma doing what karma does best: giving us feedback."
The best simple definition of Karma I've seen. Thank you, William. It is hard to see, though, how it could affect whole nations, except in attracting thousands of souls by offering circumstances appropriate to them. Karma is a logical concept, but I thought it had gone out of fashion because it sometimes seems a bit too pat. You don't get much mention of it by NDE/ past life regression subjects.

Anyway, if it's a true law, presumably at the point when one becomes self-aware, one can transcend it, because one identifies with the higher self rather than with ones physical circumstances.

Ross w: as I study the history of societies karma appears to work to perfection. Not always on our time frame or how we think it should work.

I suspect anytime we move from the direction of love and intelligence that frame of mind creates side effects that often causes us to take a hard look at our mode of being in the world.

Three years doing weekly study groups in the course in miracles and its emphasis on the ego left me at the time with the impression that my egotistical motives were almost always giving instant feedback. It almost became humorous if not for sometimes being mentally painful.

From 1932 to 1952 The liberal Democrats were in control of all three branches of government.

Exactly why the great depression lasted so long. . .

Matthew, I no longer argue about politics. It’s no more possible to change a man’s politics than it is possible to change his religion or his sexual preferences. Unless he’s ready to change. So it’s nice to plant a seed, sometimes. You never know.

>Mamet's dichotomy of perfectibility and tragic is derived from Thomas Sowell's seminal work, A Conflict of Visions

A Conflict of Visions is the book that made me realize that I was not, at heart, a libertarian, but actually a conservative. This came as something as a shock to me, but I have since recovered.

It's a brilliant book for its outlining of general principles, even if some of Sowell's specific criticisms may be off-target.

>Exactly why the great depression lasted so long. . .

A case can be made that FDR's policies had the unintended effect of prolonging and deepening the Depression. I think most economists agree that it was not FDR's domestic programs, but rather America's entry into WWII, that finally lifted the country out of the Depression (by funneling excess manpower into the armed services, and gearing up factories for the war effort).

This is not to say that another president would have done much better, since monetary and fiscal policy were very poorly understood in those days.

>As the Buddha pointed out one must find a middle path and I suspect industrialized societies and governments must find a middle path.

I think this is true, and the middle path seems to be some mix of free enterprise and government oversight, with a decent social safety net (but not one that rewards indolence). It's a tricky balancing act, and I don't know if any country has mastered it completely, but we in the industrial world are certainly closer to the right mix than we were in previous eras.

>nor can you expect an industrialized society left alone to be a just society.

True enough, but are nonindustrial societies any better? Most of them have relied on slave labor. If you don't have machines to do your bidding, human chattel will serve instead.

(I know some people think workers in capitalism are slaves to this or that, but there is a difference between a metaphorical slave and a literal slave. See Spartacus for details.)

"I think this is true, and the middle path seems to be some mix of free enterprise and government oversight, with a decent social safety net (but not one that rewards indolence)."

Could not agree more with this statement. Cradle to grave certainty did not work and pure capitalism would I suspect contrary to I think what Ron Paul advocated would create a society of haves and have nots. The middle class is crucial to a stable society.

We Americans must heed Jefferson’s advice and we are now 30 years overdue heeding that advice.

"The best simple definition of Karma I've seen. Thank you, William. It is hard to see, though, how it could affect whole nations, except in attracting thousands of souls by offering circumstances appropriate to them"

Ross I don't know whether you've read the Christian Bible at any point but as a matter of interest there's plenty examples of Nations "Karma" or "Reaping What You Sow".

Seems we have a fondness to keep repeating the same mistakes as our ancients and despite the wisdom available today we still tend to ignore it.

Our apparent belief that we are far superior and a more advanced civilisation today is the crux to our blindness, it's arrogance really when you come down to it.

“Our apparent belief that we are far superior and a more advanced civilisation today is the crux to our blindness, it's arrogance really when you come down to it.”

This is an interesting statement because for some reason maybe arrogance as you suggested we humans don’t think that we are capable of making the same mistakes as those that have lived before us. The ultra skeptics and their religion of scientism somehow feel that scientists are immune to making the mistakes that their forefathers did. Examples: thinking the earth was the center of the universe or that stones could not fall out of the sky.

As there has been some mention of politics and religion on this post the book I am reading now called Breakthrough with the sermons of the German mystic Eckhart with commentaries by Matthew Fox. In one of his sermons Eckhart states something to the effect that God is in no hurry to mature the soul. I thought to myself when one thinks of we humans and our beliefs, certainty, and hostility in politics and religion that appears to be a very accurate statement.

One of my favorite quotes from Eckhart is when he was writing the pope in his defense after being accused of heresy he stated something to the effect if anyone that does not believe that he is a son of god is just ignorant. Eckhart died of unknown causes soon after that statement. Eckhart did live for his era to be an old man so we don’t know if Rome had anything to do with his death.

In those days calling the pope ignorant I suspect was dangerous to your health. Kind of like being a hostile Russian journalist towards the government in Russia today.

The comments to this entry are closed.