Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Does everyone feel the same thing when humiliated? The skin tingles as a kind of condition alternate to tears, maybe, which would just seal the deal entirely. Tears of anger, tears of relief, tears of joy. These are all excluded by the sensation of humiliation.

When you anticipate every possible response but the one you get. When you realize you said or did the very wrong thing, and that there is no way that you can take it back because you actually did mean it, but you wish you could because you didn't know then what you know now. Your character was revealed.

Maybe it's just what we're all meant to feel in the face of alpha-dogs. It keeps the head up temporarily as you slowly back down and away. Maybe it's just one of those atavistic things which are the cost of modern living, where alpha-beta is sublimated and packaged for personal consumption, and pills are issued for balance. I haven't found my niche yet. By definition I'm a social clod.

I ride very high on my own thoughts and feelings now and then. I establish myself in my own certainties. And then I realize, sometimes, my mistakes, my misreadings of myself, how utterly obtuse I can be. It's pretty humiliating. Especially when I'm downright wrong about something, or misread myself spectacularly, or manage to hurt thoughtlessly, or . . .

But I do intend to soldier on. I doubt I'm as right as I sometimes think I am. Especially when it comes to points of style or even grammar. Especially when it comes to the particulars. But with a broad brush, I think I know what I'm saying. It does hurt, though, to be humiliated, by having gone too far. And I apologize, gentle reader, for when I go too far. As you might imagine, it's a familiar enough feeling. I can be that insensitive. That enclosed and numb. That dumb. I intend no harm.

I do recognize the sensation as prelude to depression, and I'm not about to descend there yet again. So I do apologize, but I'm not giving up this time. Nope, not giving up.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roman Polanski - The Last Picture Show

Who actually can remember now those days when young Sybil Shepard's life was being ruined by being cast as everyone's perfect sweetheart. She fell for her producer falling for her, and half the cast, and eventually rehabiliated herself as everyone's favorite what's for dinner full figure gal. I still love Sybil. Sometimes I see her naked, sitting on the end of that diving board.

Who can remember when dorms and even bathrooms were co-ed, and priests learned the ins and outs of gay sex right in seminary?

Who can remember Roman Polanski's indiscretion, and who can figure why, now, when we allow and enrich crazed Glenn Beck to cry and cry out loud in a very crowded theater "fire fire fire", we decide to stop winking and get serious?

Who? Why now??

Who remembers Charles Manson, Sharon Tate, Squeaky Fromme, the summer of Woodstock, shots to the moon? We're all being reminded now.

But why, then is Glenn Beck allowed to rant dangerously, get rich, and crazies get all the attention.

Why do we let ourselves off the hook? Is it all just Sunday entertainment, where even the President has to crowd the airwaves to be heard?

Sure, everyone rants that rich people like O.J., Polanski, Teddy K., these folks don't deserve a break just because they're so creative entertaining, and Goddamned rich.

Why do we deserve that break then? We know what we like in secret. We know what we go to do in Big Box churches, Stadium Seats, drinking or chanting or screaming starts at 9 AM now, I guess, and there isn't even a traffic jam until the stadium empties, with people streaming in for tailgating or early service all the livelong day. I can't imagine that they have buses from those Big Box churches right to the stadium, but they might as well have.

Could it really be the same people now, on alternate Sundays maybe, waving hands in the air, tears streaming, now painting faces yelling fuck, throwing punches, making the world that scary for dignity?

Yup, I think it could. Woot Woot!

You can go to hell Polanski, but throw me a line now and then, OK? I love your films, I love the way you throw the ball, you make me think that host is real.

Give me a freaking break already.

Turn off the megatron.

wink wink

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Einstein's Better Half

Not too long ago various idiots savant pondered whether Einstein might have stolen his ideas from his wife. I have proof that he couldn't have. As I tell my friends who haven't seen me for a while; "I've aged well, I have the body of a god (Buddha) in the mind of a lunatic (yours if you believe it)". See, it depends what you mean by better half, and in whose mind ideas might reside.

I was wonderfully gratified today to learn that Bill Clinton secretly cared more for his daughter than for the obligations of world leadership. You can go ahead and contrast that with GWB if you'd like, including the part about sexual transgressions. Some sins are just more serious than others, George, and just because you got in with the wrong crowd doesn't let you off the hook.

So, being a man, of course Einstein forgot to complete his wonderful insight. The part he got for us - the scientific discovery which entailed no moral reasoning on his part since it was and still is just wondrously true for whoever happens to think about it - is the part that made the bomb possible.

The better half - the part which now it might already be too late to reveal, and for that I can only apologize that I'm not a woman - is that he should have and could have noticed that once you've pinned the speed of light, you've also turned accident right on its head.

Things which aren't connected perceptually, which we now understand to involve the exchange of force-defining sub-atomic particles limited in their exchange by the speed of light, are "only" connected conceptually, which means, by definition, in some "mind".

Things with some future connection which can't be established by a chain of causation are - now this is obvious to the point of banality - connectible only by accident. Now I'm making shit up here, but if you really think about it you'll see that it's true - this accident when it's anticipated by some mind can be called an emotional connection, a wanting, a gap to be fulfilled. OK, there's the part you're going to choke on, but think about it now.

You make something happen you want to happen, and you work like hell to avoid the things you're terrified of. I'm not so very sure at all about free will and prestigipredestination, but honestly I could care less. It sure feels as though I'm the decider some of the time.

Now it's easy enough to claim no connection at all when accidents happen, but looking backward, you might simply say that the connection was emotionally prefigured, prior to its perceptual realization. It can be lots of fun to look around at the subconscious, but I'm going way farther than that. I know, I'm messing with sacred words we think we understand here, but give me a little chance . . . I mean that literally, of course! At the extreme, fate and the subconscious are identical, as any good psychotherapist will have to agree.

Emotion is a direction toward, say, something bound by love, and away, perhaps, when that direction is impelled by hatred, and it exists only in the absence of causal proof. Once contact is made, well, then you have causation.

The really cool part is that all reality is always an interplay among and between these aspects, so we needn't bother very much at all with the silly chicken and egg question of which came first, mind or matter. Because it doesn't, well, really matter. Both are fundamental, fundamentalists be damned!

But there is a reductive necessity, in any language which is going to make any sense, for concept, percept, mind and particle, motion and emotion. Otherwise, well, what's a wavicle to consist in, for goodness sake? Paradox (well, yes as a matter of fact, but Žižek can be really tough to read)!? There's no ether, there is simultaneous "action" at a distance when a de-Broglie wave is collapsed by an act of perception, but what's happened, strictly speaking, is conceptual, and is tough to prove by simultaneous measurement (not so tough to prove by other more clever types of measurement).

So the strong anthropic principle, the Goldilocks principle which posits that of course the cosmos beats all the wildest lottery odds to suit us perfectly [because we wouldn't be here if it didn't] can be restated to say that we were wanted. Absolutely nothing else changes. Or everything does. It's only semantics after all.

Now, I've got to go comfort my daughter whose boyfriend is too obtuse to see her charm anymore. Now that their freshman college year has begun, I'm sure he doesn't want to be constrained in what turns his head. If I were a woman, I'd tear him to shreds, but well, I kind of like the guy, so he has no worries from me, and for Pete's sake they're way too young to get serious. Even at my age promises are hard to keep.

All's fair in love and war, but pity the fool who hurts my kids. Now that right there is nuclear power. If only we could harness that stuff, you know, like that toddler energy we all comment about.

Oh, wait, we can!!! We can do the right thing, avoid the haters, steer clear of the magical thinkers, stop thinking in algorithms, religious or scientific, and learn to behave decently, in civilized fashion, with feelings expressed politely. Not a bad idea, if I do say so myself.

The Geek Rapture - the Singularity is Fear

So, one day, starting at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies website, I meandered over to the commentary section for the blog relating to this audio podcast discussing the impending Singularity. It's one of my favorite whipping boy topics. I was excited to learn that my point of view even has a shorthand: the Geek Rapture, which about says it all.

I continue to be amazed at how trivial it remains for humans to hoist ourselves by our own petard. As though our progressive technological embodiment of idealized Turing machines is that big a deal. Don't get me wrong, it is a big deal from the perspective of our impact on the earth. We've become the perfected consumption machines ourselves now, acting like perfect roaches, without a care in the world about how or what or who we destroy. We are the evolutionary equivalent of that pond scum which multiplies without governor and seals the pond so much quicker than junior science students might think it would. An evolutionary dead end.

We are that proud of what we know, and that oblivious of our collective and individual ignorance. I remain confident that the smallest of creatures will, finally, check our advance, if we don't do it our murderous selves. But I still find myself among the saddest on the planet about what will be lost: there is such a fine distinction between music and technological noise; between dance and mindless reproduction.

But it may be that the human has already departed, sunken now beneath our collective inability to govern ourselves. The march of the Huns now so perfectly driven by the martial beat of disembodied sociopathic corporate predations against all life. Against all Earth. Inspired by the most insipid fundamentalist religions, no difference even down to the slightest detail, among the Christians, the Taliban, the Scientistic. They are each as convinced as the other than they have the perfect answer.

So here, gentle reader, is what happens to me when I get really angry. You can read my commentary here below, or over there at that Australian site. I get really pithed off.


Well, the note from the future is interesting, but otherwise it's pretty amazing that people still expect our fingernail clippings to wake up. Technology is what enables our predations is all, and fouls our ground for so long as we continue to act beastly; Lord of Earth indeed. We act like locusts.

These minimal characteristics ground consciousness: opposable thumbs/sensitive touch; recognizeable individual face/caring response; vocalizations from the grammatical black box/sharing of what's on the mind; conceptual modelling of similar complexity to outer perceptual reality/written language to extend models across time and space; emotional-intellectual center/emotional-intellectual belonging. Heart.

Well, that's a tip of the keyboard list, but in the end if we can build a machine which we feel toward as we do our children, then we will have become the machines that we aspire to, and the disappearance of earth, ground for our figure which is what evolution is all about, will have become redundant.

Interplay of light might be pretty, but I'll take my life slimy. You can't extract the evolutionary figure from its ground, any more than any code is separable from both the hardware it runs on and the deciphering mind which pins its meaning. Genotype without phenotype is meaningless; it can't evolve. Phenotype abstracted from environment is dead by definition. It's only a matter of time.

Not all reality is perceptual, as a simple thought experiment can demonstrate. There are relations which exist only in the mind. God and man for instance, or red and sky, or me and the object of my desire. But mind itself is a fact of all existence if you define it as conceptual modelling. It's not so much an evolutionary endpoint or culmination, as a constant fact defining relations not yet consummated by perceptual exchange of particulate force (insert contentious physics discussion).

Accidents are emotions waiting to happen, er, um, well, just because there's no causal chain doesn't make them meaningless, oh please anthropic principle!

Conscious intelligence is an epiphenomenon of written language, and can't be contained within any single physical mind, constructed or naturally grown. It depends on the ground of civilization, which technology in service to sociopathic corporate entities is, in beastly fashion, setting out so efficiently to destroy.

I guess that's about two cents worth, but I'm working on the gold version very hardly. I won't be so crass as to advertise my blog here - I'm guessing it's against the rules of polite commentary anyhow, not to mention that it's all very embarrassing being naked out in public. No real credentials and all . . .

Monday, September 21, 2009

Review of TWILIGHT: Voices of the 1992 LA Riots

At the outset, in the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you the truth: I like to trumpet the accomplishments of my former students. It makes me feel successful, and well, all legitimate writers seem to have conflicts of interest these days. I want in to the insiders club too!

I dragged my good friend Bruce with me the other day to see Subversive Theatre's production of Twilight, a timely play exploring racism in America.

I get to Subversive Theatre as often as I can, although being unemployed it's a little difficult to cough up the price of admission. Well, sure it's free, but my minimum guilt coefficient demands that I donate at least double the cost of a movie ticket, and you should too.

The shows are almost always spooky timely, like Waterboarding Blues just when some truth came out about the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush triumvirate. How we can deceive ourselves into thinking that the man's bidding is our own! Well, if you're a legacy child of the man, then I guess it is, and most of the people who get to be heard are legacy somethingorothers. I'm just a plain old bastard, so you don't have to listen to me, but I'm just saying.

Now we've got senators acting uncivil to a president who is quite civilized for a refreshing change. It's almost like they're offended by such an uppity holder to such an exalted office. I mean, considering the way the office has been so recently desecrated, what's up with that?? This man's an actual statesman, and he makes me proud.

I'm sure you've all heard about how Rodney King has now rehabilitated himself from a long bout with alcoholism. He won some celebrity boxing match against a cop! Irony acted out in real life is the very best kind.

This one-actor play over at the old Pierce-Arrow factory explores a set of interviews surrounding the scene way back in 1992 when South Los Angeles erupted in riots. It's not exactly comfortable material, although this scrappy theater is actually getting more and more comfortable, oddly enough, with better seats than the old church pews most protest theaters tend to use. They aren't quite as good as at the cinema or those new big box churches everyone goes to cry at now though.

Bruce taught Russian at the school where I taught Chinese, so we were pretty well prepared for some lefty theater, put on by our former student. (More disclaimers: No, I am not nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party but I'd like to think I'd say so if I were!)

Well, I actually had to kick Kurt Schneiderman - the Theatre's founder and Artistic Director - out of school for non-attendance after I became its headmaster. There's some more real life irony when you think about it.

What we witnessed was a virtuoso performance by Victoria Pérez who was able to channel players in the real Rodney King drama and its lead-up to the riots in L.A.

It is my claim that Ms. Pérez can fill us all with hope by her enactments of this dangerously diverse range of people from that time; a Korean business man, the mayor, an angry radical young black man, the white pickup driver who was beaten on national TV by an angry mob and way more, though not the full set of interviewees from the original production.

None of these people were even close to Ms. Pérez' evident background; none of them was a Hispanic woman. None of them originally had the courage to get up on stage and explore a range of accents and emotions and positions not her own. None of them was flawless in his performances either, but considering her range, I'd say the performance I witnessed deserved at least an Oscar.

Portrayed on stage, and sometimes in video, were players in a real life drama who had been murderously opposed to one another in real life. They came together for me too, in my own person as an audience member, in a realization that we really aren't all that far apart in what motivates us or makes us angry or forces us to take any opposition to our personal point of view out of its context.

And then the next night I paid passing attention to our Buffalo Bills, who actually won a game! We have this terrible conviction that as a city we can manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and just miss our goal "wide right". I heard a few choice curses along the way yesterday, implying somehow that it's our team which lets us down.

Could it be that we too, this most Catholic city in the land, are working through a guilt abusively foisted upon us? Are we that afraid to say things out loud which are written in our souls? Will we wait until they erupt into more violence, or on the other hand must we really suffer inept black men at our city and state helms?

The discourse in this country has gone uncivil again. There is displaced anger on display, and more than hints of racism. Here in Buffalo, there were no videos of that recent unimaginable street beating, but we're happy about a helicopter now to intercept our secret lives at some magnificent magnification which can read a license plate from a thousand feet. Thank goodness we don't have to rub up against one another.

I think I'll take my theater real and work to get the irony out of real life. Subversive Theatre makes my day!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

When No-one's Watching

For Sheryl

I flipped this thing
With nothing, really to hold it together
Leftover rice and beans
A slippery teflon pan
Eggs broken in the middle.

Returning from the transfer station
Having to cart my recyclables back again
Because I had the wrong day
In the month's cycle.

Not pausing to return calls about dinner dates
Waving invisibly to my neighbor in his bathrobe who
At his front door remarks my presence just like a farmer lifting his finger
Ever so slightly from his wheel.

Or is he mad at me for bringing up our differences
To his son way up in Alaska
Who'd told me that his father
Is uncharacteristically
Fond of me?

We are on opposite sides of various divides
About God,
Global warming,
All that liberal and conservative stuff.

I intend to travel to the big city
To help with a friend's kit car
Who's invited me to dinner
In conflict with Subersive Theatre
In conflict with another dinner invitation.

And I learn that there's the first annual Fiddlers' Festival
Right up the road
A piece.

And I wonder where is me?
What will I do?

Caught in my own headlights, dear?

My daughter now texts her congratulations
From the Big Big Big Big City
That I've sold my country house
Which finally she would not inhabit.

How shall I tell her
About my de-cocooning?
That I do not intend another shell.

She is so excited for me!

How shall I tell her that all the while that I was pretending to be Dad
I was living deep inside a shell I thought I wanted
A shell I thought I needed
A shell I now would shed.

Without, come to think of it, any woodshed
Although I've lit my lasting hearth, again
Against fall chill.

And in the flipping
Which somehow held together
There was only me
And a good deal
Of nerve.

Friday, September 18, 2009


There is, of course, a lovely lightness now, to have liberated myself from any particular machine. I do all my writing ethereally, up in the cloud as they say, and have no worries about lost sectors on some spinning disk, or before that, lost, shuffled or wind-strewn pieces of paper.

The machines are all interchangeable, and apart from the time it takes to boot them up, and sometimes a vicious cycle thrashing from an older computing unit which can't outrace saves to the slowly spinning disk, they're all one to me. So long as the keyboards work, then I truly am indifferent now to operating system or if the machine sits on my lap or under my desk, or even if it's borrowed from someone else.

Even the loading up of a new machine, or newer, meaning if I am granted one from someone else's garbage, is trivially quick and dirty. And all this freedom is granted free, I suppose by the grace of some other gang of fools which will actually pay attention to the advertising which supports this evil monopoly empire.

I pay rather a lot for access on a monthly basis, though the reason I pay more is also so that I might be liberated from plugs or securitized wireless, or coffee shops or more borrowing. I prefer the Macs and Linux machines, because they accept my cellular device without any need to search for the metering software which Windows must deploy, presumably for the same reason - market share - that they are targeted by so much malware.

So, I take my Internet with me too, in the form of a tiny piece of hardware, whose usage costs me more than I can afford, but such is the cost of freedom. Truth be told, I think Internet should be ubiquitous and free, and perhaps it will be, all on the backs of those other foolish people who pay attention to ads. Commercial interest should almost demand it, especially when you consider the unsupportable costs to ship catalogs and mass-mailed come-ons, still, into so many peoples' literal mailboxes.

And I want to know why, given all this freedom, there are still people who want anything. Why would anyone, after the instant of making love to some vision of beauty which comes in to one's life, would one ever want or need or ask or complain about or for anything more, ever, again?

But you know it's not about the machine or the access or the writing. It's also about the place in which you do it, and now here in the lovely fall Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, I am sitting opposite a cheery fire, lit against the rapidly encroaching autumn so that I can remain comfortable, although it isn't cold. The fall which will bring bold colors and tourists to this place I am about to leave.

There are small enough margins for choice in our lives now, once the marketplace has perfected the distance between what we might be worth and what we need to buy, filling the gap with seemingly insatiable desires, each one of which, like my internet access, is calibrated to match the scale of desire in each one of us. Just against our possible illness, we must keep a full-time job, and then the cost of the other baubles is trivial enough to keep it below the decision threshold.

But I do wonder when someone other than myself will notice that in this way, all distinction between software and hardware has gone away. It's just a connection, rather, between what is stored in a kind of frozen-hard state, and what is gotten at in more liquid fashion. These words I can manipulate until I want to fix them. And I really don't care anymore at all about the machinery which makes that possible, until it stops functioning.

But software - a set of instructions - which depends on hardware to be set in motion is itself that hard because it never changes. And the hardware is a perfect analog for imprinted media, with fixed code as represented by the circuits and transistors initially mapped in such fashion that the schematic and the final product resemble one another almost interchangeably. So all that really matters is the change of state, happening now on this machine maybe a million times per second, but happening overall for the meaning of my transcriptions, who could possibly know or even care, since it's all so distributed about the cloud.

So we do still think of transmissions and storage and instructions stepping through and by. But that makes no more sense than to think of Walmart actually selling me a bicycle. They sell a form of crystallized misery is all. Its form, the bicycle's, exists somewhere now in software, as a set of specs. Machines realize these specs, almost apart from human intervention, and in the end there is always slave labor in China to do what hands are still required for.

So first of all, the hardware bicycle can be gotten so cheaply for almost the same reason a computer chip can. Once the design is set, it's like printing books almost. The marginal cost of each additional copy becomes almost nil. Actually, what our market economy now means is that it must be pushed as close to nil as possible, with all margins left for the creator alone. The designer. The one in the room with a view.

The funny thing is that the actual designer doesn't get a whole lot. He's just some middle class slob eager to sell his soul for the company boxer shorts. The one really on the take is the one gaming the logo, managed in trust for the hoards who own its equity. And these equity corporations act just like sociopathic machines, destroying anything small and beautiful on their way to world domination.

What a terrible thing has been accomplished to give these machines the rights of man. They resolve our collective aspirations, just like the gleam in the eye of my daughter, say, when she got her new Walmart bicycle which was all I could afford. We just want our money to grow, just like the value in our houses, so that we can turn it into interchangeable space to be bought and sold.

The resolution of our collective will, betokened only by money which is as interchangeable, precisely, as an identity-less subatomic particle, assures that whoever is custodian of that capital must labor to maximize its value, quite regardless of what gets harmed along the way.

This is the truest law of the jungle. This is the opposite of civilization.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodreads Review of The God Delusion

The God Delusion The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Trouble with God Delusion

Richard Dawkins' book excites the ire of religionists everywhere, as it was expected to do if it couldn't convert them. But the surprising thing to me is that it seems that there are no religionists who take it as a handbook to guide their own improved fitness for survival. The world is so overwhelmed by a kind of fascination with the tangibles that there must be a pretty wide opening for someone to make a good case for the intangibles again.

But for so long as there is always new reliably real stuff to uncover, and especially for so long as there is new hope that man's power will be ever improving, the religionists haven't got a prayer. Unless they're just drunk on their power too.

The trouble with God delusion, when it places its faith on such demonstrably idiotic things as Creation "Science" or the factual truth of Jesus' life, or making the Bible into some kind of literal Word - handbook for living even - is that it so clearly is delusional.

There's nothing in Dawkins' book to be disputed - any reasonable man, and presumably this must include some religionists, has to agree with everything that Dawkins has to say. But you don't have to agree with any of his conclusions. Come on, here's a guy who wants to explain falling in love in terms of evolutionary science for crying out loud. Here I thought it was yet another stupid Western invention, and he's calling it natural!

Ultimately, his is a straw dog argument. He props up the God only a delusional (or infantile, as he makes that case too) person would have faith in. God the father. God the creator. The God who can be addressed by pronouns, like Him or still more idiotically Her, only slightly removed from the bearded skyman. This is religion perverted for human purposes, not religion as connection to something beyond knowledge which might still have survival value.

For many of us there is still "god" in falling in love, which as Dawkins makes sure to point out is at the very least as delusional as believing that Jesus is real . Sure, you can believe that it's all about the hormones, and you can even decide to just enjoy the delusion of it since it makes life so much more pleasant. There may even be inspiration in the Bible, though who could ever know since its thumpers create of its words such hateful inhumanity.

Your counterpart's gonna know if you don't quite mean it.

I find nothing, absolutely nothing, in Dawkins' book which threatens God as I mean the term: The name for what can't be named, beyond the pale, eternally, of human understanding. No, I'll go further, beyond the pale of any understanding. Mine is an aspirational God, but as real for that as someone else's delusional constructed God.

Ultimately, the irony (which is something religionists could stand to learn about) of this book is that it props up Man as God's usurper on the idiotic assumption that ultimately everything maybe can be understood. I think Dawkins is a godist from the 'wrong' direction since isn't man-the-understander ultimately god-like in the complexity of his designs? Maybe science is just religion going backwards.

Man as we know him is a patently lousy designer when compared to natural complexity. The flaw in intelligent design arguments is that intelligence doesn't even come close to being able to solve the problems "solved" by unintelligent evolution. The argument by design should be turned on its head already, since a fancy watch or a 747 is that much less complex and interesting that anything from nature. You know artifice by its deficiencies, not by its cleverness.

There aren't any problems for nature to solve in the first place. There is no intention to evolution. It's just a dialogic interplay of figure with ground in some direction which we can only know with certainty will remain forever beyond any one of us, and likely all of us collectively because, well, nothing lasts forever. And it might go in reverse just as well as forward, making it a toss up whether God is at the end or the beginning.

But a pretty certain way to ensure that the end is nearer than we'd like to think is to take over that direction, by design. Like we can fly this spaceship earth!? Human design - human technology - solves problems for human survival. That's why it's anti-nature, and for that matter, anti-evolutionary. It gives mankind "unfair" advantage, and turns us into the scourge that we have become, up against the very ground of our existence, "Mother" earth.

I'd say there's nothing wrong with God as shorthand for what we cannot and will not ever know or understand. Dawkins is utterly and absolutely correct when he complains that God in this usage can never stand in for what we can and should and must know as our consciousness expands or raises or whatever it must, naturally, do.

But it isn't very clever of us to allow our designs to destroy our ground. I shall never be inclined to favor a faith-based answer to one which can demonstrably be proven. But sometimes, as with the old religious water systems of Borneo, what looks like faith and superstition is a kind of connection with something beyond articulate understanding which however simply works as an organizing principle (they've fixed that water system now, with good ol' Western knowhow). Rather like patriotism, I'm sure, or brand loyalty. It saves thinking things through every time. It becomes a shorthand for what someone, once, somewhere actually did know.

Well, just like science whose knowers are all spread out in time and space and have to be, um, trusted, perhaps religion also can compile collective wisdom which is beyond the grasp of conscious intentional understanding. Except when it's interfered with by human power brokers, which is the problem Dawkins should have focused on. Well, actually it is the problem he was focusing on, except he kind of threw out the baby with the bathwater.

And if it seems that I have emptied the Term for god of all meaning, well that's just fine with me. That term, God, should never have been voiced in the first place. I prefer the dialogic Tao which slips from both personification and meaning. And there are ways of knowing which don't entail control as proof of knowing.

Dawkins mocks "dualists" who believe mind can be separated from body. Yet he apparently might believe that the mind is like software running on its hardware substrate. He invokes digital technologies to describe memes, which endure unlike analogic transcriptions. Well, I don't buy the software/hardware divide any more than I do the immortal soul apart from body. It's all one to me, man.

The religionists should get a clue. And Dawkins should stop creating man in straw dog god's image. There's no art to that at all. It's only virtual reality can be designed, by God or Man. Reality is a conspiracy!

View all my reviews >>

Friday, September 11, 2009

Letter to a Eugenicist

Hello Professor!

I stumbled on your 'book' while searching related topics on the Internet. I 'opened' it, as a relatively open-minded liberal, well disposed against what you're a proponent of, but therefore curious.

I have a couple of quick comments, and then wish to refer you to an argument against your point of view, which I've written up hastily in a kind of compressed shorthand on my blog. I'd be interested in your feedback.

First: I think you make the mistake many people do of assuming that breeding mimics evolution. The variety among horses (or dogs or goldfish) involves no speciation, and pretty much by definition can't, since "breeding" means within breedable partners of the same species.

Breeding in fact creates instability in genotypes by loading up the pool with non-randomly distributed traits, by definition divergent from their environmental ground, creating a population which must be artificially cared for, much like any diseased population. So the changes depend on the stability of the breeders' preferences . . .

And there's recent evidence for a quasi-Lamarkian inheritance of acquired characteristics (involving the folding rather than encoding of genes, at least metaphorically, by a kind of "epigenetic" process), placing these variations within the realm of phenotypic rather than genotypic variation, but heritable nonetheless. Breeders' decisions do not constitute an analog of 'environment', which is the full ground without which genetic codes (as figure against that ground) are 'meaningless'. It is environmental drift which "directs" evolution, and (apparently) random couplings in response, not artificially altered directions.

Second: You utterly ignore and bypass, so far as I can tell, the plain fact that the ability to render acceptable and moral political consensus is obstacle enough to prevent the effort. The chances of a non-corporately dominated direction for our guided evolution are practically nil. And whether it's Mao, Stalin, Hitler or Coca-Cola, they're all sociopathic in their intents. Corporations should never have been given status as legal persons. And governments should learn to act as other than self-preserving corporate entities too, for that matter. Changes to our political ground will stimulate "proper" evolution more directly than will directed choice in mating.

In the end, I think you're wrong to think we're NOT still evolving. Our locust-like social behavior practically guarantees that, through the mechanism of punctuated equilibrium (cataclysmic change favoring oddball survivors), the current species will not survive the destruction of its (and every other creature's) environment. What will survive, if anything, cannot be known in advance.

Indirectly, of course, you are absolutely right that we *have* been conducting a great eugenic experiment, which is why we've overrun the earth like the swarm of locusts that we seem to be. We've taken control of the environment (sophomorically speaking, we've created an artificial environment) and it's that fact which has halted evolution in your eyes. More artifice in the selection process will simply pound the cork into the bottle and that will be the end of man.

Well, I guess the end of man could be the beginning of what comes next, but I'd hate to construe that along the lines of what we now call "intelligence" so crudely measured that it isn't even more heritable from a man to himself (.8 correlation across tests for the same individual) than from that same man to his offspring. Intelligence, my friend, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, though no less real for that.

All the best,