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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things are more complicated than you think...

This one is for the "evolutionists" in our midst, probably everyone, I think...
Patience. You'll have to wade through my introduction.

For the past four years I have participated in a psychoanalytic group where we read the (Jewish...) Bible together, Genesis. Last year, I abruptly pulled out of it, due to my... disaffiliation with... psychoanalysis, AND with... Judaism, which, in my book, remains predominant in our Western world, in the disguised/diluted form of Protestantism.

The first year, I immediately took exception with the biblical status alloted to... the animal world. A cursory examination of the creation story (and in the group there are no Bushies, ok, these are psychoanalysts who do NOT even believe in God, if you please ; France is a very secularized, atheist country...) allows you to perceive that... the status of animals is UNDER the status of human beings, and, THUS, MAN IS NOT AN ANIMAL, he is not included in the animal world for the Jewish religion. This point of view is fundamental to Judaism, as seen in the texts. Now... a "Jewish" person (what does that mean ???) MAY tell you that he believes in... evolution, BUT... IF HE IS JEWISH, he DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT MAN IS AN ANIMAL. Period. This is... the logical conclusion which imposes itself from the creation story : "God brought forward all the animals on the earth to the adamah, and... the adamah stuck names on them (sigh, that good old classification game..)." You have to wait for... the creation of "isha", woman (not Eve...) for the adamah (like a generic name for the species...), for "Adam" to find an help meet, an aid, but the text suggests that for "Adam", even the woman is not a real partner, someone to talk to, and not... AT, or ABOUT, at first.

This is a little more subtle than you might imagine. Because, you can scoff at the literalist ideas that the world was created in 6,000 years, that man was created by God, etc, etc, and think that the literalists are from another planet (which my Lacanian psychoanalyst friends do, by the way, just like many liberals in the U.S....) BUT... STILL reason like... man is NOT an animal.
AND... this is precisely what my shrink friends do when they say... but... we talk, we have language, OUR language says so much more than all of the other animals, we know what death is, we dig graves, and have funeral rites, and THUS.... WE ARE NOT ANIMALS (like the others...)
But... if you say this, then... how can you be a GOOD DARWINIAN like you think you are ???

Next point : IF we are animals, then... our status in our own eyes is going to depend heavily on... JUST HOW we perceive animals. AND... how we perceive animals has a history in our civilization. It depends on... (you knew this was coming...) the biblical creation story, AND, Descartes, animals as little machines, 18th century classification and reductionist thought, and the whole bit.
So... if we think that animals are shit, are little machines that we can stick into classifications, and manipulate, use for chiantific experiments, park in enclosures, send off to the concentration camp feeding lots/slaughtering houses, just HOW are we going to see ourselves ?
My shrink friends do NOT see the conflicts in their beliefs.
They STILL want to be human exceptionalists.
But... they say they believe in evolution.
Complicated, huh ?


Thai said...

Yes and no.

At least to me, your posting/observation fits completely with conservation of energy laws/zero-sum.

Imagine a spherical pool filled with water and a little ball suspended/floating within the water/pool. Is the ball a separate entity/thing/object? Or is the ball part of the water/pool?

Are we animals (e.g. part of the water or part of the pool) or are we something different (e.g. the ball)?

It all depends on the point of view one looks at the system from.

One view says they are all the same (e.g. part of a system), and another says they are separate entities.

If we have "scientific" view that we are animals, does this also mean we can treat each other as we treat other animals? etc...

PETA certainly points the reverse issue, no?

But if we have unscientific views of each other, where we imagine we are not animals, then is this difference the barrier that protects us from treating each other like we often are allowed to treat animals?

What and where are barriers or phase transitions as it where?

And as one looks at this from infinite perspectives, they move further and further down the rabbit hole that is the conservation of energy.

The best I have ever been able to say is I agree we are all one system AND I agree with the viewpoint that we are separate. And there are times that as my viewpoint changes, I change my view on what is an is not separate.

So from other views, I will seem inconsistent.

Again, in the end (I really do like the way Dink said this), you just have to choose a manifold and defend it.

I have simply come to the conclusion that which I think my forefathers have always come to generation after generation:

There are those manifolds I will never defend, those I might sometimes defend yet other times inconsistently not defend as I seem to change my mind as the manifold appears slightly different to me alone, and those I for which I will always go down with the ship.

It is the best I have been able to come up with.

You are looking for an absolute with nihilism when it seems to me it is really the other way around: it is the nihilism that is the absolute.

Be well

Thai said...

Den, in case it has never been clear to you, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, is really just about relativity, e.g what do things look like relative to particular viewpoints.

The theory is really a theory that discusses the implications of the conservation of energy when looked at from different viewpoints. Indeed Einstein originally thought of the theory when he realized faster than light travel had to be a boundary that could never be breached or we could otherwise make perpetual motion machines.

He knew perpetual motion machines violated the conservation of energy.

Thai said...

Sorry, typo, obviously I meant "Deb"

Thai said...

I am not sure how much you are in to science but just in case, I highly recommend this.

I love Bill Bryson, he is another national treasure imo.

Dink said...

"What and where are barriers or phase transitions as it were?"

I'm defending the "capacity of the nervous system for suffering" manifold.

I don't get the vibe that insects have any capacity/awareness of pain. Nor from most sea creatures, but certainly some. When this capacity happens in a fetus is not at an identical size or time, but it definitely takes a few months after conception (not immediately). Human mammals or otherwise.

So. You can terminate fetuses up to a certain point. Once the mammal is born you can't terminate it so long as it isn't able to realize that it can cause suffering to others. If it reaches the ability to realize this (I believe only humans can commit crime) and chooses to anyway, other humans have the right to terminate it.

Thus I am a pro-choice vegetarian who believes in the death penalty for certain crimes. The defense rests ;)

Thai said...

A fellow double deather.

Deb, this is not meant in any way to be an offense or insult to your views on capital punishment.

Thai said...

Okie and I are facebook buddies

Debra said...

Dink, I am not sure that I am speaking to you any more...
"Terminating" fetuses ?
I find that really really... painful.
I could spend HOURS on this comment talking about... what women CAN feel in the incredible vortex of childbearing in all facets : abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, birth, contraception. It is an area of experience that opens up the door to incredible existential passion, inevitable, since... procreation, the continuing of ourselves is an incredibly vital concern to us.
WE are constantly refining our OBSERVATION of the subtleties of... life and living things of all sorts.
I do not think that Mother Nature did not equip insects with the ability to "feel" pain for the simple reason that... if "you" don't feel pain you can't preserve yourself as an individual and... that is common to ALL life, I think.
In order to preserve the species, there has to be some kind of built in mechanism to ensure that the individual feels pain.
The problem is... that WE do not have the means to observe this phenomenon... YET. And... should we be able to "observe" it (in animals, and... FETUSES.., we would not necessarily be able to interpret it.)
I am offended by the idea that a fetus is JUST a group of cells.
For me, this is FASCIST thinking, as I have already defined fascist thinking on this blog, moreover.

Debra said...

Thai, did you get rid of your gory photos ?
I can't find the post anymore..

Debra said...

As for the death penalty, there are any number of... rational, "objective" "factual" objections to it that can be invoked before we get to the religious ones that I espouse (and what this means is that I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases (with the possible exception of the cases where the defendant ASKS to be put to death).
The death penalty bankrupts the collectivity.
The criminal justice system is functioning on quotas, just like everything else in our modern democraties, and quotas introduce all the necessary incentives for incredible corruption. (Rigging trials, etc.)
The death penalty wastes collective resources that could be employed elsewhere, its cost sometimes resulting in the "premature" liberation of other criminals, because the State can't finance both.
All good reasons without even having to enter the realm of religion.
Check out the site for confirmation.
As usual, this is yet another ZERO SUM issue, right Thai ?

Thai said...

Yes, I got rid of the gory photos (really, for me, this is not gory at all... I tried to convey the b low hole quality of the blood and air shooting out the neck but the photos just could not do it justice).

Deb, I do not think pain is the feature that allows humans to maintain self identity. I certainly see how from some points of view it helps maintain individual identity, but I see from others how it helps maintain the group and destroys the individual.

No absolute there

As for the abortion/death penalty thing, another rabbit hole.

Once you have defined the boundaries of your manifold, that is all the energy you are going to get unless you add more from the outside.

If you truly are not going to add more energy to the manifold, then any change within the manifold creates the classic engineers trade off.

Is abortion the trade off, or do we limit the number of children being born, or do we always take from those already on the planet every time a new child is born and just guarantee that larger and larger birth numbers mean less and less for everyone else?

Or do we maintain the same for all in the setting of larger and larger birth numbers by destroying the planet? e.g. we eat all the fish in the ocean and pollute all

We can have totalitarianism, we can have "anti" totalitarianism but then do the same thing but a series of billions of different smaller decisions (each different for each person) which creates the same effect as totalitarianism? e.g. some have less kids, some dies earlier, some have more kids but have less resources per person remaining on the planet, etc...

(this is what is happening in Bangladesh)

Or do we destroy the rest of the planet first in order to keep bring in new energy into our manifolds so that we do not need to have birth control/abortion/death penalty and personal responsibility rules, etc...?

You/I/we cannot escape these issues.

We often will not see how they are decided but the boundaries of the system are there whether we refuse to look at them or not.

Dink said...

There was an interesting comment on Sudden Debt awhile back. The gist of it was "isn't it weird how we can go on like everything is normal when we know it's not?". I believe it referred to impending financial collapse of the dollar, but I think its apt unsustainable lifestyles in general.

A few weeks ago I was listening to someone passionately rant about eldercare. Essentially, these "saints" should be entitled to 24 hour servants in the setting of their choice and anyone who disagreed or brought up cost was a subhuman monster. And all medical science needs to be focused on keeping them in perfect health without any inconvenience to them (such as asking to not drink a pint of vodka everyday). How dare anyone think otherwise?


Thai said...

Well said. (I am looking for the latest projections for Medicare but haven't found them. I suspect the picture is just as grim).

Please understand I also truly sympathize with the viewpoint of the need to care for our elders (it is a totally valid point of view). It is one of those "it depends" issue, nothing can ever become one of those "blank check issues", not ever.

For if the first person can't pay for their care, who is supposed to pay for it? What do we cut in order to do it?

And while it is absolutely true that there are other people who are rich enough to pay for the care of the less well off, doing so means that someone else's consumption also needs to be eliminated as the richer person stops consuming whatever they ere originally consuming in order to pay for the first person's health care. And the people who are now being paid to care for the elder person are unlikely to purchase a boat, etc...

So if the rich person was purchasing a boat, now the boat builder and his/her family looses, etc...

Always pushing off tough choices on other people means that in the end, we don't need to hold ourselves accountable- really it is just the classic evolutionary strategy of two people cooperating to conspire against someone else, etc...

Indeed, I was surprised some on Sudden Debt never read enough on my Sugarscape links to challenge me on the notion that the implications of Sugarscape were that wealth/income inequality was immutable, as Epstein found it was not, they could alter it.

But look at what kind of social policies were required in order to achieve equality.

1. Eugenics through the elimination of inheritance systems (e.g. the elimination of much diversity as we all become more alike)
2. Free trade/Lassie fair policies

In fact, I have often thought we see an interesting version of this issue right now in the national debate on health care for the elderly.

For if the elderly were required to pay for their care themselves AND could fully pass their money on to their heirs (vs. give it to unrelated people via. (say) inheritance taxation of wealth), there would be a stronger incentive to save and pass on to future generations.

But if the elderly are allowed to have someone else pay for it AND we tell them that whatever they have left goes to strangers, they would just rather use it on themselves.

This achieves Epstein's goal of reducing inequality.

But it also has the net effect of reducing societal savings. And of course, the biggest economic issue America/Europe faces is we the fact that we need to go abroad and borrow funds to maintain our consumption- e.g. we do not save enough.

I have no answer for all this. I really do sympathize with all sides of the issue.

I just see we live in interesting times.

... Of course, being that I see fractals everywhere, I think we have probably always lived in interesting times.


Debra said...

Thai, my son starts a stint in gynecology in two weeks. I have told him that I would like to sit down and have a little talk with him before he starts seeing... patients.
He thinks that I'm going to lecture him, or chew him out, but... NOT AT ALL.
I'm going to tell him about...lots of different experiences. Like... when the ecograph DURING my first miscarriage on the eve of the three month waiting period that allows you to ascertain IF the pregnancy is going to continue kept me waiting with a full bladder for an hour in the waiting room, looked at my with disgust when my bladder was too full, and then promptly proceeded to tell me that there was no baby.
Sounds a little bit like... "terminating" a fetus, right ? LANGUAGE IS EVERYTHING. Telling a woman who has been pregnant for three months that there is NO baby is.... criminal in my book.
Or... what about my best friend who, at the time of HER miscarriage was stuck into a room with... a woman who had an abortion ???
Have any idea of how YOU would feel about it ?
LANGUAGE IS EVERYTHING. Dealing with these issues with tact, circumspection and empathy is quite different from... talking like a textbook AT people.
I have a big chip on my shoulder about the manner in which a PHALLIC medical system has confiscated childbirth, contraception (which has existed for a long time now, you guys, much longer than our exceptionalism would lead you to believe...) from women. It gets me all riled.
I did not say that pain helps us to maintain self identity. I DID say that Mother Nature MUST HAVE built a pain element into even the most "primitive" entities, and certainly into insects, because pain is an essential factor in the preservation of the individual, and thus the species. Pain goes together with corporal limit, and is intimately associated with it.
Abortion has introduced any number of by issues that it hides. For example... the existence and the possibility of abortion leads us down the primrose path of thinking that every child born is a child who has been desired. But... careful observation shows that this is NOT true.
And the adults who know, or think that they were not desired at birth are in a somewhat awkward position. Like... I wouldn't be here now if Mom had got that abortion she wanted, or was thinking about.
This hits hard at the idea that... an unwanted child will necessarily be abused. But this is not necessarily true either. Because SOME women, extremely ambivalent about their pregnancy, will.. adopt their baby at birth, or after. (By adopt, I mean, become attached to...) Others... will not.
But how many "productive", happy people are alive who weren't planned, or even wanted ?
This is a really complicated issue which is treated in a simplistic manner in American society at this time.

Thai said...

Deb re: "LANGUAGE IS EVERYTHING. Dealing with these issues with tact, circumspection and empathy..."

I couldn't agree more.

... Although I might add that I have found that when it comes to some discussions such as end of life issues, etc... where the risks of a misunderstanding are simply too great to ignore, sometimes we have to fall back on very blunt/tactless discussions to make sure everyone is on the same page.

For tact also requires an astute listener and in very difficult situations, most of us lose some of our acuity.

As for difficult scenarios arising in medicine such as the ones you alluded to, I could not agree more.

But understand the system is trying to be all things for all people and there are always trade offs with this kind of model.

We could make the system more specialized, so that it does a better job for different issues, but we both know there would be other trade offs in other ways.

On any given shift, the person with a miscarriage can walk in the door at exactly the same time as everyone else (like the stabbing) and there are only so many rooms to see people in, so many providers to care for people, etc...

We could build more rooms, hire more doctors (or midwives or whatever we wanted), but that would cost other resources.

Or we could use the resources we have but simply cut consumption in other ways (my own personal preference on how to solve the health care problem) but that too has its trade offs as well.

Manifolds trapped within manifolds.

We are all prisoner's of the collective in the end in every imaginable way we can think of.

Thai said...

And Dink, re: the hot air link and social security.

I am not condoning that link for everything (there are many things on that site I disagree with), I am simply using it as it was simply the best link I could find for the point I was trying to make.

I don't really tend to have a particular political affiliation, though I have to say I have almost always voted democratic as I am not a fan of the lifestyle restrictions posed by conservatives.

I just agree with them that if we want to live whatever lifestyle we want to live, we have to be willing to accept the consequences (if they require others to step in) and not push them off on others.

And I understand that is issue is obviously a slippery slope (or rabbit hole) so to speak.

Thai said...

Take this issue for instance.

Smoke away, honest.

But don't think that a lot of tragedy will not be caused in some cases.

Like all things in life it is a non-linear issue.

The majority of people will be able to smoke marijuana without significant personal consequences, but a small number (which will increase as availability increases) will waste their life away and if they have kids, there will be lots of absenteeism parenting, etc...

AND yes Deb, I agree kids are more resilient than we give credit or the human race would have died off years ago.

Thai said...

And Deb re: "But... if you say this, then... how can you be a GOOD DARWINIAN like you think you are ???"

I don't buy this at all.

I think the problem is that you and your fellow friends who discuss Darwinianism are not also scientists.

Everything is energy

Debra said...

Thai, on your last point, I think that you read me too quickly...
I said that my friends THINK that they are Darwinists SIMPLY because they believe in evolution.
But... if they maintain human exceptionalism in another ideological compartment, then they are not the Darwinists they think they are.
You MUST agree with me Thai, on the basis of your theory, that... our beliefs are like a coin which has been tossed, and has landed. We see the face which is pointing up. We DO NOT SEE (is this an absolute ? I'm not sure...) the face which is pointing down. But it is not because we don't see the face pointing down that it has no effect, or implications. As a matter of fact, the face pointing down organizes our ideological blind spots, our... naiveté, if you will. Every belief system organizes a concomittant naiveté. Even the belief system in manifolds.
Reading your comment on scientific/literary thought induces me to believe/think that you have organized a form of... exceptionalism for SCIENTISTS, Thai, as though THEY are not caught up in the belief problem.
I don't BELIEVE that for one minute...
One last point : the position which WE/YOU have organized in the "assumption" that we/you see all those manifolds is called the...
OMNISCIENT point of view in literary analysis.
Philosophical analysis would suggest that... the omniscient point of view is one that is traditionally attributed to... GOD, and barred from man.
God is definitely a very, very useful construct. "HE" has his advantages, and his disadvantages...
For practical purposes, what do we DO with a theory that makes visible to our own eyes the seemingly endless possibilities, disadvantages, advantages of any individual, given action and thus acts as an inhibiting factor in our possibility of acting ?
Does this theory give me guidance in the individual choices that I HAVE TO make in my daily life, some of them very difficult ?
And... if it doesn't give me guidance, then... what is it GOOD for, to use that materialistic expression that I sometimes decry here ?
Is its elegance sufficient to justify the disadvantages that it secretes ?
And... if it leads me to despair, then I can say that it truly is not good ... can't I ?
Taking God's plane out of OUR existence has implications and repercussions that we NEVER imagined, I fear...
I say this under the assumption that... God is another name that we call OURSELVES, a facet of ourselves that we put on another level for REASONS that are as obscure to us now as they ever have been. But phrasing the question this way definitely marks MY beliefs...

Thai said...

Deb, I definitely agree

Dink said...

"I am looking for the latest projections for Medicare but haven't found them. I suspect the picture is just as grim"

I seem to remember something along the lines that dialysis costs alone will soon engulf Medicare. And besides costwise, there simply won't be enough machines or people to compentently operate them.

"... Of course, being that I see fractals everywhere, I think we have probably always lived in interesting times."

On the individual manifold, sure. But on an Earth-bound species manifold things seem perhaps way too damn interesting.

"Or... what about my best friend who, at the time of HER miscarriage was stuck into a room with... a woman who had an abortion"

Well, the problem with personal anecdotes to support an argument is the risk that when the other side is disagreeing with the concept the person may take it as a personal attack. So with as much tact as I can create, I'll say that I am sorry for every person's individual type of suffering, but we need to acknowledge that there are other types of suffering possible.

"We are all prisoner's of the collective in the end in every imaginable way we can think of"


"I have almost always voted democratic as I am not a fan of the lifestyle restrictions posed by conservatives"

Me too, but I swear if the Dems don't get their %^&# together I'm voting 3rd party next time.

"the omniscient point of view is one that is traditionally attributed to... GOD, and barred from man."

Certain men say that they speak for God though. And that we have to obey them by proxy. They create a false authority. It never seems to end well.

Thai said...

Kind of a cool link along the Darwinian thread

Debra said...

YES YES YES, on the link, Thai.
Let's have fun dissecting its... IDEOLOGICAL implications. A quick look enables you to pick out the other side of the coin, remember, the naiveté that I talked about earlier.
We have a theory ABOUT natural selection that we give lip service too, but... in some obscure way, the "fact" that we have observed the process of natural selection at work induces at the same time... the idea that WE are an exception from natural selection.
The science itself is uninteresting, because... if you BELIEVE in natural selection, then.. LOGICALLY, OF COURSE we are still evolving, we have always been evolving BECAUSE WE ARE PART OF THE SYSTEM. And... announcing that scientists have observed that we are still evolving is.. kind of comical, right ?
The effects of sticking "the problem" outside, constituting it as an OBJECT in order to be able to study it ?
Exceptionalism is the name of the game. It traverses ANY AND ALL ideological constructs. It is behind the enormous modern resistance to the idea of... original sin. And... in the religious framework, its name is... PRIDE.

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits