LibertyPosted by David McDonagh Thu, January 08, 2015 14:38:38
The long swansong
Satire is the chief enemy of Islam in those swan song days of its
prelude before its “death” in the form it has been hitherto, but, its new life,
after this “death”, a new life as a normal bourgeois religion is slowly
emerging before our eyes.
This normalisation is what its adherents have long dreaded, and many
Muslims still dread it today, but most of Islam’s younger members, especially
the males have already been there since about 1970. It was clear that many teenaged
males, and also older males, in their twenties, were drinking beer on par with
the UK natives in public houses, or pubs, by the late 1960s, yet that alcohol
consumption is a great departure from Islam, even though mosques were, back then
in the early 1970s, springing up as though the creed was growing rather than
Most of the many UK mosques, maybe, date from the early 1970s; a lot
certainly do. But by 2070, they will most likely be closing UK mosques more
rapidly than they are the forsaken Christian churches in the UK today.
This normalisation of Islam is a cultural tide that many Muslims still
wish they could roll back. That is what the Rushdie affair of the 1980s was
about and it is what the attack on the magazine offices of Charlie Hebdo
in Paris yesterday, Wednesday, 7 January 2015, was about too.
Twelve people were killed in the attack on the magazine offices to get
revenge for targeting Islam in their cartoons. Eight were journalists and four
others, including two policemen were also killed. Eleven others were injured; a
few were reported by the BBC as badly so.
The reaction will only enhance the felt need for most Muslims to conform
to French normality. A few more Muslims might join the jihad to try to protect
Islam as it still is, but way more will want to conform to religious normality as
a result. So, ironically, the cultural tide they seek to resist will be boosted
by their resistance. Such jihad resistance can only effectively score own
goals, even if they do also recruit a few to aid them in the short run.
Cherif and Said Kouachi are said to be the main two attackers on the
magazine yesterday. They are now on the run, but still armed. Cherif Kouachi
was sentenced to three years in gaol, back in 2008, for recruiting jihadist
fighters to go to Iraq from Paris. Yesterday,
Hamyd Mourad, 18, on hearing his name on the news, handed himself in to a
police station in Charleville-Mezieres. So he is already keen to conform. That
indicates that even the very committed may soon drop out, owing to this sort of
The magazine's office had been earlier firebombed in 2011. It had been a
long running aim of the staff of the magazine to deliberately normalise Islam.
Bystanders yesterday reported that the gunmen shouted in the street as
they made their getaway, saying "we have avenged the Prophet
Muhammad" , "we killed Charlie Hebdo", and "God is Great" [in Arabic] too, but
if they have killed off this particular magazine, many new ones are highly
likely to arise to further satirise Islam. The aim of Charlie Hebdo
staff to normalise Islam looks unstoppable, even if the magazine itself now
PoliticsPosted by David McDonagh Sun, January 04, 2015 10:56:23
Why do people think politics
are a sign of concern but the market is not? Most people seem to have no idea
of what politics is. Many people, especially many students, feel all we do is
political but this is a de facto, if
unwitting, totalitarian outlook.
So when the state
spreads into fresh aspects of life, like trying to stop people smoking, or to
slim down, the de facto totalitarians
feel those zones were/are political already, as all that we do is somehow
political. So they feel the state need not be limited.
Politics is state
action in the main, though the state has a few rivals, like the coercive bodies
that we call Trade Unions. Politics is not just free decisions that affect
others but rather it is forceful or coercive action against others. Coercion is
the realistic threat of force or open violence; not mere speech about imaginary
force. The state has it. Some Trade Unions have it. Firms usually lack it
entirely. But a few firms in the past, maybe, had the use of coercion and thus they
A free market can
only emerge once the state ceases to exist. Many hold we cannot have a
free market. A lot of the LA members are such, as were most classical liberals;
but no anarchist agrees to that. Most liberals thought the state was a good
thing but they held that it is best to keep it to doing only a few things, like
keeping law and order.
The market gives the people way more control than politics ever could but
not over but rather in society. It is not central control that most might first
think of but rather it is polycentric control over our own affairs. David
Ricardo erred badly in comparing the use of money to votes, an inept
comparison that is still used in economics books today. If money was like votes
we would all be dead. Churchill was haply right to say that democracy was the
best form politics but it is still crass politics thus it is still illiberal
coercive action against other people. Thus politics is anti-social, not caring for
others, as fools feel to be the case. It is the jackboot, even when on the feet
of basically well-meaning people.
Many free decisions do
affect other people but they have no threat of force or violence, so they are
not political. Politics is about using force against other people. Politics is gratuitous
hostility towards others. It is thus very unfriendly.
Many might say that
free actions can be worse than violence might be in their impact. One foreman,
at a firm I worked for in the 1960s, used to often repeat that he would sooner
hit a man than sack him, and it was said that he had acted on this idea, often,
in the past, before I arrived, but I never saw anything like that from him;
though he was over six foot three inches tall and clearly physically fit enough to
repeat it again. In fact, he was a friendly chap but he did repeat his maxim
often. I used to reply that the sack might be better for them, but it is easy
to imagine some men who might agree with him.
This could be liberal
if he put the choice to the victim beforehand so that he could choose, but if
he assumed it, without consent, then it would be illiberal; but sacking a man
is no more illiberal than a man deciding to leave the firm. But if he is the
best worker in a small firm then it could cause the firm to decline. I recently
watched the 1950s film Hobson’s Choice (1954) that
featured that in its story line.
Most of society
[i.e. human interaction; this post is part of my society, for example] is
effectively free of coercion, thus it is apolitical. It even was such in the
late USSR; as Michael Polanyi realised, despite the mythology surrounding that
There never was a
mixed economy or a state centrally planned driven economy either. It is quite true
to say there never was a free market too, but some, not all, in the LA think
the latter will be achieved some time in the future.
Monopoly is a reason
for expecting dysfunctional activity and the state is the sole cause of actual
monopoly, and near-monopoly too. Liberty is vital for human welfare.
Where we go, how we
make a living and the like, is best left to the individuals concerned. The
state should keep out of it. That is the basic pristine and anarcho-liberal creed.
But even well before we get rid of the state, money needs to be privatised, so
the 2008 financial mess can be dodged that fools on the mass media tend to
think was caused by free market values. One man more than any other who was for
loose money was Keynes and a great liberal propagandist [as even Keynes was
once] who aided the process , especially around 1970, was Milton Friedman.
Those who the mass media speak of as free marketers are often in favour
of state regulation. The USA is in a mess today owing to the national monopoly
of money. That alone would rule out a completely free market.
HistoryPosted by David McDonagh Sat, December 27, 2014 11:56:14
It is with sorrow that I learn of the death of Allen
Phillips Griffith, or Griff as we all knew him as, in the department of
philosophy 1979-’82, at the University of Warwick; though some LA members
attended as philosophy students later than those dates. Griff was the Professor
of Philosophy there from about 1965, when the University officially opened,
till the early 1990s.
Griff was an admirer of Ludwig Wittgenstein, whom he
thought had improved philosophy greatly, allowing many things to be said way
more aptly and concisely than before this seminal philosopher had made his
contributions, as well as allowing later philosophers to express many new
Griff used to deliver an annual lecture in the
spring of every year to the students homosexual society to share a bit of
Wittgensteinian wisdom with them viz. that they never could quite fall in love,
as there was no option of marriage, a societal institution that, alone, allowed romantic love to have a
full meaning. I did recently wonder whether this lecture might have been,
finally, rendered defunct by the resent legislation, but I never did ask Griff
if he thought that was now the case.
After his, to
me at least, surprise conversion to Roman Catholicism in the mid-‘80s, he
exclaimed, echoing a celebrated question of Wittgenstein, when I went to see
him to ask why he had converted from atheism, that it was no different
metaphysically. I always thought, and I still tend to do so, that the world
would look very different if it did happen to have a caring creator. It would
then not look as it does now.
Griff was not very much impressed by recent
Continental Philosophy and the day after hearing Jacques Derrida give an
evening talk in London, in the early 1980s, he expressed his disapproval to an
early morning philosophy class that he took back at the University of Warwick
the next day.
Griff attended a few of the student’s University of
Warwick Debating Society’s lunchtime and
also the evening debates, and also he gave a talk at one LA meeting in London
in the late 1980s at the LSE, before he retired. However, he felt that it was
too far to travel from Nottingham, where he moved to on retiring from the
University in the early 1990s, to once again address the LA in London.
Griff found a home in the Tory, or the UK Conservative,
Party early on, but he often said that he was a Tory anarchist, maybe being
influenced by some of Edmund Burke’s early writings in imitation of Robert
For a long time, Griff championed the writings of
Joseph Butler in ethics.
It is sad to think that Griff is no longer with us.
SciencePosted by David McDonagh Mon, October 20, 2014 16:58:01
will never be settled.
This “defence” of science by Jonathan Bines is often
very bigoted and quite stupid. Science needs no actual defence, as common sense
accepts it as a vital corrective, but what this rather stupid fool feels about
science is not very realistic. He is in the right day job as a comic; at least
in the short run. But his real quest is not really to defend science but to get
his readers to think it right to adopt Green policies on Global Warming, or
otherwise we reject the whole of science he concludes, but that is simply silly
as science never can be about any policy but only about the external facts; or
the way how things are. As the Stoics saw 2500 years ago, no policy follows
from how things are.
Many people credit science for what technology does,
but technology will not wait for science, any more than science will wait for
philosophy. Science remains nearer to philosophy than to practical technology,
but technology would destroy society with white elephants if ever the price
system did not tame or control it. This comic needs to thank the market for
many things he feels science grants the human race.
Indeed, scientists have been
wrong in the past and thus should not be trusted now. Science is about testing
our ideas rather than trusting them. Trust belongs to dogma and religion. Trust
is about values rather than the external facts.
Indeed, scientists are biased by
personal prejudices that they might call assumptions or hypotheses. Bias does
Financial incentives and costs aid
science as well as technology to remain realistic. Common sense is bigoted
about money, a far great invention than fire or the wheel. The compulsory
educated bigot has trouble with this, as daft religion rejects this world for
Scientists often do aim at
personal or professional success. But success is not always in term of money.
Some scientists have been secretive as they feel in dire competition or in a
race with other scientists, but many have not been such. Most presentations of
the discovery of oxygen holds Joseph Priestley as naïve in showing Lavoisier the experiments where he discovered
de-phlogisticated air, that Lavoisier later called oxygen, but Priestley felt
he needed to aid anyone to test the experiments as soon as possible, that
science was team work and that his own prestige did not matter very much.
Scientific ideas are always
threated as if suspect. To be in science is to be re-tested. Science is never
Particular scientists often feel
quite certain. Science seems far more of a flux than it actually is, as there
is a diversity of ideas in science. Scientific journals, like Nature, reflect this diversity far more
than science, as a whole, making progress or moving on.
We do not have to accept science.
We are free to discount it if we wish to do so; but most of us will not do that
Science is more like organised or
disciplined common sense than another way of knowing that should be given
primacy over other rival ways, such as intuitive knowledge or personal
experience. Any scientist will use intuition or personal experience if it looks
scientifically useful, of course.
disagree with the consensus view in some things or to some extent and there is
no way to assess who is right when two scientists both have a good case. Such
deputes can continue for decades. But often evidence emerges that refutes a
strong theory like phlogiston and then the refuted theory gets universally
rejected. But this may be reversed later on. Science is never likely to ever be
an ended quest for the truth but rather a quest that continues, as Popper said.
Consensus simply does not matter very much. This is a fact about science that
makes the recent attempt to abuse science by the backward Greens look silly.
The democratic theory of truth is not one iota scientific.
has aided science way more than science can ever hope to aid technology.
make many dysfunctional suggestions that tend to waste wealth. The state needs
to be rolled back or even dissolved entirely. State policy is anti-social.
critique is a criticism limited to the terms of the target but most criticism
will never be so limited, nor need it be. The fashionable abuse of the word
“critique” is very silly. It is a sign of an ignoramus i.e. of someone who
needs to master his brief.
works”? What does that mean? It looks like a solecism. My best guess is that
the fool means that technology works. Science is nearer to literature than it
is to technology.
told that science explains things but that looks like a personification of
science. Only persons explain. Sure, enquiry often leads to knowledge but that
is not really informative. Scientific enquiry is a pleonasm. Any enquiry can
be, roughly, called scientific.
author gets better on science as a process of re-testing thus:
“Science is able to achieve its
results by following a rigorous method of investigation involving the creation
and testing of hypotheses against observational evidence. At every stage, these
hypotheses are subjected to intense challenge. First, they are tested through
the process of scientific research. Then through the process of publication and
peer review they are subjected to challenge by the larger scientific community.
After publication, they continue to be challenged, corroborated, modified, or
refined by new research and new hypotheses. Science that has withstood this
onslaught of skepticism is seen to be accurate and trustworthy, and
consequently it earns the backing of a consensus of practicing scientists.”
That is not too bad. The process
of testing never ends, though we are told that it does. But then it declines
into the following:
“Because science is based on such
a strong foundation of evidence and analytical rigor, anyone who would
challenge science, particularly well-established science such as that on
evolution, climate, or vaccines (or, for that matter, gravitation and quantum
mechanics), rightly faces a very high burden of proof, a burden which most
science skeptics fail even to acknowledge, much less satisfy. “
But as the author told us,
scientists will be forever re-testing the ideas that remain within science.
Ideas can only escape reconsideration by being rejected by science. There is no
store of established science, free of future re-testing thus there is no real
foundation in science. Nor is science ever really finally established or
settled. Scepticism always re-enters science.
Our author continues:
“Science cannot be refuted by
appeals to intuition or personal experience, attacks on the character or
motivations of scientists, accusations of institutional bias, or by
"cherry-picking" a particular authority figure, alternative theory,
or research study.”
Ad hominem attacks
on mere persons are out but cherry picking is not, nor is intuition. They will just need to be presented as
hypotheses, that is all. They will face
attempted refutation, of course.
“It cannot be denied because it is
inconvenient, or because one dislikes the policy implications. “
Science can never have policy
implications. Science is about facts, not values.
“It cannot be dismissed on
supernatural grounds or through suggestions of conspiracy.”
Not within science, but this is
often done by the various Christian groups.
“It cannot be undermined by dreaming up
alternative hypotheses (unsupported by strong evidence), or by pointing to
remaining uncertainties in the established theory.”
There is no epistemological
support. No true observation can amount to anything stronger than a mere
assumption; nor can valid argument. So no hypothesis has ever been supported by
any evidence the last 2500 years, nor is the next 2500 years likely to find any
supporting evidence either.
“All these are utterly inconsequential as
refutations -- not because scientists "know better" than the rest of
us -- but simply because they fail to convincingly meet the burden of proof.”
Proof is best left to geometry
and logic. A true counter example refutes. The acceptability of that fact by
qualified scientists is not one whit germane to the de facto refutation.
Scientists are free to deny the facts.
If they are ignorant then they might well do exactly that. The status of
the observer does not matter to any fact. And science cannot make or change
facts, nor is scientific consensus germane to any fact. Scientists face what
the philosophers call the epistemological problem, which is dire, so that is
why the scientists never stop testing in their unended quest for those facts
that, by their current enquires, they consider to be germane.
Science is not about the acceptance
of anything, it is about testing as best as we can.
continues: “Science works, and so we accept
its findings -- not because we have "faith" in them or because they
are perfect -- but because in an uncertain world, we wish to use the best
available information to solve our problems, improve our condition, and
understand our situation.”
But most of the general public do
not know what current science holds on this or that, and even many scientists
do not know other aspects of science that are outside of their own domain all
too often. The division of labour makes experts of us all, but also laymen of us
all too. There is no end of things that
we should know, and quite a few that we once did know, but have forgotten. Science
works but it continues to work, it does not even settle factual accounts beyond
future revision and remains utterly indifferent to policy and politics.
is right that there is no faith in science and I would say there is none in
religion either, as the mind re-thinks much as science does, but subjectively,
tacitly and without the open public testing and attempted replication by
different teams which is attempted refutation too.
Ideas are never
sacred in science, or they should not be, but they are in religion but then
religion is about what is valued as sacred rather than what is believed or
thought to be the case. By contrast, science is profane; so is the reality
principle that is human belief. Loyalty is alien to belief and it should be to
science too. Loyalty is for people not for mere ideas. Some people may, or they
may not, accept the findings of science. It is not going to affect science any
more than science can affect the facts.
But what about
the funding of science, who will fund it? Science cannot affect the facts but the
funding of science might be neglected if it becomes unpopular, and there has
been a lowering of the prestige of science with the recent controversies like
mad cow disease or Creutzfeldt–Jakob
disease [vCJD] a human variant of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy that the cows had that spread by prions that were jinxed
proteins that had the ability to spread their jinx to the ordinary proteins of first
some cows then later some humans too.
Science lost public prestige in that vCJD affair and it is being repeated
in the current Global Warming affair too but it is not likely to lead to a permanent
lack of funding in science for more research, as some Greens have told me they
fear will be the case, for enquiry will always be needed, whether science is
popular or not. Charities and firms will most likely provide funds if the state
does not. That might be better than state funding. It would be freer for sure.
Bines feels that science means we all ought to accept this or that: “ This means, in the year 2014,
accepting the current scientific consensus that vaccines are well-understood,
safe, and effective. It means accepting the current scientific consensus that
humans are causing the climate to change through the emission of atmospheric
carbon and other greenhouse gasses with results that will almost certainly
range from bad to catastrophic. It means accepting the current scientific
consensus that evolution through natural selection is the theory most likely to
describe observed biological diversity at all levels from DNA to species,
including human beings.” But most of that is what they used to call “academic”
in the 1960s, so most people are completely indifferent to it and it simply
does not interest them. Does that mean that science is not working as far as Jonathan Bines is
concerned or is it rather that it hardly affects science much whether most
people know about it or not. The latter looks to be basically the case.
Bines wants science to have way more authority than it ever did have in the
past and he seems to overlook, too, that science, since the founding of the
Royal Society, in the 1660s, wants to reject authority not to crave after it. The
scientific motto is “take nobody’s word for it.”
But then Jonathan
Bines changes his tune. He says:
“Certainly, we should maintain a ‘healthy
skepticism,’” but then he immediately changes again thus: “but we should focus that
skepticism, not on the science, but rather on the claims of those who profess
to be in possession of some special knowledge or authority outside of the
formal scientific process.”
Traditionally, science welcomes
scepticism on the science too. But any idea, sceptical or otherwise, is good
enough to go on with. But to get it tested in science it needs to be testable.
If it is not capable of being tested it is not yet scientific. But to test is
to attempt to eliminate false ideas. Science is out to reject ideas as false.
But it is particularly not the case that if it passes a test then we must
thereby accept it. Instead, science will test it again.
Science rules out religion in
hypotheses to be tested but not religious adherents in science. Their religious
opinions do not keep the religious out of science, so the various religious
groups can, often, get qualified scientists to join them, and to occasionally speak
A public indifference to science
is not to reject science but simply not to accept it. This has not harmed science
much up to now, but the comic, Jonathan Bines, seems to be more of a Green than a
scientist, and the Greens, even if they are right, have been abusing science of
late and that is what Jonathan Bines is doing in his pretended defence of
science. He is attempting to get it to endorse Green policy.
He concludes: “ To do otherwise would be to
deprive ourselves of the greatest tool for human advancement mankind has ever
known, at exactly the time when such a tool is needed most.” But, clearly, despite
the public being more sceptical of what they roughly think of as science than
ever, owing to the vCJD affair and the like, science is not in trouble today,
let alone being abandoned. What Jonathan Bines seems to want is a Green
agenda but no policy agenda whatsoever could ever quite be scientific.
PsychologyPosted by David McDonagh Tue, October 14, 2014 16:38:22
The fact that humans are always free to deny any fact or collection of
facts, but not even one person is, ever, free to believe whatever they like.
This article is basically a reply to the blogger Mark Hoofnagle on
deniers that is at the end of the link above. It is an attempt to dismiss those
he disagrees with without giving whatever they say any proper consideration. He
seems to have it in for propagandists, as so many people do, but especially
those he calls deniers. But this concept is an excuse not to debate with those
he wants to dismiss.
We can say what we like but never quite believe as we like. Belief is
not a human action but rather it is an ephemeral state of mind. Belief is only of the live mind, so it is not
like knowledge in that respect. We may know something that we cannot immediately
recall but that we might recall in about an hour, or maybe even a day later,
but belief is what we think is the case just now, at the present moment, and it
involves a fresh take, or a fresh judgment, on the world. Thus all belief is a
slight test of what there is out there.
There is not ever any stable belief i.e. there is nothing even remotely
like Popper thought was faith. Popper was utterly deluded on that rather stupid
idea of mental stability. What allows people to reproduce contents similar to
their past beliefs in their current beliefs, now, is the common external world
itself moreso than the dendrites in our brains, though the latter have some
input too. The air we breathe in is similar in content to earlier air we used,
owing to what is external too, but there is more input of our assumptions into any
belief than there is in the air we breathe in.
However, no actual belief can last longer that a fresh in-take of air.
As we use air to refresh the blood so we, similarly, use belief, mainly in
current action, or activity, that needs
to be re-checked by our senses to check how we are managing with anything that
we attempt to do, but any ephemeral belief-take will also spill over into
theoretical abstract things too. Belief is to do with activity but many things
we believe, most of which we suppose is on the horizon whenever that is in
view, for example, might never be acted on by ourselves. However, any belief is
going to be mainly used up in doing whatever we do e.g. we need to refresh it,
by use of our senses, just to see whatever we are doing at any one time. Anyone
blind person will be clearly handicapped in that respect, in all they do, for
they will not be able to check whatever they want to do by the use of their
Some authors that Mark Hoofnagle is concerned with have written books
denying the link between HIV and AIDS but I have not read any such book.
Karl Popper was right to hold that mere belief was not really germane to
science, though he did, unwittingly, allow it in when he went on about honesty
in science, which he associated with rationality.
Popper might also have noticed that belief is an excellent heuristic.
Also, he might have noted that conjectures, also are not automatically right,
no more than are our automatic beliefs, which also have the logical status of
mere assumptions, so both equally risk error. However, the rule of assumptions
in logic is that any assumption will allow us to make a beginning. Mistakes in
the logic can only arise later. But the assumption might well be false, of
course. Logic is about validity rather than directly about the truth.
However, Popper was roughly right to try to keep belief largely out of
science; that science was to do with the objective account [that he called
world three, or W3, which is objective] rather than only of what we have in
mind [that he called world two, or W2, which is subjective]. Popper was right
to attempt to shun subjectivity. He was also right that belief in pseudoscience
is not germane to science either. Any conjecture will do to begin from. Science
is ideally open to one and all. It tends to ignore the Irishman who says: “If I
were you then I would not start from here!” We can start from almost
anywhere. It hardly matters where we are
However, like DRS, I am very keen on belief. I think most people tend to
conflate beliefs and values. The English language conflates those two aspects
of the mind. In the philosophy of religion, the difference is made in a common
distinction between “believe in” [i.e. value] and “believe that” [i.e. think is
the case]. Beliefs are only just what seem to be the facts to the believer at
any one time.
It is our values that mainly motivate us. We act mainly on our values
but belief serves the passions but yet it is not quite the slave of them, as
Hume said, for our beliefs have no fear of our values and what we believe never
However, I think Hume was basically right.
Oddly, David Hume was the one author that Marx was not very hostile to,
and that is what led me to read Hume in 1968. I found him roughly right then,
as I still do now, but his terminology seemed exceedingly inept, especially as
Locke, Berkeley and Hume himself mainly had only a verbal difference in their
revision of what Thomas Hobbes said in his 1651 book. The terminology still
does look to be very inept. In particular, what Hume calls irrational looks
most rational to me, including all our automatic beliefs. The daft dogma that
rationality requires choice, that Hume seemed to have adopted, seems to
obfuscate reality for anyone at all who adopts it.
My prelude above is to the consideration of what Mark Hoofnagle says on
the quite false meme of denialism, false as it holds that humans can decide
whatever they believe when no animal, let alone no human, ever can. Belief is a
reality principle in animals, as it is practical feedback from the world as to
whether the animal is safe, or not, as well as being a practical need for
whatever the animal wants to do. Belief cannot flatter, nor can it be
controlled. Natural selection would have soon seen off whimsical choice in
belief. It would have crowded out the need we have to see what we are doing, as
well as if we are out of likely danger from predators at any one time. A
reality principle, such as belief, will be a prerequisite of any animal
But backward psychology seeks to serve what Francis Bacon called false
idols [i.e. pigheaded memes, like denialism, that seems to satisfy the holders
as an end rather than enlightening them about reality; they are basically
expletives that refer to nothing real: constituted blanks] rather than looking
at how humans actually are. Brain science is very similar.
Popper held that science was about testing. This looks, on the face of
it, the opposite of trust, but Mark Hoofnagle is moaning that those he calls
deniers lack trust. But what has trust got to do with it? We need to test
theories rather than to trust people in science. It does not really matter much
if ever we lack trust. We test ideas as if we do not trust them at all.
We are told that conspiracy theories are down to a lack of trust on the
part of the people who adopt them; that such people also suspect a plot on the
part of the authorities against the public.
That there may be such plots would not surprise me but I would not
normally expect them to be effective. I do not doubt that corruption is fairly
common, but presumably most organisations check for it. So most corruption
fails to have much special or particular impact, though it will be a factor in
the normal costs of firms, I suppose.
The idea that conspiracy theorists are paranoid looks not only false but
also quite inept. I have spoken to many such propagandists since 1968 and I
have never seen a sign that any of them were even slightly paranoid. That
latter is a very personal disposition but conspiracy propagandists seem to
adopt an external paradigm that is not at all related to the type of person they
happen to be but rather to the world as their theoretical account would have
Ideally, any such conspiracy theories would boost science but in fact it
seems that not many conspiracy theorists follow up the theory as much as one
might expect them to do. Nor do those people they talk to seem to study
science, or history, or whatever, as a result. In that, the conspiracy are
propagandists not like the normal religious or political propagandists, who
more often do seem follow up their ideas in reading books on the topics in
question a bit more, even if those people they speak to still do not usually
But paranoids do not think to ever be fair to their imagined enemies at
all but rather feel as sure and as fearful of them as a normal person would be
of an escaped tiger from the local zoo.
This analogy of conspiracy theorists to actual paranoids by Mark
Hoofnagle looks completely inept to me. He seems to want to abuse the
propagandists rather than to try to explain them with this analogy.
I ought to confess that I am a propagandist myself. I never did feel
they were abnormal, no more than those who like going fishing or who indulge in
any other intellectual interest or hobby; though I suppose that most
propagandists would feel what they do is way more important than just a hobby.
I became one in 1968 but I guess I did like them way before then. In 1962 I
discovered that I not only did not believe in the Catholic creed of my parents,
and the adults in general during my first ten years, but also that I never had
believed it. I was just confused on belief in my early years. To say I believed
in the Catholic creed seemed to be the correct answer when questioned but I
never checked my actual beliefs prior to giving that supposedly correct answer.
I have ever since tended to think since that most, if not all, of the nominally
religious no more believed it than I ever did.
However, I never did like the creed very much in my early years and most
of my peers, from 1962 onwards, seemed to value the creed more than I ever did.
But not one became a propagandist for it, as far as I know. I immediately
became a minor propagandist against it but I was keener on athletics than on
propaganda up till 1968. All athletics are enthusiasts, or fanatics. I
transferred my enthusiasm for exercise to reading in 1968.
Whenever Bertrand Russell runs down fanatics, as he repeatedly does in
many of his books, I always tend to think that the author himself was also
something of a fanatic. Surely they are only dangerous if they aim to do
dangerous things. Most athletes are harmless despite being quite fanatical, for
example. Most murderers do not seem to be fanatical but they do seem to be out
to be harmful anyway.
Paranoids do tend to think they are way more important to other people
than a normal person would do, especially to their imagined enemies, but they
do not, particularly, claim special knowledge any more than most people do. Mark
Hoofnagle seems to simply err there, in claiming that they do. We all do assume
we know some things that others do not, and much of what we say to others is
exactly to share some of this information with them, but Mark Hoofnagle
attempts to say this is a paranoiac trait, and to then smear the conspiracy
theorists/ propagandists with being paranoid.
David Shpairo is cited as holding similar ideas, but there is no safety
in numbers whenever one simply gets it wrong.
No one at all can willingly, or deliberately, overlook facts. No
paranoid, even remotely, attempts to do that, even though they feel, quite
strongly, that those individuals who they have supposed to be their enemies
truly are their enemies. Paranoids do not, usually, think that everyone is out
to get them. Nor do they often show disrespect for the authorities. If
anything, they are unusually trusting, the very opposite of what our blogger,
here, wants to say about the propagandists who are called deniers. Mark Hoofnagle writes as if he does not know
much about paranoids.
Some propagandists might lie about theoretical issues but, as it is so
clearly futile, my guess is that very few, if any, do, but, anyway, no one ever
believes their own lies. Self-delusion is as unrealistic as the pet meme of
denialism is, and for the same basic reason viz. we cannot choose whatever we
think is the case.
We do make assumptions to make out whatever there is out there in the
world but that is not quite the same as deliberately manipulating the opinion that
we happen to have of the world. Mark Hoofnagle gives an unrealistic spin to the
reality of how people are when he writes:
“Denialists exhibit suspicious thinking when they manipulate objective
reality to fit within their beliefs. It is true that all people are prone to
fit the world into their sense of reality, but the suspicious person distorts
reality and does so with an uncommon rigidity.”
No one has rigid beliefs. No one wilfully forms beliefs. Instead, the
actual beliefs that all people have change quite automatically as they look at
the world. Our five senses revises, and re-creates, our beliefs by the moment,
as about as often as we inhale and exhale air. We use our beliefs to do
whatever we decide to set out to do and we need to revise them to do almost
anything that we do, whilst we do it, be it to go for a walk or to make a cup
of tea or whatever.
Our belief-take is revised by the second and this is a sort of weak test
on any earlier belief. The animal belief system is a bit like Popper’s
philosophy of science, like making assumptions and then testing with a fresh panoramic
assumption-take after some activity; or conjectures and attempted refutations,
or trial and error.
What Mark Hoofnagle finds compelling in what David Shpairo says does not
look one whit realistic to me. But as I
have seen others, like Joseph Agassi, on self-deception, another myth, as both memes
say equally silly and unrealistic things, so both do seem to reflect some popular
theories about human irrationality [W3 memes] rather than the anything real
about the human mind [W2].
Mark Hoofnagle then says a few things in favour of tolerance that I can
agree with. He says the deniers are not liars in the way that they are often
said to be. They are not evil plotters; that they err rather than they
But then he says they are not worth arguing with! Why not? Because they
are trapped in their own denialism! How can that happen? We do not seem to be told. But we can guess
that he is not going to be adequate on most of this fallacy of his sheer ad
hominem fallacy dismissal of the supposed deniers. The whole idea seems to be
to attempt to dodge reasoning on Mark Hoofnagle’s part. Why does he prefer it
to just dealing with the so-called deniers openly in debate?
I think I have said enough above to expect the theory of deniers to be
false, if ever we were told. But most of the rest of what is written by Mark
Hoofnagle on probability seems to have little, if any, bearing on this topic of
Mark Hoofnagle repeats that deniers are of a certain personality type.
But the conspiracy theorists, who he says they are very similar to the deniers,
do not seem to be of any particular personality type. Nor do the religious and
political groups I have looked at since 1968, from within the organisations
that I joined and also from without with the many various rival groups to the
ones that I joined. The various propaganda organisations seem to attract all
sorts of persons; both within their branches [usually based on locality] and as
to biases between branches. Some members within a branch are more extraverted,
say, than others, and some branches are extraverted than others too, and in
personality types all paradigms seem to attract all the various psychological
types that we can find in the wider society.
I have also joined some non-ideological educational bodies, from about
1975 onwards, and they too seem to be no different from the ideological groups
just because there is no overall ideology. I have yet to meet a single person
in such groups that regard themselves, personally, as especially wrongly
treated by others or by society as a whole as Mark Hoofnagle imagines the
deniers do. They just never seem to talk about such things. With the
ideological groups, the ideology has always been held as being quite
Christian groups have been creationists, of course. Mark Hoofnagle says
those do have a different style, as he says do the Global Warming deniers. It
is ideology rather than personality that distorts their outlook with them, he
says. He seems to be, as Thomas Kuhn was, proud to find excuses not to argue
with people; thankfully Kuhn was often willing to break this bigoted principle.
I suppose this anti-debate meme, of which the meme of denial is one amongst
many excuses for, is the main reason why human progress is slowed down. I do
not like any protectionism in any case, but rather I prefer free trade but this
anti-debate outlook of Polanyi/Kuhn and it is about the acme of protectionism.
It holds progress back.
However, free speech should be free. We should not follow up
recommendations if ever we do not want to do so. We have no duty to look into
all issues that a propagandist feels to be important. The propagandist can be
content with those who do want to follow up whatever he recommends. If he does
his job well, there should be enough of them on any progressive issue.
Mark Hoofnagle feels it is wise not to argue with a propagandist, any of
which he seems to feel is going to be a crank-pot in any case. He says: “To
argue with a Dale would only make you look like the fool” where a Dale is just
some fanatical propagandist, or an enthusiast, as they might have said in the
eighteenth century. But if any such Dale makes us look silly then maybe that is
because he does know a bit more than we do on his pet topic.
As Popper said, we should learn from rather than to fear our errors. We
are all fools anyway. A fool, I presume, is someone who ought to know better
than he actually does. Well, we are all always like that anyway. We all remain
ignorant to some extent. We all should know at least a bit more than we do. What
merit is there in hiding that fact? Mark Hoofnagle does not show any merit in
his keenness to cover up the fact that he can often look silly. That is the
sort of thing that we all need to tolerate, in ourselves and in others too. But
this denier meme is intolerant rather than tolerant of others.
HistoryPosted by David McDonagh Thu, October 02, 2014 18:12:13
that war is good for society is very common. Not many economists endorse it,
but Tyler Cowen is an exception. In The New York Times 13 June 2014, he
suggested it might remedy the current sluggishness in the USA economy. He seems
to think that war can be a stimulus. There has been too much peace.
reality seems to contrast with Cowen’s thesis, as it seems to be that the wars
have cost farl too much to almost everybody, but so, too, have normal politics and, indeed, the state itself.
despite this brave outburst, the sort of libertarian who likes to conform to
the state. Like most economists, he tends to think that economics exists to aid
the state to make economic policy. He might well agree with many people,
economists and non-economists, that Alfred Marshall erred to brand the area, or
the subject matter, economics instead of leaving it labelled as “political
economy”. Keynes, whom Cowen also admires, attempted to reverse that but he failed.
war-eulogy outburst from Cowen shows
this conformity to the state, as well as being a brave anti-social message. The
state is, after all, the epitome of an anti-social institution, despite its
rather successful attempt to get large numbers of people to think it is an
obvious social boon. War is about as bad as politics gets, it is the acme of
crass politics, but even normal politics is crass. It is intrinsically
he feels that war been lacking recently, or at least, it remains low by
historical standards. He earlier supported the war in Iraq; odd for a
libertarian, as is his conformity to Keynes and the endorsement of state action.He says that he “realistically” settles for as part of the package of modern life.
He says some
headlines from Iraq recently might fool some people into thinking war is already
abundant today but he says it is tame next to the killings of the 1914 or 1939 world
wars that killed off tens of millions prior to 1950. Does he even think that
killing itself can boost growth? He later replies that the growing destruction
of war might be the thing that accounts for the current sluggish peace. But
first he continues that even the killing in Vietnam killed more off than recent
wars in the Middle East have done. All
this abundant peace makes economic growth less urgent, he declares.
not quite want to say that war improves economies, as he admits that it clearly
destroys wealth, as well as lives. He is not endorsing the Keynesian rather
popular meme, that preparing for war boosts state spending and so it puts
people back to work, either. Instead he
wants to say is what war tends to do is to aid the politicians to get things
right. Competition such as war between
states sharpens up any state so that it better aids the nation’s overall
fitness. This tends to boost the GNP. He, later, suggests that it might boost
it to 4% a year rather than the current best-hoped-for 2% a year.
If we look
back at all the innovation war has aided in history then we might realise that
a very good case can be made out for war, Cowan suggests. It might seem
repugnant, but history suggests that war is an economic boon. He feels this
case recently made out by a few historians and that it is not so easy to
says that war aided nuclear power, the computer and the modern aircraft just
as he passively accepts that the state can boost effective demand by stimulus
rather than looking at the reality that the state merely broadens demand in
such a way that the immediate result will be to lower it, overall, rather than
to increase it, despite the fact that purchasing power will be transferred to
new hands by inflation. Such a process is not likely to ever even conserve
total demand at the same level let alone boost overall demand to new a higher
level, as the Keynesians imagine. But Keynes said it, so Cowen conforms to it. He
is similar with the historians in doing that.
continues that war in the past got the USA state to push forward many new innovations along. This is what history
teaches us, he seems to say. Not for Cowen the extreme idea of Henry Ford that “history is
bunk”. But as it is written, it all too often seems to be, especially on the benefits of war.
us that the Internet was designed to conduct a nuclear exchange and Silicon
Valley too was innovated by the military. It was the late USSR that, with
Sputnik, boosted the USA to try to catch up by developing science and
technology in reaction. Here we seem to have one economist, Cowen, who much
prefers history as it is presented to him than to thinking about the opportunity
costs of whatever the state did. He admires the sheer efficiency of the
Manhattan Project but he tends to overlook that the bomb was no social boon.
makes the state efficient; Cowen seems to think, or at least to say. He feels that
Japan might wake up now that China is pressurising it with revenge for the
1930s in mind, but Western Europe lacks that sort of vital external threat.
That is why European states are so sluggish.
He seems to have forgotten the fact that they can tax so have no need to
earn their keep.
We are told
of three books by recent historians that make the case further: War! What is it Good For?(2014) Ian
Morris, War and Gold (2014) Kwasi
Kwarteng and War in
Human Civilisation (2006) Azar Gat, the last cited on which Cowen feels the
two new books are both based on.
feels the main problem with all this is that war can be so much more
destructive today. This seems like Cowen himself is waking up to the weakness of his new shocking thesis.
So it is not
the useful as a means of getting out of economic stagnation that it used to be,
after all. Cowen feels that we are in a trade-off between more growth with war
in exchange for less growth with peace. This latter option brings Politically Correct things like
tolerance for minorities and sometime persecuted groups. Cowen reflects that
this might be the better result than more growth and war together might bring. He
somewhat returns to normality at the end of his article.
Cowen is over impressed with the GNP in any case, just as he is with Keynes. A
lot that passes for economic growth looks like a misnomer, as adding the costs
of the funeral services of tragic victims of road accidents makes for a higher
GNP out of clear losses. Nearly every economics textbook lists some of the many anomalies with the meme of GNP.
clearly an all-round risk to people that generally reverses economic well-being,
and that should be as clear to Cowen as is the nose on his face. As a critic of
economics rather than an economist, it seems to me that Cowen ought to attempt weigh
up, by opportunity cost, what the backward historians say rather than to accept
whatever happened as what best needed to
happen, at least to a far greater extent than he seems to have done.
Current AffairsPosted by David McDonagh Tue, September 02, 2014 20:53:27
I criticise the above below.
But immediately below is a link to a talk that David Ramsay Steele recently
gave on Orwell.
His book on Orwell might well
be out soon.
How mediocre was George Orwell?
George Orwell was no
philosopher, or thinker, but rather he was a follower of Bertrand Russell.
However, he was certainly a master of the English language. He might not
have often been very informative, but even when he wrote on making a cup of
tea, his prose was well worth reading, even if nothing much could be learnt
from what he wrote.
Like so many others, it was
all too easy for me to soon read all the main things he wrote in the 1960s. His
surviving wife brought out his collected journalism in four volumes in 1969.
All four have been widely read.
Daft Will Self picks on
Orwell’s ideas of writing to criticise or to reject. This is certainly Orwell’s
strong point. But in clear and readable writing Orwell has few rivals. This is
why he continues to be read. Oddly, in this attack, Will Self confesses to
being an avid reader of Orwell’s. He finds the books can be returned to again
and again. How many others can he say that of? It does not occur to daft Self
to ask why that is, if it is to be truthfully said to be mediocre. Presumably,
it is because he finds the writing to be good, rather than mediocre. He even
explicitly admits that he likes the style. But then the love of paradox leads
daft Self to say that it is the good style that makes Orwell a mediocrity but
the likes of Self rarely can see the difference between the sort of paradox
that is logically valid but merely clashes with common sense only, that can be
true, and the intrinsically absurd such as he employs here in saying readable
prose is a sign of mediocrity. It is plainly a sign of excellence. The plain
fact is that Orwell was an excellent writer. Hence his success as a writer.
Self confounds his folly
further by saying that Orwell had a particular genius in his prose style that
had almost hypnotic virtues of clarity that suggests to the reader that he
alone comprehends what is being said. How mediocre is that?
Self seems to think the word
“ideology” can do a lot of work in getting over his rather absurd message. He
accuses Orwell of being an ideologue but the accusation is nebulous in the way
it is used of late, as it seems to refer to no more than some sort of outlook,
or other. Don’t we all have an outlook of some sort? Why bother saying it of
Orwell [or of anyone else] then?
Self uses another
intrinsic paradox to end with viz. whenever we tell a truth we thereby
obfuscate other truths; but this, again, is yet another absurdity. A truth that
should obscure nothing is that Self is clearly a bit on the thick side.
PhilosophyPosted by David McDonagh Fri, August 29, 2014 12:43:46
The moral law is universal.
Many people seem to think that as all do not adopt the moral law then
philosophers like Plato, or his epigone, Kant err on this hallmark of ethics
that moral rules are universal. Many feel that cross cultural studies suggests
to them that moral rules can vary from society to society. They also feel that the
breaking of the moral law by theft or murder by some people in all societies also
shows us that the philosophers badly err.
But neither supposed counter example is really germane, for the flouting
of the moral law does not mean it is not universal, as universal here does not
mean we have all adopted it, but rather that it applies to one and all by the
moraliser. Ethics is about rules, not facts. A flouting of the formal or
categorical moral rule is no more a refutation of it than is any schoolboy
getting his sums wrong in boring mathematical lessons is a refutation of