Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trump starts to dump his extremist supporters

Trump's Alt Right Storm Troopers - dumped.

As the dust begins to settle after the political pantomime that was the American election, the big question here at Quantum Non-Linearity is this: Will Trump mellow and eventually settle down to be a more measured and reasonable mainstream president than the promise of his campaign? Of course, this may well be wishful thinking on my part. The recent scenes at the above Alt-Right rally where Trump supporters call out "Hail Trump" and give Nazi salutes (see above) has horrified many people. It is easy to see this rally as evidence that our worse fears of an impending fascist nightmare are starting to take shape. However, I try to keep a track of the news and watch how things are developing: Here are some relevant links:

According to this BBC news item Trump disavows the Alt-Right

But here's a quote from Wiki on "Breibart news". This links the Alt Right via Breibart News to Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon. 

[Breibart News was] conceived by Andrew Breitbart during a visit to Israel in summer 2007, with the aim of founding a site "that would be unapologetically pro-freedom and pro-Israel" Breitbart later aligned with the European populist right and American alt-right under Bannon's management and Bannon declared the site "the platform for the alt-right" in 2016. The New York Times describes Breitbart News as a "curiosity of the fringe right wing", with "ideologically driven journalists", that is a source of controversy "over material that has been called misogynist, xenophobic and racist", and was a "potent voice" for Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Here's some more background on Breibart:

How's Trump going to explain all that? But then Trump isn't an idealist; I read him as the sort of guy who is unlikely to be bothered by theoretical consistency and nuance; he's first and foremost a showman who primarily deals in spectacle and theatre.

Trump's attack on his worshipful Alt-Right supporters smacks a just little bit of Hitler's night of the long knives:

The Alt Right are no longer any use to Trump! Another parallel is that Hitler exploited the German Christian taste for law and order, but underneath he regarded them with contempt.

Reports are surfacing of a softening of Trump's climate change position:

...add to this the great disappointment of some of Trump's vindictive followers that he's not going to pursue Hillary Clinton with charges of corruption. Is Trump becoming part of the empowered establishment already?

Trump's anti-idealistic pragmatism may well save us from the idealistic nightmares of fascist and evangelical fundamentalism. Perhaps the uncompromising fascist, libertarian and Christian evangelico-fundamentalists who voted for Trump are already getting their just deserts for their misplaced trust in Trump to implement their extremist views; They should have realised that they couldn't put their trust in Trump's promises. There's poetic justice here: Some of those Christian fundies are now finding themselves in bed with ruthless atheistic social Darwinian "libertarians"!

However, it's early days yet and it's a great trumptation to see light at the end of the tunnel when it's not actually there; there is still plenty of time for things to get a lot worse - see the following joker in the pack: Trump and Biff Tannon:

See this link on Breitbart which is entitled "Vanity Fair: Trump succeeded because of Breitbart"

But set against the claims of that article are these articles by right-wing Trump supporter Denyse O'leary:

O'Leary's article, of course, denies the link between Trump and  Breitbart:

The term “alt right” is thrown around a lot these days to account for Donald Trump’s winning the U.S. presidency. Mainstream media, blindsided by results they should have been able to predict, are deflecting blame. Many conjure a vast, shadowy, menacing group that propelled Trump to power in hidden ways. A more accurate story is more complex—and far more of a problem for the generic worldview of current mainstream media.

O'Leary is probably right about the reality being more complex. Also notable in O'leary are the comments about the link between the Alt-Right and "Darwinism". The ironies are coming in thick and fast!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Michio Kaku argues for Intelligent Design**

Michio: "I recently had a thought that was this big!!"
You can say that again! See below:

Physicist and popular science commentator Michio Kaku's thoughts about  the cosmos probably come in too thick and fast for most us. As a string theorist he's no doubt on the top shelve as far as cleverness is concerned...... he's just too bright; doesn't it make you spit! But to be fair we've all got our faults and no doubt Michio was born with this annoying trait. He does have some redeeming points, however: He's very ambitious in his vision, wanting to embrace the whole of reality with his intellect and yet he gives every impression of being tentative, creative, tolerant, courageous and magnanimous; I like him; the honourable traditions of the Japanese Samurai knights must be part of his background. 

The reason for this blog post is this article which appeared on "Intellectual TakeOut". It quotes Kaku as recently saying: 

“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence,” Kaku said, as quoted by the Geophilosophical Association of Anthropological and Cultural Studies. “To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”.

“The final solution resolution could be that God is a mathematician,” says Kaku. “The mind of God, we believe, is cosmic music. The music of strings resonating through 11-dimensional hyperspace.”  

I know 2% of next-to-nowt about string theory so I can't comment on the technicalities here. But I can say that it's a  privilege to have Michio as a fellow pilgrim! As I said at the end of this so-called "book" of mine:

The general lesson of this book is that maximally disordered distributions entail distributions of properties and states that are as evenly and uniformly spread as the constraints allow. That is, maximum disorder doesn’t favour or target any particular state/property consistent with the constraints. So, in a scenario of maximum disorder everything gets as equal treatment as possible and no skew is shown toward particular states/properties. In a random cosmos nothing appears to be singled out for a frequency above random expectation and this is likely to register in the human mind as evidence of indifference and impersonality;  a cosmos without anthropic meaning and purpose, one where intelligence, particularly personal intelligence, is not a final and  sovereign arbiter. A sovereign intelligence, it is felt, would show a much more anthropically recognizable bias; the antithesis of this sends chills down the back of theists, many of whom are accustomed to the concept of God as a highly personal intelligence and who is likely to show a preference for configurations of anthropic significance.

Conversely, those who have put their intellectual stakes in the idea that the cosmos points to no controlling intelligence, let alone personal intelligence, are likely to find it easier to accept that ultimately randomness is sovereign; although the question of “why is there something rather than nothing?” is still outstanding here. But, the fact remains; our slice of the cosmos is far from random. We would not expect an anthropic selection effect to persist for any length of time in a truly random cosmos. Moreover, our cosmos has singled out small space short time algorithms as a means of describing much of its operation. There is something peculiar about our cosmos, something very peculiar. 

Relevant Link:

** Caution: I am, of course, not talking about the IDists of Uncommon Descent and other Christians who swing toward an embattled fundamentalism. Kaku is more likely to fit into the John Polkinghorne mold. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Extreme Trumptation

In due course, after the dust has settled a bit, I might do a post on the Trump election victory. However, in the meantime I found the following to be of interest. PZ Myers had this comment posted on his blog by some unknown  mischievous visitor: 

Now there's a guy who feels pleased with himself!

It’s about time you fucking cucks got your just desserts. Cunts, niggers, spics, gooks, kikes, fags and sandniggers were never meant to have a say in our great country. Several hundreds of years ago the greatest men to walk the earth (excluding Trump but I’ll get to that soon), the Founding Fathers, made this country great by killing off most of the natives and bringing in niggers as subordinates. Fast forward to now and we live in a degenerate society where niggers are free, the injuns (sorry, NATIVE AMERICANS) still exist and women can vote as well as have sex outside of wedlock. Well Trump has finally come along to change all of that. Now it’s obvious that he’s going to eradicate all the non-whites in America and make women mandatory sex slaves (the attractive ones that is, the ugly/fat ones will obviously be killed) but the important questions are the following. 1) How will we get Trump get elected 4 years from now. 2) How can we alter the Constitution so that Trump can have more terms as president. And finally, 3) When will Trump eradicate all the non-whites outside of America? We have nukes boys, it’s finally time to use them.

After looking up some of those words I realised that this correspondent has touched just about all the politically incorrect G-spots which are bound to cause every one left of Vlad the Impaler to ejaculate with horror! The only subjects he's (and he's bound to be male) missed are climate change and anti-vaxing!  Most likely it is a piece of tongue-in-cheek provocation, although it is quite likely from a Trump supporter because only a Trump supporter could construct such an offensive passage and then use it to cause offense. I personally suspect someone from one of the atheist "alpha male" groups that PZ has been at logger heads with; either that or perhaps a "false flag operation" in order to discredit Trump - although I feel the latter to be unlikely, as the whole thing looks as though it is designed to get up PZ's nose.

Prof Myers introduces it with the words: 

You know I filter the comments here and have a fairly extensive block list — it’s necessary. Especially now. You wouldn’t believe the crap people are trying to post here now, emboldened by this recent election. I’ll just put one particularly ugly example from someone calling himself sinceretrumpsupporter  below the fold. You might want to skip it. I find it useful to remind myself from time to time what we’re fighting…..Please don’t bother telling me Not All Trump Supporters. I don’t care. This is the filth dragged in with him.

So, signs are then that PZ thinks it's genuine!  In PZ's comment thread someone brings up Poe's law and points out that uncertainty over whether this is a parody or not is actually evidence that this kind of extremism is quite within the range of some Trump supporters, otherwise we would know for certain that it was hoax! Therefore, even if this is a piece of cynical insincere trolling it points to sincerity and sentiment that can be actually be found somewhere among Trump's fasco-fundamentalist idealist supporters! Fact is, knowing what we do about the Trump demographic we just cannot put this kind of extremism past some Trump supporters, just as we cannot put the most weird conspiracy ideas past Christian fundamentalists. 

I have to confess, however, that I couldn't help seeing the funny side of it. The writer seems to know just what's going to rile PZ Myers and his readers and has gone out of his way to cause the greatest possible recoil of horror! The whole affair is reality based black humour which taps into that rich seam of funny man vs straight man pairings one often finds in comedy.

Some Links:
Trump picks his team:

And then there is this:
What? Lord Farage? Sir Nigel? I don't think that's going to roll of my tongue with ease!

Trump settles fraud case out of court
Some extracts from this article:

The US president-elect was being sued by former students who paid $35,000 (£28,000) for real estate "secrets" from his "hand-picked" instructors.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement: "Today's $25 million [£20m] settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.
"The victims of Trump University have waited years for today's result and I am pleased that their patience - and persistence - will be rewarded by this $25 million settlement."
Mr Schneiderman, who Mr Trump has attacked as a "lightweight", had sought a $40m (£32m) payout from Mr Trump over the university, which closed in 2010.
He called Trump University a "fraud from beginning to end" in July, adding that the organisation used "false promises to prey on desperate people".
Trump University promised students the opportunity to learn from "hand-picked" teachers, that actually were not chosen by Mr Trump himself.
The closest students ever got to the real estate mogul was having their photo taken beside a cardboard cutout of him, Mr Schneiderman has alleged. He also said that Mr Trump personally pocketed about $5m (£4m) in the "scheme".

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Northumberland: Myth and Imagination - Part 3

(See here and here for parts 1 and 2)

The people who built Duddo stone circle (above) were probably working to some worldview but we have only vague ideas about what that perspective was. Humanity has always been challenged with the task of making comprehensive worldview level sense of its environment; but epistemic problems have impeded success and gaps have been filled with intolerance and dogma. But as we see below the error of fundamentalist scripturallism is not the answer to those epistemic difficulties - far from it!

Some solutions ameliorate one problem only to introduce another. An example is sickle cell hemoglobin which helps suppress the symptoms of malaria but increases the risk of sickle cell anemia. In circumstances like this there is tension between the advantages and disadvantages of alternative outcomes as they are weighed against one another and some trade-off settled for. There is, I believe, a tension of this type in the epistemic heuristic inherent in the mental make up of human beings.

Human beings, it hardly need be said, are in the main social animals and this confronts them with one of their greatest epistemic challenges; that is, attempting to interpret the output of the most complex object known to man, namely the human mind. But the task of trying to read other minds is carried out routinely on the hoof and is a highly informal process. No doubt we have large packages of both soft and firm cognitive neural-ware which address this problem, particularly in the realm of reading the meaning of language. Human beings offer few observational clues as to what they are thinking even when they use language to express themselves. Hence, in this connection  human epistemic techniques have to join a paucity of evidential data-dots in order to arrive at highly complex conclusions about fellow humans. The epistemic process of predicting the otherwise hidden complexities of the human mind is likely to be very seat-of-the-pants. It is a miracle, however, that the process of mutual understanding works as well as it does, but there is a likely trade-off: The gains of getting it right outweigh the losses of making occasional (perhaps even frequent) mistakes. So it is likely that our neural-ware interpreter is balanced between the huge advantages of correctly understanding fellow human beings and an inevitable background noise of error. This human epistemic system is tuned on a knife edge and it's no surprise that in some individuals the inter-human neural package seems to malfunction badly: Autistics tend to under-interpret incoming data and paranoiacs over interpret it.

It is something akin to this very high risk neural-ware package which, I propose, is in operation during worldview synthesis. Unlike formal science which proceeds at a snails pace starting with basic and relatively simple systems and tries to build from the bottom up (see Brian Cox's comments here), worldview synthesis much more resembles the task of attempting to see behind the scenes into the human mind; this comprehensive epistemic process takes in a huge sweep of life experience as it tries to affirm very broad conclusions using methods that are informal and themselves often nigh on inscrutable. Highly ambitions conclusions, sometimes bordering on pretension and audacity, are arrived at. Worldview synthesis leaps well-ahead of formal science in ambition and vision, but the trade-off is that the risks of error, error often exacerbated by hubris, vested interest and tribal factors to name but a few perturbing influences, are balanced against the promise of an epistemic gold-mine. But let me point out the irony I've noted before; it is in fact an empirically based process in as much as it attempts to join the dots of experiential data, albeit rather creatively (See links below). In short  the whole system of worldview synthesis isn't a robust process!

However, we can but try. I'm the last person to condemn attempts at sweeping worldview synthesis; if we are looking for comprehensive understandings of the world we may have little choice but to engage in this activity along with its risks; it might produce high gains in the long run. The trick, I believe, is not to do away with the mythological imagination but to be aware of its operation and above all to use it with a good measure of cautious epistemic humility in order to avoid the pitfalls of misplaced hubris and arrogant certainty. But in spite of worldview synthesis being so seat-of-the-pants it is ironic that the mythological imagination is inclined to invest in its highly attenuated constructions far more certainty than they warrant; in fact it is almost as if these constructions become more real than the basic perceptions on which they are built. Pathological examples are easy to find: the Flat Earth conspiracy, David Ike's lizard conspiracy, Alex Jones' conspiracy theories, numerous Christian fundamentalist world views, Jones Town, and fascism. It is the certainty and blinkered single mindedness with which world-views may be held that gives them the potential to be highly dangerous; much more dangerous might I add than even the problems introduced by the unbridled ambitions of status-seeking. The latter is unlikely to be so sweeping as to attempt to assimilate the whole cosmic coboodle into one seamless narrative: The realpolitik of self-centred status seeking has a limited horizon and a limited agenda in its striving for hegemony, whereas mythological fundamentalism seeks a much more thoroughgoing world take-over; one that includes the very hearts and minds of those it seeks to dominate.

In modern times scriptural fundamentalism (a subject which concerns me deeply) believes it can eliminate epistemic risk with a simple formula; Viz: God's Word says so & so, therefore so & so is absolutely certain to be true.  But this epistemic has a very serious flaw: It fails to take into account that the natural language in which scripture is couched is far from being a direct revelation of truth. (See here, and here). As I have repeatedly made the case, natural language works by connotation and as such its interpretation taps into to a bottomless reservoir of facts taken from of human social history and the human context in general. Scripture can not be read like a mathematical text book where formality strives to obviate ambiguity and limit terms of reference; reading scripture is far more akin to the process of interpreting the natural linguistic output of other minds. Scriptural fundamentalists seek the security of certainty and authority; they cannot accept that there is a huge fallible human link in the chain when it comes to interpreting scripture. This fallible link is evidenced by the many contradictory forms that fundamentalism can take. See herehere and here.

Selfish human ambitions which seek after high status without regard to the welfare of society as a whole are potentially toxic, but things can be worse. The empires of status seekers are not quite so comprehensive as the ambitions of fundamentalist idealists who seek a mental empire of believers which they wish to draw in and submit to the narrative constructed in fundamentalist minds. So, on balance I fear the dogmatic worldview builders more than those with plain and simple social status ambitions and whose scope of operation is likely to only go as far as realpolitik. 

Human beings have an incredible ability to read imaginatively behind the scenes; we only have think of theoretical geniuses like Newton and Einstein who have scored big in this area. But against that we must set the many whose theories have failed and been forgotten (which probably includes my own!). The theoretical imagination, especially when extended to vagaries of worldview synthesis, comes with risks.  This is not to say we should avoid braving the deep waters of worldview synthesis - far from it - we just need to proceed with a little cautious epistemic humility - that and a little faith. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Epistemology links:

More pictures from Northumberland

The rain shrouded and ancient Cheviot hills convey a mood apposite to the mysteries of the meaning of creation.

To the uninitiated the highly asymmetrical ruins of Lindisfarne priory would present a mystery as deep as Duddo stone circle.

Weathering of the stones of the priory has created forms just as fantastic as the stones at Duddo.

The view from Ford church; It conjures up thoughts of ancient origins, beauty, light, colour and the truncation of death. These thoughts mingle, prompting the  feeling it must all mean something, thereby fueling the mythological imagination. 

To the unknown god: A flower offering (?)  found in one of the erosion channels of the Duddo stones. The offering instinct goes deep. 

This isn't Northumberland but the Chinese "shrine" at Kew Gardens, where the floor has become covered in coin "offerings". Ornamental ponds often attract the same behavior. What's at the bottom of these token "offerings"?  Is it carried out instinctively or is it done with the conscious intention of  hedging bets and attempting a communion with unknown spiritual forces?