Saturday, 31 May 2014

Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Finzi - nice sounds but going nowehere, nothing to say. Artistic 'greatness' as effectiveness of assertion


I was at a concert the other day which had several pieces of late 19th/ early 20th English music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Finzi - and the overall impression was of a musical tradition going nowhere - and (in my judgement) that is exactly where it went since I regard the European tradition of classical music as a closed canon.

The sounds were pleasing, and there were some nice effects. But the structure of the music had become a matter of pattern-making without forward dynamics - the music (at this point in history) had become a matter of small phrases (not melodies) which were passed through the sections of the orchestra, the voices or registers - up and down, through various keys - deftly done but why?

Bernard Shaw memorably said that an artists style was effectiveness of assertion and that was it. And attempting to focus on style in and for itself was trivial- yet this is a particular danger for music because it is hard of impossible to say in words what is being asserted - what is the meaning of music.

Yet the meaningfulness of music is vital to its artistic status. Of course it is good to have music that is pleasant, or exciting, of evokes a mood - but it is not enough to constitute an artistic tradition. Properly (in my opinion!) the canon of an art goes between the meaningful artists - those whose mastery is of meaning not style.

The reason Beethoven is so much greater than Brahms is not so much a matter of technical pioneering but that Beethoven had - perhaps above all others except Bach and Mozart - a great soul, so much to 'say' in his music, so much struggling for expression and being expressed.Whereas Brahms simply did not, and his music cannot escape from a core flaccidity.

From this perspective I would rank (for example) Michael Tippet far above Benjamin Britten because (in his early works, only) Tippet was saying something - whereas Britten had nothing to say - or at least nothing interesting. Britten was simply a shallow man of great musical ability. Tippet was a throwback to the late 19th century. 

This effectiveness of assertion is ultimately what gives music its forward impulsion. Lacking which a certain stagnant quality cannot be concealed. This differentiates - say - Richard Strauss from Mahler. For all his great qualities Mahler is stagnant, torpid; for all his vulgarities, Strauss was dynamic, energizing. And all who came after Strauss have either been less great musicians, or else tended towards stasis.

Indeed, I would regard the two supposed geniuses of twentieth century music - Schoenberg and Stravinsky - as knowing perfectly well that they had nothing to say, and knowing perfectly well their inability to escape the centripetal pull of stasis - but faking-it, disguising the fact, by explicit experimentalism.

This matter of 'having something to say' is the most subtle and in that sense subjective matter of judgement. And hearing a poor piece by a great composer can be deceptive - in most of what he wrote, Mozart had nothing to say, but was just making patterns of sound on autopilot - and the same applies to pretty much everybody.

One can only judge artists by their best work - and greatness of artistic status requires several great works or at least one very big great work (big to prove that it wasn't just a lucky fluke).

And, at the bottom line, if I personally cannot perceive the artist has something to say, then I cannot, will not, and should not grant them greatness - this is not something that generally ought to be taken on trust from other people.

Especially since most musicians are so shallow! - and this equally applies to critics and scholars. But what applies to music also applies to poetry, drama, novels... all arts.

And it is to be able and adept to perceive and to evaluate meaning of expression for oneself, that one explores and learns an artistic tradition.


Friday, 30 May 2014

All first rank creative geniuses have been *at least* Platonists


I think that, so far as is known, all first rank creative geniuses in the Western tradition have either been brought-up in an actual religion (typically Christianity or Judaism) or else are 'Platonists' in the sense of believing the 'transcendent' reality of the objects which they study or principles they live-by.

I mean that if the creative geniuses are scientists or philosophers, then they believe (live by the conviction) that truth is real and objective - even though truth is not to be found on the earth; same for beauty (if an artist), same for virtue (if a theologian or moralist).

For whatever reason (and there are several - some psychological, others perhaps transcendental) it seems absolutely necessary to believe 1. the reality of the values within which (or for which) you create and 2. that these values are binding upon you personally - if there is to be work done of fundamental significance.

Or, to put it another way; nobody has ever done significant fundamental creative work from a stance of expedient/ useful pragmatism, relativism/ nihilism, nor conformity/ careerism - but only from a stance of service to the reality of the real; and this realist stance is either a product of the creator having experienced and upbringing in (usually) a Judeo-Christian religion; or else (as with many theoretical physicists or mathematicians) his is a thorough-going, out-and-out Platonist - who explicitly asserts the reality of an ideal realm of eternal forms.

Or, are there any genuine exceptions?


The worst sin - is to propagate sin/ life is not brittle/ despair is ultimate


Life is impossible to get right. We are weak, we are wicked, we err.

But, fortunately, life is not brittle - it is not all or nothing, it is not a matter of either perfection or damnation...

because of repentance.

To repent in the name of Christ (because unless repentance is by Christ then it is just psychology) is to transform the basis of life.

Therefore our own sins are not fatal in an ultimate sense - so long as they are repented.

And therefore the worst of sins is to encourage sin in others - because while we are responsible for our own repentance or lack of it - others may not repent the sins we have encouraged in them.

More exactly, the worst sin is to propagate a 'world view' which denies the necessity of repentance for what really are sins.

This worst sin has various forms: advocating sin - depicting sin as fun or cool; advocating inversion of the Good - depicting Good as evil, and evil as the real Good; denying the reality of the distinction between Good and evil - between creation and destruction; between Love and hate;

...and inducing despair: to induce despair in another person is indeed a terrible sin - because despair is loss of hope, and loss of hope prevents repentance (since despair tells us there is 'no point' in repenting).

Thus to advocate nihilism, the deny the reality of the real, to argue that life is nothing-but, that the bottom-line is meaningless, that purpose is illusory, that we are on-our-own... these are among the worst of sins.

To feel this way oneself is NOT such a bad thing, normal 'everyday sin'. To feel nihilism is just part of the human condition - something we may 'sincerely' feel, but which we can choose to repent in a trice.

But to advocate nihilism, deliberately to induce despair, to persuade another person to become a nihilist... well, that is a terrible sin, a sin of the utmost gravity.

Understanding that the worst sin is to propagate sin is to understand that the modern world is the worst society ever in the history of the world; and that the focus of evil activity is the Mass Media, and those who operate within it to propagate sin in all the ways previously described - and in particular, by direct and indirect means, tactically and strategically, carelessly and deliberately: to induce despair.


A note on meditation by William Arkle


The Paradox of Meditation

by William Arkle

We may think of meditation as a deliberate way of turning our attention and our nature to those aspects of our being which are neglected by the materialistic society in which we live.

In a spiritually healthy society this would be done naturally in the way that our attention is drawn to subjects like maths, history and science at school. There is some attention to religion but subjects such as spirituality and holism are generally not backed by serious study or serious attitude, but instead treated with conventional politeness.

When we meditate we are trying to support and nourish the higher frequency aspects of our nature and trying to climb out of the prison of fear, ego, doubt, anger and life denial that materialism brings in its wake.

Instinctively we seek to do our meditation, contemplation and quiet attention in places which are least distracting for spiritual nourishment. Some environments are not only distracting but can be positively helpful.

But, from the initial purpose of balancing out materialism, meditation should become an intrinsic part of our own individual nature, so that it would be a different thing to different people and something that changes for them continually as they grow and move within themselves.

We should then add to this the fact that the purpose of our living can be understood to be the gathering of wise appreciation of all the principles involved. We can call this the maturing of our spirit towards our inherent godlikeness or divinity.

This understanding is acquired through the friction which occurs within us through conflicting experience of all sorts. It is only through first hand knowledge of these opposites that our inner understanding is able to grasp the wisdom and understanding of God for itself.

So we can say that through meditation we can achieve a balanced view of the spiritual while engaged with the material life.

We may also say that unless we confront and integrate these two aspects of our nature with one another we will not produce the often painful fires that are necessary for the distillation of real growth and wisdom within ourselves.

Consequently I find myself saying that what we refer to as meditation will eventually have to become an integral part of those aspects of life which at first seem most foreign to it.

Meditation can also be used as a word to define the extraction of our own significance and purpose from life but is also the concentrated attention required to know the significance of life itself.

Here lies the paradox, for this concentrated attention is not the same sort of attention that we started with and it seems that we must expect to change everything as we move along.


I record this little essay of William Arkle's mostly as a web duplicate (in case the publishing website goes down) and as containing some distilled insight from someone who meditated deeply and profoundly in a Christian context.

Thus, the purposes of meditation are many-fold - below I extract from the above essay, and add my comments in non-italics:

1.  to support and nourish the higher frequency aspects of our nature - thus, meditation ought to be an experience of a more divine mode of experiencing.

2. trying to climb out of the prison of fear, ego, doubt, anger and life denial - thus, meditation ought to be a therapy and refuge from the sufferings of life.

3. a balanced view of the spiritual while engaged with the material life - thus, meditation should be a part of life, not the whole of life - material life and meditation are complementary and ideally life would consist of both.

4. extraction of our own significance and purpose from life - thus, meditation is about looking within ourselves and attaining to knowledge our ourselves.

5. the concentrated attention required to know the significance of life itself - thus, meditation is also about looking outwith ourselves; at our situation, context - ultimately the 'cosmology' of the ultimate human condition - the basic 'set-up' of our lives.

6. meditation will eventually have to become an integral part of those aspects of life which at first seem most foreign to it - this, I do not fully understand, probably because...

7. Meditation would be a different thing to different people and something that changes for them continually as they grow - thus, there cannot be a template or blueprint for the practice of meditation. Presumably, this means that there must be the usual process of trial-and-error in learning the best way to meditate for ourselves and at our particular stage of growth or degeneration. 


Thursday, 29 May 2014

The year I lost my photographic memory was the year I began to be creative



Why do we recognize people by their hair? An evolutionary analysis by Billy & Bruce Charlton


1. We recognize people by their hair - its length, colour and style. When you first meet two men or women with the same hair it can be hard to tell them apart. The use of hair in recognition has been confirmed in some studies of infants, and monkeys (using human faces).

2. But using hair for recognition is strange and not ideal because hair is so changeable! This is particularly the case nowadays, when changing fashion and hair colouring technology make it possible and usual for someone to undergo radical change in their hair; but hair changes anyway over a timescale of weeks as it grows, and over the years due to development and ageing.

3. On the face of it (!) this doesn't make sense - why use hair for recognition when somebody's hair is so changeable? - but we do.

4. Perhaps what does not make sense in adults does make sense in babies - and the recognition-by-hair instinct we find in modern adults is substantially left-over from something which was adaptive to infants (under ancestral conditions)?

5. Babies have poor eyesight, poor visual acuity. Maybe hair length, style, shape is the only thing that infants can clearly see? (Maybe this applies to adults too - at a distance?)

6. So, maybe the use of hair in recognition is the best that can be done under the circumstances of an infant.

(That is, with an infants eyesight, over the short timescale of an infant's awareness, and under ancestral conditions - when there were not many humans in the social world, and where they were mostly differentiated by sex and age - and perhaps each human in the social world therefore had distinctive hair.)


Note: the key step in the above analysis is number three -  recognizing that something is real and apparently instinctive (spontaneous, natural, seemingly universal) yet does not make sense. That is often the basis of an interesting and potentially useful evolutionary theory. This came from my son Billy, as did the hypothesis in point five - the rest was a collaborative discussion.

Another example of this kind of thing would be the paradox that men are attracted to prominent breasts in women (this is not functional because woman's breasts are prominent due to fatty tissue - not glandular tissue) - but prominent breasts in other primates signal pregnancy or lactation - so prominent breasts are a signal of NON-fertility. Why would a signal of non-fertility become sexually attractive? 

I heard this problem first formulated by Nikolas Lloyd nearly twenty years ago, but I haven't yet come across what I would regard as a plausible answer

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Perhaps the most intelligent are also 'always' creative (and vice versa)


The Leftist inability to learn from experience - Bernard Shaw and women and mathematics


One of the strangest traits on the Left is the one when people behave as if pacifism, secularism, egalitarianism, feminism, racism, the sexual revolution etc. are new ideas - fresh, exciting, untried, untested - give them a shot why not? Don't write-off idealism! They might work!

The most extreme example is communism, which ignores all actual experience of the idea; but feminism and anti-racism is by now equally stale.

And I am genuinely astonished to hear 'new atheists'  painting a picture of how much better life might be 'if only' people could be persuaded to recognize that God is a delusion - as if this hadn't happened again and again, for several generations - after all, it's a century since the first full-on atheist state in the USSR and there are numerous other examples, past and present.


The point is that we actually know, in so far as anything can be known, how these ideas turn out - and they they turn out very differently from how idealism paints them.


For example, George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs Warren's Profession was written in 1894 and first performed in 1902 - get that: written 1894 - and features a 'modern woman' called Vivie, who supposedly graduated third ('Third Wrangler') in the Cambridge Mathematics exam.

I presume the Vivie character was triggered by Philippa Fawcett having been placed top in this extraordinarily prestigious exam in 1890 - This performance seemed - to Shaw at least - to 'prove' that women were equally adept as men on average at the highest levels of mathematics, but were being kept-out by men.

In Shaw's day, 120 years ago! - it was assumed that the only thing standing between women and equality with men in mathematics was lack of opportunity for women. That lack of opportunity for women was remedied several generations ago, yet of course at the highest level of mathematics (and the Cambridge Tripos exam was far-away from the highest level) there are probably proportionately as few women as ever there were.

Therefore, it is now known - insofar as these social things ever are known, and has been known for a few generations, that lack of opportunity was not the reason why women were less good than men at the highest levels.


(Because even though it is impossible to attain complete equality of opportunity, any partial correction - and step in that direction, would have a big effect if indeed inequality of opportunity was an important explanation. For example, the history of the Ashkenazi Jews shows that even a very partial removal of the exclusion of Jews from mathematics professorships - led to a very big change in the proportion of Jewish mathematics professors. Anti-semitism remained, of course (complete eradication would be impossible) but this proves that the only significant factor preventing Jews from becoming mathematics professors in, say, Germanic universities circa 1700 - was their exclusion.)


But it is currently a very big thing in the Mass Media and on the organized Left that women are being kept-out of the highest levels of mathematics (and physics and engineering). Such a view was probably reasonable and certainly excusable 120 years ago - it is not reasonable nor excusable now.

This view that women are kept-out-of the highest levels of mathematics, physics, engineering is nowadays necessarily either ignorant or dishonest - and often both. It is not any more fresh, untried; it is not idealistic - it is simply a manipulative, destructive, stupid lie.


This trajectory - from untried idealism to cynical lying - is seen all across the Left and its principles and policies; from pacifism (the earliest distinctive Left ideology) right through to the ever-expanding and more-coercive demands of the sexual revolution and the talking points, hot button issues and litmus tests of today: all tired and worn-out, all stale, all tried and failed - all known to be false and harmful by those competent to have an opinion.


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Christian converts and the re-enchantment of everyday life - a shopping list of suggestions


No all Christian converts can join a church - most Christian churches are not worth joining and most are not Christian but anti. Among those who do join a church not all can be active or devout. Not all real Christian churches provide an all-round experience - some are dry, cold, black and white; others are excessively communal for some people - others are not communal enough.

In sum: everybody should be a Christian, but not everybody (here and now) can or should join a church.

So what then? How on earth can the Christian convert (or the cradle Christian, for that matter) get support, be encouraged, experience relatedness, joy, connection when there is no church - or no church that provides this kind of thing?

How, in sum, can a Christian convert experience that which many crave - the re-enchantment of everyday life - when they are pretty much 'on their own'?


I can only offer a shopping list of suggestions. In no particular order.

1. As a general attitude: approach your religious life as a process of trial and error - make trials, expect to make errors; repent, learn, try again.

2. Meditation - various methods. Much depends on the purpose - if aiming to get power: bad; if aiming for joy and cheer then it depends on how; if aiming for communion with God, to understand, to feel divinity - then Good.

3. Prayer - very varied. From short repetitions or short spontaneous prayers (thanks, requests etc) to long formal prayers, written prayers, improvised/ inspired prayers. All Christians will pray to the Father in the name of Jesus - some Christians add others.

4. Read scripture. Some people are systematic (from the start to the end), others have a plan (for example the evangelical plan or reading the Bible by LAGER: Luke, Acts, Genesis, Exodus, Revelations); others just read what they feel drawn to read - some read in small intensely considered passages; others take in a large sweep of text to get a 'feel' for things.

5. Focus on the work of specific persons, and the people who are recommended by them or who have been influenced by them. E.g. CS Lewis, Father Seraphim Rose, Terryl Givens.

6. Attend churches sometimes for specific reasons (rather than 'joining' a particular one) e.g. for the joyous liturgy, the teaching sermons, the music, the people.

7. Read inspiring devotional Literature/ Poetry/ Essays - Herbert's poetry, Pascal's Pensees, Traherne's 'Centuries of Mediations' that kind of thing.


Then reverse the prescription of Robert Burton and Samuel Johon who tried to avoid melancholy and: Be Solitary, Be Idle (unstructured time). Feel life happening.

Seek quite, rural, peaceful journeys, mornings and evenings - or night.

Either try for multiple daily spiritual injections of the above - or else a period of some days of total immersion in the above (a retreat).

Fast from the Mass Media.


Saturday, 24 May 2014

Hypocrisy is the favourite sin of evil


Because when hypocrisy is raised up to being the ultimate sin, as it is in modern culture, then people are confronted with a choice of being 100 percent perfect or else joining the forces of evil (because for moderns there is no possibility of repentance - and one single solitary error is enough to eject you from the side of Good and throw you irrevocably into the arms of evil).

The lesson is you might as well join evil straight away - since you will sooner or later have-to anyway.

That's where hypocrisy gets you.

Forget it.


Friday, 23 May 2014

Review of Switched-on Brandenburgs - JS Bach's Brandenburg Concerti done on synthesizer by Walter Carlos (aka Wendy Carlos)


Considered strictly in terms of musicality, this album contains some of the best performances of Bach's Brandenburgs I have ever heard (and I have heard a lot of them!).

Of course, some will not be able to tolerate - let alone enjoy - synthesizer performances; but the detailed musicality, fluency and detail of these performances is wonderful.

Created from 1973-1980 in the very early days of synthesizers, these were pretty-much note-by-note constructions - which explains the loving detail - but the shapeliness and fluidity of the phrasing and dynamics is impossible to explain - just a marvel.

Brandenburg One is the best all round performance of this concerto I know of - and the only fully satisfying one; the special delight of Two is the continuo baseline - which is beautifully and lucidly articulated; Three is great all-round - with a particularly fine 'improvised' second movement; Four is good; the First Movement of Five is top notch - with the cycle of fifths especially satisfying; and the first movement of Six is almost the best thing of all: really exciting (with some extra bubbling ascending sound-effect scales adding pep and verve).

Don't take my word for it: these realizations were endorsed by no less a Bach-ian than Glenn Gould. Probably they are a one-off - a never-to-be-repeated confluence of now primitive but then cutting-edge technology; and the one and only person capable of using it to create - not merely a gimmick - but real music of permanent value.


*All* psychoactive, psychiatric drugs may produce dependence and cause withdrawal problems


Just as a placebo can mimic an immediately effective drug so chronic drug dependence may mimic an effective long-term or preventive treatment.

The discovery of the placebo had a profound result upon medical practice, since it became recognized that it was much harder to determine the therapeutic value of an intervention than was previously assumed. Placebo is now the null hypothesis for therapeutic improvement.

An analogous recognition of the effect of drug dependence is now overdue. Drug dependence and withdrawal effects should in future become the null hypothesis when there is clinical deterioration after stopping or reducing drug treatment.

Anybody who has been taking a psychoactive drug (whether prescribed, over the counter or illegal) in significant doses for a few months or more, should: 1. assume that they will suffer significant withdrawal effects; and 2. should taper-off the dosage gradually.

The ideal methodology for detecting drug dependence and withdrawal is a double-blind placebo controlled and randomized trial using disease-free normal control subjects.

Normal controls are necessary to ensure that the possibility of underlying chronic disease is eliminated: so long as subjects begin the trial as ‘normal controls’ it is reasonable to infer that any clinical or psychological problems (above placebo levels) which they experience following drug withdrawal can reasonably be attributed to the effects of the drug.

This is important because the consequences of failing to detect the risk of covert drug dependence may be considerably worse than failing to detect a placebo effect. Drug dependent patients not only fail to receive benefit and suffer continued of inconvenience, expense and side effects; but the drug has actually created and sustained a covert chronic pathology.

However, the current situation for drug evaluation is so irrational that it would allow chronic alcohol treatment to be regarded as a cure for alcoholism on the basis that delirium tremens follows alcohol withdrawal and alcohol can be used to treat delirium tremens!

Therefore, just as placebo controlled trials of drugs are necessary to detect ineffective drugs, so drug withdrawal trials on normal control subjects should be regarded as necessary to detect dependence-producing drugs.

Bruce G. Charlton. Covert drug dependence should be the null hypothesis for explaining drug-withdrawal-induced clinical deterioration: The necessity for placebo versus drug withdrawal trials on normal control subjects. Medical Hypotheses. 2010; 74: 761-763.


Thursday, 22 May 2014

Small but intricate


Sometimes it seems as if life is really mostly about the micro-level. In the body, it is the big arteries and veins that attract attention, but all the actual work - the exchange of nutrients, fluids and gases - is done at the microscopic level of capillaries.

Maybe that is why the small scale is neglected - the arteries and veins are pretty much the same in every normal person (especially the arteries) - but the small scale is unique. There is also the suspicion that the small depends on the large in a way that is not reversible: that the large contains the small (by implications)...

Well, maybe - but not really. Actually it is the reverse. The small scale implies the large - or can do, by implicit implication, when properly expressed.


The small is not thereby simple. For example, in the kitchen, listening to a talking book version of Robert M Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance there is a lot going on. I am getting some breakfast ready - cutting a slice of cheese, some thin ham from a packet, toasting and buttering bread. Also emptying the dishwasher from lastnights stuff.

Stopping from time to time to look out the window or the glass door - looking at the sky, looking for the moon, seeing how the trees are progressing with their new leaves. Aware of the family dotted around the house - reading, watching things, music, asleep.

Then I might well be struck with happiness and gratitude; and say a prayer to that effect; and carry on.

A little thing? No, the biggest.          

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

If an orc baby was raised by decent hobbits - how good would he be?


Metaphysical implications of the Mormon belief in Heavenly Mother/ Mother in Heaven


I have previously written about the Mormon belief in a Heavenly Mother or Mother in Heaven who is God's wife, and mother to all his spirit children (including you and I).

I have continued to read and meditate on this matter - and have been convinced that a belief in Heavenly Mother is more than just a 'folk belief' as I had supposed, but is pretty-much canonical in the CJCLDS.

This study of authoritative sources by was what finally convinced me:

David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido,""A Mother There": A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven", BYU Studies, 50/1 (2011)


The reality of a Heavenly Mother has, naturally, many profound metaphysical - as well as theological and practical - consequences.

It should be noted that the reality of a Heavenly Mother seems to be asserted mostly on the grounds of authoritative revelation; but also on 'logical' grounds that since gender - being either a man or a woman - is a fundamental, pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal reality for humans; and since humans are made in the image of God and are of the same 'kind'; it would make sense if this principle extended to God.


The matter of 'where did God come from?' is often answered by Mormons in terms of an infinite regress: our God was once a mortal man who was spirit child of another God - and so on. 

(This is monotheist in the sense that there is but one God for us - relevant to us, in our part of total reality; and these other Gods have absolutely nothing to do with us at all - except as a source of our God).


But another way to answer the question of the origin of God is that He always was.

This is what I believe (or what I choose to believe - since metaphysics are essentially a matter of choice, and stand behind Christian doctrine and not necessarily affecting or affected by it).

So, if God always was; was God the creator, the originator of Mother in Heaven? This would mean that God was the (one and only?) exception to the rule that gender is primary and fundamental - because on this model, God had either no gender or contained both genders.

Or was our Heavenly Mother also eternal - was She always? So that God the Father and Heavenly Mother are coeval and were always divine?  


In other words, since the Mormon understanding of divinity is within an also-existing universe with laws and realities within-which God operates; the question is whether eternity contained 'the universe' and one God (without gender) - from whom Mother in Heaven later arose in some way?

Or did eternity contain 'the universe' and two Gods - one male and one female?

I choose to believe the second: that there is no exception to the rule that gender is primary and fundamental to Man - so Heavenly Mother was coeval with God the Father: they existed as divinities from eternity.


Note: What about the rest of us? Did we not too exist from eternity? Yes we did - that seems necessary to explain the reality of free will/ autonomy and also evil. However we were individual essences or potentialities with no 'powers'. But only God the Father and Heavenly Mother were divine. They took these essences and we became their children - divine children. The plan of Happiness/ Plan of Salvation is the very long term hope and intention that at least some of us children will choose-to learn-to become 'adult divinities' (if I may put it that way) like to God the Father and Heavenly Mother. Just as earthly children may mature, grow and learn to become like their earthly parents; always children of their parents but now children who are also - in addition - friends. It is a yearning for loving friends to share their universe which motivated God the Father and Heavenly Mother to embark on the extraordinarily complex, contingent, risky and painful plan of salvation and happiness. Within the constraints of our universe it is, apparently, the only way for us to achieve divinity - although we are free to reject the plan, and to reject progress towards divinity and to stop at any point in the path to full God-hood. Speaking personally, I am at this point too selfishly daunted by the idea of suffering the empathic pain intrinsic to full divine parenthood to want to aspire to the highest possible theosis - and would hope to stop somewhere short of that state. But in the course of eternity no doubt this may change.

The best argument for the existence of god - two-sidedness of knowledge, revelation-reception


What follows is the argument I personally find the most convincing to support the existence of a deity; but I mean it is the best argument - I don't mean that an argument is the best reason for believing in god. (It isn't.)

And it is not an argument for specifically the Christian God, nor for just one god - but it is a particular argument for a particular kind of deity.


If it was not for god, then we could not know anything about anything.

'Revelation' - direct communication from god - is the basis of all possible true knowledge.

The reason, is that real knowledge is a two-sided thing - there is a communication and something which is capable of receiving the communication - there is revelation and there is reception of that revelation.

This means that true knowledge requires a true message - which requires god, because only a deity could know the truth and communicate it; and also that Men have the capacity to receive truth; which requires that this capacity was 'implanted' in Men by god.


If god did not have a hand in 'implanting' the capacity to receive truth into Man, then there would be no reason to believe that Man could receive truth. There is no reason at all to assume that a being that had arisen by accident, or by evolution/ natural selection, would be able to know truth.

Natural selection merely explains how an organism may process information to enhance its reproductive success - this has nothing to do with truth. The 'knowledge' arising from natural selection is purely expedient, contingent, and retrospective - not 'true'.

And if natural selection did, by some chance, lead to an ability to perceive truth - then this could never be known; because truth would be evaluated by perceptual and cognitive systems which had evolved due to their reproduction-enhancing qualities - not due to their truth-recognizing qualities.


(If you cannot grasp this logical point about natural selection having nothing necessarily to do with truth, and wholly naturally selected entities being in principle unable to recognise truth, then it is unlikely you will understand this argument. So this may be a point to pause for thought.)


So, for us to know anything about anything - it is necessary that a deity communicated knowledge to us, and that the deity had a hand in making us capable of understanding knowledge in a full and relevant sense of understanding.


So, there must be revelation, and revelation must be two-sided.

So a deity must exist, and the deity must be the kind of 'god' who wants or needs to communicate with Men, and also had a hand in the creation of Men.

That narrows things down quite a bit!


The most obvious response to this argument is on the lines of pointing out that there are many, many different versions of what god has revealed to man, a huge amount of disagreement, much uncertainty (for instance there are many religions, and many who disbelieve in any deity), and even one man can change his mind in that topic throughout his life: what seemed like a revelation may become regarded as an error, and vice versa.

The idea is that if god was indeed communicating with us, and had also made us capable of understanding revelation 'how come' there is so much disagreement over what is being communicated? 

All I would point out is that this is a second order matter of pragmatics, which is logically unconnected with the main argument.

It is perfectly possible (indeed I believe it is true!) that there really be a god who really reveals true knowledge to all Men who he has made such that they are capable of understanding correctly that revealed knowledge - all this could be true - and yet it could also be true that that true and revealed knowledge be rejected, resisted, misunderstood, reversed, or in some way rendered inoperative - for whatever reason; and there may be many such reasons.


In other words, the truth of revelation is a metaphysical necessity for us to make sense of the world. It is about the necessary structure of reality for anything to make sense at all.

And the truth of revelation is therefore unconnected with our empirical observation or experience.


This argument leads to a picture of deity, of god, which is a long way short of the Christian god.

But the argument does have value, because it establishes revelation as the basis of all possible knowledge.

And that, for the typically confused, self-refuting modern atheist skeptic, may be a vitally important first step.

Because the mainstream atheist skeptic needs to know his beliefs are strictly and logically nonsensical - non-sensical, does not make sense - that he has zero basis for any belief in anything at all except by accepting the necessity of the principle of revelation. 


Anyway, this is the argument I personally find the most-convincing one for establishing the existence of god - however I acknowledge that it is a difficult argument to follow, and an easy one not to understand or to reject on false grounds.

The argument certainly requires at least a few minutes of hard and focused thinking - and that is something way beyond the capacity of most modern people.


Note added:

This 'revelation-reception' argument leads to an understanding that there is such as thing as truth and it can in principle be known.

In contrast, the mainstream modern atheist skeptic has a paradoxical understanding that that he personally knows something like the following:

1. There is no such thing as 'the truth';
2. But if there was, there is no way that anybody could know that they knew it;
3. And even if there was truth and somebody knew they knew it - they could not communicate this to anybody else (they could not know whether the truth had actually been communicated, and that the other person was capable of understanding the truth, and that the truth had actually been understood).

The modern atheist skeptic is only sure of one thing - which is that he never can be sure of anything (except that he never can be sure).

Of course, thoughtful skeptics recognize this simple and obvious paradox - however they see no way out of it.

Well there is a way out! - which is the above 'two-sided' argument.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Robert M Pirsig actually benefited from electroshock - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance misrepresented ECT for fictional purposes


Electroshock in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Fictional, not factual

David Healy and Bruce G. Charlton

Medical Hypotheses; 2009: 72: 485-6.



Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT/electroshock) features in a number of books and movies, but always unfavourably. ECT plays a major role in Robert Pirsig’s philosophical novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (‘ZAMM’). This has sold more than five million copies; making Pirsig perhaps the most widely read philosopher alive. ZAMM is apparently autobiographical, and describes the author suffering a psychotic breakdown which was treated by ECT. ECT led to a ‘cure’ but supposedly by deleting all memories of the author’s earlier self, producing a lost personality called Phaedrus. The presentation of ECT in ZAMM is chilling: ‘Destroyed by order of the court, enforced by the transmission of high-voltage alternating current through the lobes of his brain. Approximately 800 mills of amperage at durations of 0.5–1.5 s had been applied on twenty-eight consecutive occasions, in a process known technologically as ‘Annihilation ECS’. A whole personality had been liquidated without a trace in a technologically faultless act ....’. Yet newly published biographical information on Pirsig from Mark Richardson (Zen and now: on the trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. New York: Knopf; 2008) has documented that the role of ECT in ZAMM is a ‘literary device’, added at a late stage in drafting the book. In reality the ECT had erased some short-term memory, but Pirsig’s long-term memory had quickly returned. Richardson obtained this information from Robert Pirsig’s (then) wife, from his sister, and also from his friend John Sutherland (who appears as a character in ZAMM). It seems that one of the most famous depictions of ECT, one that had appeared factual, was actually fictional.


Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT/electroshock) features in a number of books and movies. Never favourably.

Van Atta [1], Abbott [2], and Freeman [3] while starting with mental illness portray a treatment that seems based largely on imagined imagery. Gotkin and Gotkin [4], Thomas [5], Frame [6] and Helfgott [7] have an autobiographical core with a possibly fictional overlay, but portray ECT in more realistic terms. In general, all these books view ECT as a punishment. Where recovery happens after ECT, it is put down to a loving relationship or other factors that enables the person to survive this treatment among other things.

The best known portrayal of ECT appears in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest [8]. In book and movie, an older unmodified ECT is portrayed relatively realistically but ECT is used punitively as a device to move the plot along rather than as a treatment. Kesey’s own views of ECT may have been somewhat at odds with the use to which treatment is put in the book, in that he appears to have rigged up a device at his home in an effort to induce a convulsion, probably to explore whether it might have a consciousness expanding effect [9]. The use of ECT in Cuckoo’s Nest is well-known, but Kesey’s own experiments with ECT are almost unknown.

Another book in which ECT features is Robert Pirsig’s philosophical novel [10] B. Charlton, A Philosophical Novel: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, Durham Univ J 84 (1992), pp. 111–117.[10] Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (‘ZAMM’; [11]). This has sold more than five million copies; making Pirsig perhaps the most widely read philosopher alive [12].

The book is apparently autobiographical, and describes the author suffering a psychotic breakdown which was treated by ECT. ECT led to a ‘cure’ but supposedly by deleting all memories of the author’s earlier self, producing a lost personality called Phaedrus.

The presentation of ECT in ZAMM is chilling. ‘[The personality of Phaedrus was d]estroyed by order of the court, enforced by the transmission of high-voltage alternating current through the lobes of his brain. Approximately 800 mills of amperage at durations of 0.5–1.5 s had been applied on twenty-eight consecutive occasions, in a process known technologically as ‘Annihilation ECS’. A whole personality had been liquidated without a trace in a technologically faultless act ...’ [11]; pp. 84.

Yet newly published biographical information on Pirsig from Mark Richardson [13] has documented that the role of ECT in ZAMM, as in Cuckoo’s nest, is a ‘literary device’, added at a late stage in drafting the book: ‘in truth the shock treatments had erased some short-term memory, but his long-term memory had quickly returned. Robert Pirsig the author could recall everything about Phaedrus just fine: it was Robert Pirsig the narrator who was still delusional’. ([13]; pp. 188–189). Richardson obtained this information from Robert Pirsig’s (then) wife, from his sister, and also from his friend John Sutherland (who appears as a character in ZAMM) [14].

It would appear therefore that yet another of the most famous depictions of ECT, one that had appeared factual, was fictional. While ZAMM is prefaced with the disclaimer that ‘much has been changed for rhetorical purposes’ [11]; pp. iii, Pirzig has never given any indication that the side effects ascribed to ECT were fictional.


[1] W. Van Atta, Shock treatment, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY (1961).

[2] J.H. Abbott, In the belly of the beast: letters from prison, Random House, NY (1981).

[3] H. Freeman, Judge, jury and executioner, Talking Leaves Publishing Co., Urbana IL (1986).

[4] J. Gotkin and P. Gotkin, Too much anger, too many tears. A personal triumph over psychiatry, Quadrangle Books, NY (1975).

[5] M. Thomas, Home from 7-North: a psychological journey, Libra Publishers, NY (1984).

[6] J. Frame, An angel at my table, Flamingo, Hammersmith London (1987).

[7] G. Helfgott, Love you to bits and pieces, Penguin Books, Australia (1996).

[8] K. Kesey, One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest, Viking Press, NY (1962).

[9] E. Shorter and D. Healy, Electroshock: a history of electroconvulsive treatment in mental illness, Rutgers University Press, New Jersey, USA (2007).

[10] B. Charlton, A Philosophical Novel: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, Durham Univ J 84 (1992), pp. 111–117.

[11] M. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Corgi, London (1976) [Originally published 1974].

[12] Tim Adams. The interview: Robert Pirsig,; 2008 [Accessed 8 12 2008].

[13] Richardson Mark, Zen and now: on the trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Knopf, New York (2008).

[14] Mark Richardson – Personal communication with BG Charlton by e-mail. 8th Dec 2008.

How to 'avoid' plagiarism

Answer: Don't cheat.

In an education system of endemic and institutionalized cheating (i.e. the UK over the past couple of decades), plagiarism has been captured by institutional administrators, and reconceptualised as a passive experience of the student.


Plagiarism is now something to be 'avoided' - rather as if it was a runaway vehicle bearing down upon the unwary.

Any connection between passing-off someone else's work as your own and claiming the credit; and, you know, actually cheating is now buried under passive language and euphemisms.


Here - under the title of How to avoid plagiarism - is a section from a university called Why do students plagiarise?

The suggested answers are:
  • Poor note-taking skills (sources are not identified in the notes students take)
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding of academic conventions regarding the use of in-text citations and lists of references
  • Feelings of insecurity about their own writing ('The author puts it so much better than me!')
  • Fear of failure/fear of taking risks (Remember: Plagiarism may SEEM safer, but it isn’t!)
  • Poor time management (starting work on the assignment too close to the deadline)
  • They have heard of cases of plagiarism that went undetected/were handled leniently. 
...which misses out the two real reasons:

1. Student is too lazy to do the work (Why bother do it myself, when I can use somebody else's efforts?)

2. Student wants to get higher marks than they are actually capable of achieving (I need good marks - plagiarism gets me good marks - duh!)


Plus of course students have, in all probability "heard of cases of plagiarism that went undetected/were handled leniently" - because clever plagiarism is undetectable, while caught plagiarists are indeed 'handled leniently', to put it mildly.

Thus we have a very typical modern phenomenon - a bloated bureaucracy that yammers on and on forever about the 'seriousness' of some problem, while in practice making that problem permanent and more severe; thus ensuring both their own prestige (it's a serious problem) and their own survival (but the problem won't go away, and is getting worse!).

Meanwhile, the answer is simple: do all significant examinations and evaluations like they used to be done 'when I were a lad': under close supervision, so people can't plagiarize/ cheat (and if they do succeed in cheating, and they get caught, punish them very severely).


When it comes to important exams and evaluations, people cannot (and should not) be trusted.

(Even though people were far, far, far more honest fifty years ago than they are now, they were not trusted then - and obviously should not be trusted now.)


Hopes of happiness - immersive unselfconsciousness


I have always had difficulty in planning ahead - the future never seems real.

What of future happiness? Before I was a Christian, this was naturally bounded by my mortal life on earth - and my own capacity for happiness, plus the capacity of my circumstances in enabling happiness.

Hopes of happiness were therefore hopes of the best and most durable kind of happiness that I had experienced, but unshadowed by knowledge of their temporary nature. Thus, the hope was of immersion in a daily-round, a cycle of modest contentment in the minutiae of existence.

The idea was that I might find a situation which was sufficiently comfortable and safe-yet-stimulating that I could simply fold-in on myself, cease to consider the past or future, and just trundle in circles until - preferably without warning - I keeled-over: dead.

This was - in other words - simply a matter of getting through life in the least-unpleasant way possible. Life wasn't going anywhere or doing anything, and consciousness was mostly a curse (except when in a bad situation - when it might recall better times or anticipate better times).

This immersion was the thing. Mentally, I would fling myself into a desired situation. This was paradoxical, in that I was both flinging into, and trying not to be aware that I was doing it - but - for example - I might be reading or thinking about something like The Lord of the Rings, perhaps the simple life of hobbits or wood elves; and felt inside that world; so I could see, feel and smell that world - and be content. Or it might be a holiday in a favourite place; simply being there - or a favourite time of day (spring early morning, fresh winter snow...).

And when it wasn't actually happening here and now - the thought of having done this, and being able to do this, was like a bubble in the mind - or perhaps a continuing stream running through life; into which I could (typically with lesser completeness) hurl myself and be.

The vague hope was that having got into the situation in a conscious manner, or by sheer luck - the thing might become unselfconscious and self-sustaining.

Such ideas were completely self-ish - completely and necessarily at odds with family, friends, work, politics, art and achievement... The solipsistic hope was for a complete autonomy - or, lacking that, for a simulation of it where I was provided-for in all essentials without need to think about it.

No doubt I was unusual - but I suppose something similar (although perhaps more extreme - such as the hope of total and permanent immersion in obliterative excitement, sexual ecstasy or intoxication) must be going-on for anyone who conceives life as wholly bounded by mortality.

Life as futile - thus hope of a life of pleasant futility; and hope that self-knowledge of the futility of life will be lost.


Saturday, 17 May 2014

WD Hamilton and mutation accumulation as the major mechanism of dysgenic decline in intelligence over the past circa two hundred years


Desire versus happiness?


From Centuries of Meditations by Thomas Traherne (1636-74)

This is very strange that God should want. For in Him is the fulness of all Blessedness: He overfloweth eternally. His wants are as glorious as infinite: perfective needs that are in His nature, and ever Blessed, because always satisfied. He is from eternity full of want, or else He would not be full of Treasure. Infinite want is the very ground and cause of infinite treasure. It is incredible, yet very plain. Want is the fountain of all His fulness. Want in God is treasure to us. For had there been no need He would not have created the World, nor made us, nor manifested His wisdom, nor exercised His power, nor beautified Eternity, nor prepared the Joys of Heaven. But he wanted Angels and Men, Images, Companions: And these He had from all Eternity.


Traherne is trying to make sense of the fact that in one sense God is perfectly happy and satisfied, while in another sense God has 'wants' and is therefore dissatisfied. God's wants are the source of our own happiness, since otherwise we would not exist. But in another sense - Traherne's 'Platonism' has it that God already had those things he wanted, 'from all Eternity'.

So earthly life is something which is dynamic, changing, happens in time and has a forward direction (e.g. from wants to their satisfaction) - and to some extent and some-how - God shares in that wanting and dynamism; while in an ultimate and Heavenly sense God wants nothing, since He already has everything.

Whether this is regarded as an explanation - or hand-waving woo-woo - depends on whether you can make intuitive sense of this concept of 'static' eternity - and whether or not you feel that if reality is non-wanting and fully satisfied this necessarily implies that earthly wanting and changing is thereby relegated to the status of something either temporary and trivial (in the context of eternity) or simple falsehood and delusion.


Another example, from my experience:

I was walking across the Town Moor a couple of days ago, and I was perfectly happy; the skies were blue with wisps of high cloud and thronging with skylarks in full song, the atmosphere was of spring, my mind was full of gratitude and contentment - I wanted for nothing, I would not have swapped my situation with anyone else past, present, or future.

Yet that 'moment' (of about 15 minutes) was in transition, from home to the office, at a point in my life. I was actually walking, moving - in a particular direction.

Furthermore, I had engineered the moment by taking a long route to work in order to enjoy the open fields; that moment occurred in a finite and mortal life I was traversing; and that moment was embedded in many other people's lives and ultimately in a divine reality.


My point is that in a personal, psychological way it is perfectly understandable to experience perfect contentment in the context of a strategic, planned, purposive state of 'wanting'.

But this is not easily understandable in terms of metaphysical principles; from that perspective they are seemingly contradictory, the one seems to exclude the other, or one is real and the other a delusion.

My point is that this is an example where it is straightforward to understand God in personal or 'human' terms - in terms of wanting and also being satisfied, but not in abstract or philosophical terms.


And as usual, parenthood makes the whole thing lucid: a Father loves his kids just as they are - he does not want them different; the present moment and status are often felt as unimprovable perfection.

And (not 'yet' or 'but' or 'however'), at the same time, and not as any felt paradox or contradiction; parenthood is also about looking ahead, planning, anticipating, unfolding: a trajectory.

Blissful present contentment which wants nothing, is also in transition.

That just is the way it is. It is the abstract-analytic separation of present from past and future, of happiness from wanting, which causes the trouble.


Friday, 16 May 2014

What do simple reaction time measurements mean to intelligence research?


Irreducible, uncreated individuality is a basic fact of human existence

Continuing from:


Modern common sense (and, I suppose, all other societies) explain individuality in terms of heredity and experience (aka 'environment') - in addition to which Christians would underpin these with the fact of having been created by God.

But all of this makes individuality something passively given - on these metaphysical schemata, individuality is merely the mixture of these three elements - creation, heredity, experience - and therefore individuality has no validity in and of itself.

If we are wholly created, we wholly belong to God and individuality is some kind of wicked illusion. We are simply pieces of God - and anything which God (or the Adversary) may have made us feel about this is simply a mistake - there can be no comprehensible autonomy or freedom if we are simply chips off the old block.

And if we are wholly a product of our heredity and experience; since we chose neither, then there is no basis for respecting individuality as significant. On such a basis a grain of sand is individual - in that no two grains are exactly the same - but the differences are contingent, passive, meaningless.

I am therefore of the conviction that a long hard look at the human condition leads to the conviction that if our individuality is to have any real meaning as a fact of existence, it must be prior to creation +, heredity and experience.

(In other words, God created us as Men - but did not create our unique individuality - because individuality in any meaningful and significant sense cannot be created.)

In other words, there must be some-thing - unique to each person - that was not created by God, came before creation by God; and therefore also came before any effect of personal experience or the hereditary influence of ancestors.

This, if individuality is real and not an illusion, then it is something that comes from 'eternity' (it 'always' was) - and that creation to become a Man, and then a Man affected by heredity and experience, is something that happens-to this individuality.

Individuality remains within the created humanity, and behind the effects of heredity and experience.

And this is why we cannot (try as we might - and some people spend the best efforts of their life trying; and some societies expend vast effort and infinite ruthlessness on the job) ever wholly shed the sense of individuality; and why half the religions and nearly-all the human societies of the world have never been able wholly to extinguish it.

So I think it would be a good thing if such a fundamental and seemingly-ineradicable reality of our condition was properly represented in our basic (metaphysical, theological, philosophical) description of things.


Note added:

+"Creation" in this sense means something like 'organized from existing materials in in accordance with existing constraints' it does not mean creation in zero-time and from nothing.


PS: Take the example of Satan and his choice of evil.

'Mainstream' Christian theology (i.e. the type I think is up-front incoherent) would have it that Satan was an angelic being entirely created by God, and lived his pre-downfall life entirely in Heavenly circumstances which were entirely of God's making and choosing. Where, then, was the evil supposed to have come from - if not from God? And if God made Satan the way he is, then God is responsible for everything that Satan is, has done and is doing - and the same applies to all demons, evil humans and indeed all evil - but this makes no sense.

If, however, it is allowed that there is a somewhat about Satan that was not created by God nor a product of his experiences in Heaven, then the incoherence disappears; because evil was something in the nature of Satan prior to his creation by God.

Furthermore, the reality of free will, agency and the ability to choose between Good and evil (or anything else) has the same pre-creation origin.

So Satan had evil in him not from God but carried-over from his pre-created self; also Satan was able to choose whether to affiliate with this pre-creation evil or to affiliate with the Good, which he had learned about post-creation, from his experiences in Heaven.

Thus, when individuality is regarded as irreducible and uncreated - this makes sense both of the existence of evil (in the context of a Good creation by a wholly Good God); and also makes sense of choice, the reality of which comes from the autonomy of individuality - and the reality of choice is, of course, absolutely necessary to Christianity.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

What is the Human Condition? (through most of human history, and from a biological perspective)


I think it is now pretty well established that the Human Condition, throughout what we know of recorded history, and from a biological perspective, on average and most of the time and in equilibrium, has these features:


1. The average human reared no children to adulthood - the modal average reproductive success was zero - only a small minority of the population were responsible for producing almost all the adults of the next generation.


2. The average destiny of a human was to die in early childhood - often around the time of birth. Many children were born, many people had children (almost all women) - but very few of these children lived to reproductive maturity. Therefore successful reproduction was mostly a matter of keeping your children alive.

ie. 'Everybody' was fertile; and between-individual reproductive success were mostly an outcome of differential mortality rates.


3. The average adult came from a social class above the one he ended up inhabiting - so in Medieval England the average adult was a peasant, but his parents would have been craftspeople, merchants, clerks or somebody higher up the social scale than himself. In other societies the average adult would be a peasant but his parents might have been royalty (especially in highly polygamous societies), or successful warriors, hunters.


4. In other words, the average adult was of lower status and less successful than his or her parents. High status positions were numerically fixed, thus it was a society of downward-mobility; in which lower class people did not rear children, and lower class social positions (niches - especially peasants and their wives) were mostly filled by the children of the upper classes.


5. Historical societies were therefore far more (biologically) competitive than modern societies - and the punishment for failure was reproductive death (or actual death).


6. because of this intense competition, and the small proportion of humans who produced a large proportion of the next generation; historical societies were therefore biologically set-up in such as way as to achieve a mutation-selection balance - especially among men, of whom very few had any adult aged offspring.


7. 'Modern' societies - ie. those since about 1750 in England, with expanding populations due (mainly) to reduced childhood mortality rates, have been for many generations in a profoundly abnormal state, with respect to reproduction.

In modern societies, more than a half/ the vast majority/ almost-all babies who are born will survive to adulthood, a high proportion of the population produce a high proportion of the next generation. This must have a very significant effect on increasing the population load of deleterious genetic mutations.

i.e. Reproductive success is almost wholly due to differential fertility - because childhood mortality rates are so low.


8. In conclusion, in biological terms the Human Condition has bee transformed in the past couple of hundred years everywhere in the world.

The situation is unprecedented in human history. The average human can now expect to become an adult; and can expect that any children he may have will all survive to the next generation.

The basic biological, selectional situation of the human species has been radically changed, for up to ten generations (in England).

Biological competition is minimal; the situation of mutation-selection balance has been severely weakened.

This must have had a profound effect on the make-up of the average human genome over the past 200 years or so.


Explaining various Christian phenomena using an analogy of relative Time


Suppose that we accept a 'pop' Einsteinian idea of Time as sequential and linear but going at relatively different speeds in different places and conditions - as a consequence of the speed of light being fixed.

But let us also suppose that there is an underlying, absolute, objective Time behind all of this - which is due to there being a God for whom Time is also sequential: Divine Time is therefore the objective reality underpinning the different relative speeds of Time in different places.


Anyway...  Let us assume that from the perspective of our earthly and mortal life, Time in Heaven can run at different speeds than here.

Heavenly Time must run such as to achieve incomprehensibly more in a single second of earthly time than possible on earth, or else the vast work of creating and sustaining the earth and its denizens could not be accomplished.

From earth this would look as if the denizens of Heaven were operating in a blur of activity; from Heaven it would seem that hardly anything happens on earth.


But also, it seems likely that Heavenly Time could also be very slowed-up and almost suspended relative to earth-time; so that it would seem from earth that perhaps a Heavenly inhabitant was living in a frozen state of suspended animation.

In sum - let us say that Time in Heaven might run very much faster or slower than earthly time, as seen from an earthly perspective.

(This seems necessary for Heaven to accomplish what Heaven accomplishes.)


But this seems to create a serious problem of communication between Heaven and earth - because it is presumably extremely difficult and unsatisfactory to communicate with those whose Time may be either vastly sped-up or slowed-down - the relative rate of their activities is so different - what would seem like rapid interaction to one party would seem unbearably/ uselessly delayed to the other party - or, in reverse.


And the primary communication is of course Love.

It is hard to imagine Love between entities living at grossly different Time speeds - and this perhaps creates a problem for God the Father in his relationship with his earthly children?

God the Father must always be creating and sustaining the universe - which presumably involves unimaginably numerous and rapid activities (as they would seem to us).

Thus, the fastest possible Time is objective Time - God's Time.


Therefore, it is a vital part of Christian life to synchronize earth and Heaven - in practice this comes by a signal sent from here on earth in response to which a Heavenly entity will synchronize Time with us (usually by Heaven slowing-down a lot!).

For example, an angelic being who is whizzing around doing things (say) a billionfold faster than possible on earth, get a message and slows down and matches Time-speed with the earthly inhabitant who has signaled that communication is requested.

Then, having communicated, the angel speeds-up again to Heavenly Time. Or else the gaps are bridged by a hierarchy of angels living at different rates of Time.


What are these signals from earth - these requests to synchronize Time?

Perhaps things such as prayer, meditation, Liturgy, Holy Communion, Temple Ordinances and the like - perhaps these can be imagined as a signal for Heaven to match speed with us and thereby open the channels of communication?


(For example, perhaps Baptism of the Dead could be imagined to work by creating a synchronization of Time between the living and a post-mortal spirit, to slowdown the life of the spirit, and bring the post-mortal spirit into communication with the living; so the spirit can perceive the love expressed towards him or her. Perhaps otherwise, the spirit would be living either so rapidly and busily - or else so slowly and inertly - as to be incapable of exercising autonomous choice? By signalling to the spirit, getting the spirit to slow-down to mortal speed, and creating a state of communion with that post-mortal spirit; then the spirit is much better able to exercise agency and decide whether or not to accept the Gospel - than would be possible if earthly and Heavenly Time were grossly discrepant.)


Perhaps, furthermore, the rate of Time in earthly mortal life is optimal for making decisions about salvation and for accomplishing theosis.

Perhaps the acceptance of salvation, and working for theosis (and the highest exaltation) is not impossible in Heaven - but rather, it is very much more difficult and less likely, due to Heavenly Time being sub-optimal - usually too fast or too slow - and the efficacy of earthly prayers and rituals for the dead is related to getting post-mortal spirits at the right speed and into communication with us - who are the experts on salvation and theosis.


And, for God to do his infinite work of Love, required that Divinity synchronize Time with Men; hence God becoming Man - the incarnation of Christ and his dwelling among us on earth.

Perhaps the life of Christ can be seen as (to some partial extent) the ultimate act of synchronization of Time?


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

How could English genius apparently disappear between the 1960s and 1990? Answer: it was the ability to recognize the products of genius which disappeared at that time


The collapse of genius in Britain happened very quickly indeed, in a single generation: my generation, in fact - those born from 1945 onwards (but in England we don't use the phrase 'baby boomers').

How could this happen - I mean so abruptly?


Of course, there were still some elderly geniuses still around in 1990, and some are still alive - but the supply is cut-off.

There aren't any recognized, active, genuine geniuses in England today - whereas a century ago, and two centuries ago, they were thick on the ground.


Even though I believe that average intelligence has been declining very rapidly since the Industrial revolution (due to some mixture of accumulating genetic mutations in from very low child mortality, and a differential fertility pattern adverse to high intelligence - and more recently mass population movement) - even though I think it possible that average intelligence may actually have declined at something like 1 IQ point per decade...

Even despite all this; the abruptness of the collapse of genius was still too rapid to have a biological basis in terms of the actual production of potential geniuses.

So I assume that the problem was not actually in the production of genius people but in a collapse in the ability to recognize the products of genius - the failure to perceive and to use genuine breakthrough ideas and products - and that this was substantially due to very rapid social changes happening in England through the 1960s through 1980s.

What happened, I think, was that the production of geniuses declined rather gracefully, gradually, incrementally - but that it was that the ability to evaluate and recognize major work of genius that collapsed abruptly.


The idea is that creative genius - the ability to make breakthroughs - is extremely rare because it requires a combination of high intelligence and high 'Psychoticism' - which is a personality trait defined by Eysenck that include both high creativity plus a constellation of personality attributes most of which are helpful or necessary for a genius.

However, the role of the genius is essentially to produce products of genius which can be exploited - by society. Therefore, a society must have the ability to recognize and use the products of genius.

To recognize and exploit the products of genius - a new theory or equation, an invention, a technique - requires a much lower intelligence and creativity than first devising it - and there will be something like ten or even a hundred-fold more people in a society who can recognize, understand and exploit the products of genius than can make significant breakthroughs.

Yet, although genius exploiters are much commoner than geniuses, to recognize genius nonetheless requires some elements of genius - early users require substantial intellectual abilities and some elements of a creative and autonomous personality.


My idea here is that as the frequency of of production of geniuses declined throughout the period from about 1800, this was accompanied by a decline in the proportion of the population capable of recognizing, understanding and exploiting the products of genius - and during by the 1960s this pool of genius exploiters had reached a critically low proportion in most areas of national life - and during the 1960s into the years beyond, rapid social changes caused a sudden dilution of genius-product recognizers and genius-product users until by 1990 they were outnumbered, overpowered and ignored.

By 1990, the English had not only suffered a long term reduction in the proportion and number of creative geniuses, but English society had also become incapable even of recognizing genius; and unable to detect and use the products of genius.

There are numerous possible contributing reasons why English society and its institutions may have very rapidly become incapable of recognizing genius; all or several may be true, and I don't know which would be the most important.

These include the rapid expansion of higher education (universities and colleges), the collapse of 'meritocracy' (i.e. a system which allocated roles primarily on the basis of functional ability) the transition to a sexually-mixed co-educational workforce, the rise of 'affirmative action' in terms of a system of group preferences favouring those groups with the lowest frequency of occurrence of the attributes of genius, and of genius-recognizing capacities; a massive shift of national focus away from social functions and towards sex (i.e. the sexual revolution); the rise of the Mass Media and bureaucracy; and of course the collapse of Christianity as the dominant national religion - accompanied by the collapse of honesty, ethics and devotion to beauty.


By 1990 and since then, England had become a society where there are no acknowledged geniuses, and the relatively few people capable even of recognizing the products of genius are few, scattered and powerless - so social evaluations are dominated by fashion and expediency; and the primary societal ethic is of conscientious conformity to the oscillations of fashion and the winds of expediency.

There are, I think, still men of genius; and still a few people who recognize them and (more importantly) can recognize the potentially revolutionary breakthroughs which could (if adopted and exploited) transform societal function.

But there are not enough such people - so their effect is extremely diluted, and they are not in positions of influence, and they do not make any perceptible impact on the major social institutions of England today.


In sum, England gradually lost her innate ability to innovate from about 1800, and this was accompanied by losing the ability to recognize and exploit innovations - but this decline (being much common) lagged the decline of genius by a few generations.

But from the 1960, the proportion of people who had enough genius in them to be able to recognize and exploit innovations - and has the kind of independence of personality required to hold by their own unusual understanding - had also become critically low - and the social revolution from the mid 1960s triggered institutional changed which very suddenly and abruptly overwhelmed not only the geniuses but even the genius-detectors.

In England nowadays, the competence even merely to recognize work of genius has become rarer than the occurrence of actual creative genius used to be.


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

What is the single most important and positive thing that differentiates Mormonism from mainstream Christianity in the modern West?


This 'dyadic exaltation' aspect of Mormon theology increasingly seems like the key issue: the doctrine that while salvation is available to all (if they choose it), the highest theosis (state of divinity) is for a husband and wife (and their family) united in eternal marriage.

Therefore, marriage and family are at the very heart of God's plan for the salvation and exaltation of Man. 

There is essentially nothing Biblical to support this doctrine, and it was never known to be a feature of the historical and traditional Christian churches; nonetheless you can see that Christians seem independently to have 'discovered' something of the sort at various times and places.
The fact that Joseph Smith made it explicit, and received revelations on this topic - is (for me) a compelling proof of, or reason for, the necessity for the Mormon Restoration of the Gospel - because without explicit revelation on this topic, the core necessity for marriage and family is simply not strong enough in other Christian churches to survive (even in principle) the long term destructive pressures being put onto marriage and family in modern secular societies.

Why not strong enough? Because Catholics are tempted to retreat into celibacy as being (anyway) their highest form of spiritual life; while Protestants/ Evangelicals are tempted to retreat into the individuality of Grace (without any need for any particular earthly arrangements).

And all non-Mormon Christians regard marriage as 'merely' a temporary expedient of earthly and mortal life while will disappear in Heaven - thus, insofar as they develop an other-worldly and post-mortal perspective (as Christians should) - so mainstream Christians will tend to downgrade the importance of marriage and family.

Thus mainstream Christians are not doctrinally compelled to defend marriage and family. And M&F are incrementally and rapidly collapsing in mainstream Christianity. And this collapse of marriage and family will (and is intended to) take down those Christian churches. Not just in theory - but here and now, as things actually are, in the modern secular West.


Anti-Christian Secular Leftism has evolved and probed at mainstream Christianity over the generations, attacking here and attacking there, and it has at last found this weakness - this Achilles heel  - of marriage; and have broken through, and the churches have given-way, and the enemy is pouring into the breach. 

Only Mormonism explains why marriage and family are of eternal significance - plenty of Christians feel that this is so, and that marriage and family are (somehow, potentially) of primary and eternal importance - but only Mormons can actually back this up with revelation incorporated into theology.

My interpretation is their either: 

1. It was intended (by God) that the early stage of Christianity was to be dominated by celibate ascetics (because he foresaw the effects of the collapse of Empire) - but this has changed in the Latter Days. Or else:
2. That the necessary revelations about marriage and family were either lost or eliminated from the scriptural record - and were not, in the end, restored by the Reformation (as perhaps God hoped) due to an excessive and exclusive focus on the Bible, and the contingent but rooted Protestant misunderstanding that there was no other legitimate source of revelation (the falsehood that the Bible is sufficient, and uniquely sufficient; as well as necessary). 

Therefore the Restoration of the Gospel by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints became necessary - to complete the unfinished work of the Reformation, and to correct the deformities which had arisen in consequence.

Of course there is a lot more to Mormonism than that - but as things stand in the West this is probably the single most important and most relevant thing. 
Whether the CJCLDS can continue to withstand the sustained and increasingly aggressive attack on its core doctrines by modern secular Leftism is another matter - but at least they are core doctrines for the LDS, so things are set up as well as they could be. 

As always, it is up to people to be courageous and discerning.