Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

DECONSTRUCTING AN ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

“If we use fuel to get our power, we are living on our capital and exhausting it rapidly. This method is barbarous and wantonly wastefull. A far better way would be to avail ourselves of the sun’s rays.”
—Nikola Tesla

I wrote the other day, in this blog:

There seems no doubt that we have to continually find ways to retrofit and reshape what we have already, with sustainable practices, technologies, actions and creative genius. What could be more destructive than smashing it to rubble, or building everything new—which takes remarkable amounts of energy? I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve read that it’s more sustainable to get full life (if we can call it that) out of your present car, then simply abandoning it and buying a hybrid—ie getting a new one built.

I still don’t know the facts with cars, but here’s a blog—the greenest building is the one already built—about the most sustainable homes (in general, of course) being homes that don’t get torn down for a long time. Tearing down and rebuilding homes evidently takes tons (or better put, decades) of energy.

It’s so difficult trying to figure out energy consumption when money (paying bills) covers our tracks—and our eyes. In other words, if we used X amount of energy, and then there was no, say, hot water left, we’d really get it. North America, if you have a little money, has this seemingly endless trough of energy, never stopping, never ending. This, of course, is false. But this is one of the reasons, among many, that the carbon tax idea is so dangerous, at least to my thinking. There is no real sacrifice involved. Just like fines for corporate polluting that are far lower than the resulting profits, it all becomes, simply, a trade off, and ultimately a hidden “tax” paid by the consumer, for as long as the consumer money is there. Clearly, Mother Earth has finite resources, although surely the sun offers us sustainable brilliance…

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ’til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
—Thomas Edison

Instead of paying for our waste, better question might be: must we create so much non-renewable waste to create a given product? Again, surely there is some sort of in-out ratio maximum and minimum that could be described as sustainable or piggy…

And here’s another site, called The Original Green. People are putting in a lot of work to figure these things out.

Sending you lots of sustainable thoughts. Love is the most sustainable thing going. And good, low-on-the-food-chain food, helps keep it flowing.

Pete xo

AN OPEN LETTER TO RICHARD DAWKINS: MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE or is SCIENCE SUBJECTIVE?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Dear Richard,

Hope all is well. With the Copenhagen Summit nearing its end, and little apparent consensus on anything, I read this quote from you today (from December 7, 2009):

“Whatever you think about global warming and whether humans are responsible, I think we have to salute this remarkable feat of international cooperation. Here is an account, by a Guardian journalist, of the difficult process of getting the joint editorial together.”

My wife doesn’t think I should take issue with you for saying “Whatever you think…” She’s probably right. She’s almost always right. Nonetheless, with thousands of life-forms supposedly in peril—including our own—it really pushed a button in me, and I do take issue.

For since when do you say, “Whatever you think…” about anything? With respect to believers in God, I don’t think you’d every say: “Whatever you think…” You’ve said, in fact, things like some religious believers are “pig-headed and ignorant.” Fair enough, as a passing comment.

But with climate change, and going by your scientific guidelines, shouldn’t we only “salute this remarkable feat” if it’s in support of something true? For Richard—and I don’t disagree with your condescension here either—you do not salute two million people from countless nations gathering in Rome to wave to the Pope, as “remarkable” a “feat of international cooperation” as that may be.

And, because my issue with the above quote might just be one of semantics, or a misinterpretation, I actually take issue with it in combination with this quote from you in 2008:

“I am not that well versed on climate science and don’t feel qualified to take on the deniers. I am well versed in evolution, however, and that is why I am happy to take on creationists.”

I apologize if I’ve missed a lot of your writing on the subject, but that quote just doesn’t cut it.

To the contrary, Richard, you take on creationists and spirituality and, thankfully, extremists, while actually having, admittedly, very limited knowledge about the nuance of, say, Eastern philosophy, religion and belief (not an insignificant part of the story and, admittedly, a topic of interest to me).

However, you are a scientist—a great scientist. So I wonder this: as virulently outspoken as you are against your religious opponents, when will you be similarly outspoken where your scientific colleagues are concerned—one group of which must be dangerously wrong—and state for the record what the scientific data shows to be true, or what it doesn’t show to be true, in terms of climate change?

SCIENCE WITHOUT INTEGRITY IS BAD RELIGION

Why is this important? I’ll give you my reasons, but keep in mind—and I’m serious about this disadvantage—my IQ is undeniably not nearly as high as yours.

Nonetheless, I think your integrity—your fairness and objectivity—as a human being may be dependent upon taking an aggressive stance, not to mention vital to a portion of world perception, with regard to so-called man-made climate change.

Also, can you please explain how the lay-person is to understand the so-called rationale and clarity of science, when all these scientists, often with access to the same “incontrovertible” facts, are truly at each others’ throats with insults and accusations?

Further, you are considered one of the world’s most important intellectuals and you are undeniably brilliant in the field of evolutionary biology. I have read several of your bestsellers, as well as your largely ‘non-evolution’ book The God Delusion. Are religious fundamentalists in fact an utter disaster for humanity? Dangerous? To be sure, some are.

But from your point of view—and mine—fundamentalists are known to be irrational, and religion tends to be pathologically speculative.

But scientists and science? Is that not all about being rational? Impartial? So if we are truly in danger of mass extinction by our actions, why aren’t you becoming “well versed in climate science” to aggressively oppose those scientists who deny man-made climate change?

I fear your hatred for religion combined with your unstoppable belief in science has stopped you questioning if in fact science can deliver all you promise it can deliver.

Let me explain.

SERVING LIFE, SERVING DEATH

Only a fool would deny that the way human beings have come to understand and interact with the planet, through science and scientific advancements, is jaw-dropping in the extreme—I’m talking a jaw dragging on the floor, where once only our knuckles dragged. That I am right now alive thanks to modern medicine and using a small machine in my office to write this open letter, and then with one click of a button will post it to millions (well, in my case, hundreds) of other humans, is mind-boggling.

But similarly, only a fool (or a liar) would deny the mountains of experimental and experiential evidence of human carnage that proves scientists have produced and continue to produce the most hideous yet mind-blowing array of military weapons and environmental poisons imaginable, seemingly forever unsatisfied with their previous subsidized models of utter destruction.

Indeed, some of the greatest scientists of the 20th century gathered during World War II in Los Alamos to relentlessly pursue and capture the secrets of atomic fusion and fission, and created weaponry capable of destroying the species. Some still argue it was the right thing to do.

MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE and CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS

And here we are with so-called man-made climate change, which according to many scientists, threatens the species as we’ve never been threatened before. For the record, but only via the news and my limited understanding of science and the data, I tend to agree with this thesis—I’ve even written for desmogblog.com—and it makes me scared for myself and all species on the planet.

I also fear that the monstrous size and nature of this ugly debate, and its resulting confusion, may be pushing to the fringes utterly undeniable environmental disasters. For example, the increasing lack of potable water for billions of humans; or the pending disaster (or ingenuity) that will arise with the continued depletion of fossil fuels.

Further, as the deniers of climate change become more persuasive—and they are, evidently, thanks to scientists and the media—I believe a side-effect of this polarized debate is oozing into a significant percentage of the masses and suggesting that all loud environmental concerns are likely exaggerated Left Wing/ New World Order conspiratorial ploys. And you think you had problems with religious fanatics? This is devastating to intelligent life.

SO WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT SCIENCE?

I’m not sure what you think, but it seems to me that if scientists observing the same scientific data can end up in such a war of words, insults and polarized results, one can conclude a couple of possibilities, or a combination thereof:

One, that a scientist’s perspective on scientific data is actually alarmingly subjective—despite being considered science. Thus, one could ask, under certain conditions, of what use is it—particularly with human existence under pressure?

Or, two, if the scientific data on, say, climate change, is as undeniable as scientists say (on whichever side), then a percentage of scientists obviously can be so easily bought as to leave scientific ‘fact’ in peril—as we’ve seen perhaps with countless conscious or unconscious scientific stooges for, say, Big Pharma, or the Military Industrial Complex.

Both conclusions, incidentally, seem to be anathema to your belief that the scientific method is the ideology to live by if we are to survive as a species.

As you have said:

“Science is actually one of the most moral, one of the most honest disciplines around—because science would completely collapse if it weren’t for a scrupulous adherence to honesty in the reporting of evidence.”

At this point, Richard, while the species waits to see if what you say about science is accurate—or accurate enough—I’m more worried that what will “completely collapse” is the biosphere.

And there may be “a scrupulous adherence to honesty” in the science behind creating, say, nuclear weapons—one of untold science-driven inventions of devastation—but I’d be hesitant to use the word moral.

MAN-MADE MAN

So where are you, Richard? Are you even a little bit aware or even ashamed, if not of science, of the limits of character and integrity within your scientific family, plagued as they seem to be by dishonesty and confusion—not unlike all others in all other facets of human existence? It’s obvious the exhausted George Monbiot is wringing his hands in lonely desperation. But George is a mere journalist. You are a scientist who declares science to be our only real hope. If we are truly in peril as a species, and being a scientist of great renown, shouldn’t you be a lot louder than George Monbiot?

THE EXTERNALITIES OF FREE SPEECH

In short, Richard, as of late 2009, most solidarity-inducing forms of listening, trust, debate and kindness between people of differing views but similar vulnerabilities seem to have gone to the dogs.

We lay people need you and other ‘rational’ scientists to step up with your detailed analysis of the evidence because it is vital for both the continued integrity of science and, evidently, life as we know it. And hopefully detailed analysis from outside a person’s scientific field will leave him or her less vulnerable to being sold out to big business or a rapacious desire for continued funding. Or perhaps not. Perhaps science, like politics, is to a frightening degree now run by corporations and lobbyists.

You alone have sold over two million copies of The God Delusion. Put some real clout behind the climate-change science. After all, so many of your colleagues are saying this is the greatest catastrophe in human history. Many other colleagues are saying it is a hoax. Ah, science—it’s beginning to sound like religion.

So I ask you, where do the scientist “deniers” of man-made climate change—with access to the same data as the “believers”—fit into your definition of science?

Many people undoubtedly want to know, including me, because as a non-scientist I’m truly confused by what are these days passing for science and freedom of speech—which has become a free-for-all led by the richest, rudest and most inflammatory. Are we not, all of us, unconsciously deafened by a cacophony of intentional lies, half-truths and unreason—sometimes our own?

Indeed, it is not solely the deniers of man-made climate change that make my belief in man-made climate change less stable, but also relentless boardroom manipulations like legalized theft for multinational corporations via carbon-tax speculation and the unconscionable lengths to which the financial sector will reshape reality to maximize profit.

And if the problem is largely the media—which have served your work so well—then, my god, rail against media (and use science if it helps).

SOLIDARITY

Either way, in my opinion, as surely as any decent religious person should aggressively disown foul and murderous commands within their given holy text, you are ethically obliged to come out in full force against either the fallibility of scientific consensus due to the subjectivity quotient of scientific data, or the accidental incompetence of some of your scientific colleagues, or the corruptibility of some of your scientific colleagues (on whichever side).

In comparison, your attack on religion was easy. Why? Two reasons. Firstly, you don’t by definition respect religious believers. Secondly, many aspects of religion are laughably and hopelessly irrational. But these scientists are the proponents of your ideology and your bread and butter. They may even be your friends.

Are the facts obvious or not? Or are we experiencing The Man-Made Climate-Change Delusion?

Richard, if man-made climate change is truly putting the species at severe risk, please put field selectivity aside as you have surely done before. We need your honesty, your wisdom, your integrity, your outrage and your commitment to humanity.

If not, we lay people may just resort to prayer.

Sincerely and with affection,

Pete

SUZAN MAZUR: Evolution, Epigenesis (and Epigenetics), Embryology and Funding

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Suzan Mazur, god love her, is on a relentless tear to force the media (and in some cases, the scientific community itself) to keep up and fairly and honestly promulgate the ever-expanding ideas on the Darwinian view of the theory of evolution. In some ways, evolutionary biologists have been the slowest to adjust (or maybe I just like to write that last sentence). Whatever, it’s a simply remarkable field, and Suzan Mazur is working it. Life, this wondrous life.

Suzan has written this online book—The Altenberg 16: Will the Real Theory of Evolution Please Stand Up?— which has wonderfully probing interviews, comments and quick exchanges in it (from Stuart Kauffman, Stuart Newman and Jerry Fodor to Richard Dawkins).

This is a revealing interview with Scott Gilbert, whose abstract from a recent paper is as follows, abbreviated:

In 1893, Thomas Huxley, wrote, “Evolution is not a speculation but a fact; and it takes place by epigenesis.” Note that evolution’s chief defender did not complete his sentence with the phrase “natural selection,” for Huxley was interested in the generation of the diversity needed for natural selection. That phase of evolution was regulated by development. Recent work has established five main mechanisms for the generation of anatomical diversity through changes in development, and this talk will review them and provide examples from the recent literature.

The short yet interesting interview with Gilbert is here.

An excerpt:

Scott Gilbert: They like the conflict theory. I found the Brooks’ article. It’s the February 18, 2007 David Brooks NYT column—and I’m quoting: “From the content of our genes and the lessons of evolutionary biology it has become apparent that nature is filled with competition and conflicts of interest.”

Suzan Mazur: Well he’s a vehicle of the economic status quo.

Scott Gilbert: Of the right. Yes. But I think that’s how evolution is taught. It comes around to what Huxley was saying about human nature, that we will use evolutionary biology to justify ourselves. And that in saying that nature is inherently amoral and self-interested—well, we’re just part of nature. We justify our doing evil things because we say our genes made us do it. Darwinian selection. We’ve been selected to be competitive bastards. We don’t usually hear about any other model, say, that we are the current pinnacle of the evolution towards cooperation.

Lots of love to you, and grand amounts of joyous, wonderful, even sexy cooperation in the complexity—and may such ideas find their way into National Geographic and the New York Times,

Pete xo

DR. PAUL FARMER, Partners In Health and Global Health Equity

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Every time I read Paul Farmer or about Paul Farmer (of Partners In Health), I get both inspired and I learn a lot. I was reading Pathologies of Power this weekend.

Farmer works predominantly in a Boston teaching hospital and in Haiti, among the worlds very poor, and he points out the painful unethical avoidance of global health equity by medical ethics boards. From Pathologies of Power (pg 203-305):

“These [ethics] consults [on which he sometimes serves] are [in the West] often about too much medical care. That is, we are called to explore cases in which care is painful, expensive, and prolonged well beyond the point of efficacy…

But being a clinician who works in both a Harvard teaching hospital and rural Haiti, I can’t help but make connections between the surfeit on one side—too much care—and the paucity on the other…

What does bioethics have to say about this, the leading ethical question of our times [the right to health care for all]? Almost nothing…

One gets the sense, in attending ethics rounds and reading the now-copious ethics literature, that these have-nots are an embarrassment to the ethicists, for the problems of poverty and racism and a lack of national health insurance figure only rarely in a literature dominated by endless discussions of brain death, organ transplantation, xenotransplantation, and care at the end of life.

When the end of life comes early—from death in childbirth, say, or from tuberculosis or infantile diarrhea—the scandal is immeasurably greater, but silence reigns in the medical ethics literature.

Isn’t that revealing? Surely a sickness in itself, if not of the body our collective heart and mind.

Here’s a little thing on youtube on Farmer and Partners In Health:

And this:

Lots of love to you—and here’s to greater equity, gratitude, and the seeking of greater justice and health for all, regardless of their birthplace…

Pete

Learning (How to Live) From The Natural World

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

My religion [and science] consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
—Albert Einstein

Feeble, perhaps, but what incredible details! And what can they teach us about the sustainable process of being? Consider the intelligence of systems within systems within systems, with a sustainability that we lovely humans can only weep at (yet we can, with ‘conversation’, learn from).

So after a little blog about the beauty of organic farming, this is a really beautiful TED video about biomimicry as a means to understand how to live, how “to redesign the human made world…” It comes from the very wonderful Janine Benyus on a TED talk.

Many great lines from Janine Benyus, about bio-mimicry, and sustainability:

“Learning about the natural world is one thing. Learning from the natural world. That’s the switch. That’s the profound switch. What they realized was that the answers to their questions were everywhere. They just need to change the lenses with which they saw the world.”

Beautiful. What a concept, what a context.

The Taoists have been doing this for centuries with every kind of kung fu; studying the crane, the tiger etc. The Vedas know this: to understand how something works, one must meditate upon it, the yogis have said. Absorption in another object, breaking the barriers between the seer and the seen is a type of samadhi, and allows true understanding.

Janine Benyus speaks of the need to have conversation with…

“…the genius of the natural world.”

“Solutions solved in context: the earth…How does life make things? How does life make the most of things?”

The difference between human-made devices and the massive amount of waste produced compared to the sustainability of natural things is stunning and humbling, and presently, dangerous for the species, it turns out.

“Life adds information to matter…”

“How does life make things disappear into systems…there aren’t things in the natural world divorced from their systems.”

Check this wonderful talk out, and delight in the intelligence with which we are surrounded and imbibed. So hopeful.

For all the inventions and advancements that have arisen from the use of fossil fuels, with the all-night lights and the oil-carried foods we have somehow lost the rhythms of nature, the seasons, the meaning of cycles; of listening, of seeing the genius going on around us, constantly, inconceivably—yes, even greater than our own genius, blackberrys and rocket ships notwithstanding. We’ve lost the conversation. Life, in Her infinite intelligence, is forcing us big-brained beings to re-examine the equation, and our place in it.

Although we have lost the language, Nature is asking us to change our relationship with Her from invasion to conversation. What a lovely invitation. RSVP required. BYOB (Bring Your Own Beauty).

Remember how amazing you are, and it all is,

Lots of love to you,

Pete

FLU OFF THE HANDLE: Gas Wars, Factory Farms and Middle East Conflicts

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

One can never predict tomorrow, in any sense of the word, except that it will most likely arrive. Here are a few adverts from the Swine Flu threat of 1976, where some 40 million people decided to get vaccinated, and no epidemic took place.

I think oil was also a big problem around that time too, with OPEC. Actually, I think that was 1973, with certain Arab countries responding to the US’s supplying Israel militarily during the Yom Kippur War (wow, some things really do never change).

Anyway, I was born in 1965, and I recall, as a kid, people saying in the 1970s that if gas every reached a dollar a gallon, there would be a revolution.

What’s it at now? And heck, water is even more expensive. I wonder where that may lead.

The only unstoppable, outrageous uprising turned out to be Exxon’s profits, while the US fought a war of protectionism, with tax-payer money, on Big Oil’s behalf. The cost? Hundreds of thousands of lives, an ever expanding debt, worldwide distrust and who knows what kind of environmental disaster and increased terrorism…

Almost entirely for a diminishing resource. That’s what I call short term planning.

What a world. What an experiment! What an opportunity to stand with dignity, and refine oneself against the madness, and the potential. Good luck and big love,

Pete xoxo

CREATIONISM, SCIENTISM, ATHEISM and KNOW-IT-ALL-ISM

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Here, I think, is a useful article from Douglas Todd in the Vancouver Sun. It’s called ‘Scientism’ effects Darwinian debates. Its by-line is:

An unflinching belief that science can explain everything about evolution becomes its own ideology

An excerpt:

The second major barrier [Todd's first major barrier is religious literalism which leads to creationism] to a rewarding public conversation about the impact of evolution on the way we understand the world is not named nearly as much.

It is “scientism.”

Scientism is the belief that the sciences have no boundaries and will, in the end, be able to explain everything in the universe. Scientism can, like religious literalism, become its own ideology.

The Encyclopedia of Science, Technology and Ethics defines scientism as “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of natural science to be applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities).”

I have two aspects that always remain interesting to me. The first is the questions unanswered still by Quantum Theory, and the still unclear position of consciousness; the wild yet important idea that an ‘observer’ may be necessary to make something actually exist. That is indeed spooky, but remains a result of much experimentation in the field.

Physicists Rosenblum and Kuttner, in the Quantum Enigma, repeat over and over and unabashedly that (pg 201):

“…if you take quantum theory seriously beyond practical purposes, it has baffling implications. It tells us that physics’ encounter with consciousness, demonstrated for the small, applies to everything. And that “everything’ can include the entire universe.

Copernicus dethroned humanity from the cosmic center. Does quantum theory suggest that, in some mysterious sense, we are a cosmic center?”

I’m not sure enough Darwinians are simultaneously meditating upon Quantum Theory, as they describe unequivocally how the universe unfolds. As physicist Brian Greene has said, classical Newtonian physics is “demonstrably not how the universe works.” I’m quoting from memory, so I’m not sure if that is the exact phase.

My second question, with regard to an expanding, exploding universe, based on entropy, that is utterly random according to certain Darwinians, why is there any order at all, anything non-random?

Let’s face it, all of this is an impossibility, and yet none of us live a random life—quite the contrary. There is order and rules everywhere. Try living random for an hour. You may find your toothbrush in a strange place come morning.

I’m not sure what that fact of having to follow nature’s rules means, but it is, at least for me and the people I know, compellingly non-random. For best results, I truly try to follow, to be in tune with, these rules—rules that came from god knows where.

Physicists Kuttner and Rosenblum write on page 198:

Though there is as yet no accepted theory for that minuscule split second before quarks and electrons came into existence, there are constraints on how the universe must have started.

To produce a universe resembling one in which we can live, the Big Bang had to be finely tuned. How finely? Theories vary.

According to one, if the initial conditions of the universe were chosen randomly, there would be one chance in 10 to the 120 (that’s one with 120 zeros after it) that the universe would be livable.

Cosmologist Roger Penrose has it vastly more unlikely: The exponent he suggests is 10 to the 123.

By any such estimate, the chance that a livable universe like ours would be created is far less than the chance of randomly picking a particular single atom out of all the atoms in the universe.

Can you accept odds like that as a coincidence?

That, too, should be in every scientists meditation. Of course then they have to find some mystic to show them how to meditate. I’m kidding!

Lots of semi-random love to you (sounds like a frat party),

Pete

WADE DAVIS and THE MAGNIFICENT WEB of HUMAN CULTURES

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

In this talk, anthropologist Wade Davis pours out the word as it pours through him: the worldwide web of belief and ritual. This is another great TED talk.

These myriad voices of humanity [wild and profound, often indigenous, cultures] are not failed attempts at being you [or me], at being modern. They are unique facets of the human imagination. They are unique answers to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive?

And when asked that question they respond with six thousand different voices. Collectively those human voices become our repertoire for dealing with the challenges that will confront us in the ensuing millenia.

Our industrial society is scarcely three hundred years old. That shallow history shouldn’t suggest to anyone that we have all of the answers for all of the questions that will confront us in the ensuing millenia.

The myriad voices of humanity are not failed attempts at being us. They are unique answers to that fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive?

And there is indeed a fire burning over the earth taking with it not only plants and animals, but the legacy of humanity’s brilliance.

Right now as we sit in this room, of those six thousand languages spoken the day you were born, fully half aren’t being taught to children. So you’re living through a time when virtually half of humanity’s intellectual, social and spiritual legacy is being allowed to slip away. This does not have to happen.

These peoples are not failed attempts at being modern, quaint and colourful, and destined to fade away as a financial law. In every case these are dynamic living peoples being driven out of existence by identifiable forces.

That’s actually an optimistic observation, because it suggests that if human beings are the agent of cultural destruction, we can also be, and must be, the facilitators of cultural survival.

And now I will go and wonder about the miracle of what it means to be human and alive in this stupendous, inconceivable, multi-layered, multi-dimensional world utterly imbued with timeless consciousness and unfathomable intelligence. And in the words of the Lakota Sioux: mitakuye oyasin (mi-tak-wee-ah-son)—we are all related.

Lots of love to you,

Pete xox

NOAM CHOMSKY ON DRUGS, yet again

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I actually wrote a long paper called Noam Chomsky On Drugs, about the Insite safe injection site on the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, and the madness and hypocrisy of the War On Drugs. It was fascinating research. But I never heard this four-minute talk from Chomsky, largely about the perverse history of prohibition of marijuana.

Now remember, for what it’s worth, I do not use drugs. I do not even drink alcohol (maybe a sip of wine on rare occasions). But all the realities of the disaster of drug use aside (and alcohol and cigarettes are the worst), the delusion behind what we call the War On Drugs, and how we moralize against some drug use, is simply startling, fascinating and compelling in its hypocrisy.

This is from Chomsky, and he can’t even help but laugh as he describes studies in the 1930s showing the effects of marijuana on dogs—it makes them insane, evidently. One might even say barking mad. After getting stoned, all they want to do is watch TV, lick their balls and laugh at bad cat jokes (I made the last sentence up)

Here’s the kicker. According to youtube, this video is, or may be, offensive to minors! The world is insane. Have you seen the ‘kill anybody in sight’ video games minors can play with?

By the way, I hate the term minor. It’s like minor, as in not yet fully significant.

The audio is here.

Lots of love to you, and freedom,

Pete xox

LIFE in the UNIVERSE: The Odds of Actually Being a Being, Here

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

I meant to put this paragraph in the little summary of Quantum Enigma, but somehow forgot. Random mistake, predestined? God knows.

Physicists Kuttner and Rosenblum write on page 198:

Though there is as yet no accepted theory for that minuscule split second before quarks and electrons came into existence, there are constraints on how the universe must have started.

To produce a universe resembling one in which we can live, the Big Bang had to be finely tuned. How finely? Theories vary.

According to one, if the initial conditions of the universe were chosen randomly, there would be one chance in 10 to the 120 (that’s one with 120 zeros after it) that the universe would be livable.

Cosmologist Roger Penrose has it vastly more unlikely: The exponent he suggests is 10 to the 123.

By any such estimate, the chance that a livable universe like ours would be created is far less than the chance of randomly picking a particular single atom out of all the atoms in the universe.

Can you accept odds like that as a coincidence?

Wow. That’s, ah, small. Why is it so hard for humans to tangibly feel those inconceivable odds? In other words, why don’t we walk around all day with a dumb smile on our face, just shaking are heads in wonder and breathing it all in and out, deeply?

Oh yeah, we have to work.

Then again, maybe the whole human aspect of religion/spirituality/mysticism/Theism is created by an undercurrent feeling of said mystery. These theories/emotions are natural superimpositions on our unlikely arrival.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

But man, I have to remember to love more, to be more love, to be more gracious, to have more gratitude. Oh I love ya!

Pete xox

QUANTUM ENIGMA would be NO ENIGMA to GREAT MYSTICS—Just Part of the Cosmic Dance of Consciousness

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I finished reading Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner. They did a great job, I think, admirably doing what they set out to do. The book is inspired, informative, courageous, and accessible to the lay person (moi). Their punch is measured but not pulled, and I appreciate their dilemma, let alone the enigma.

I know I’m seeing Quantum Theory through my own lens, but I can’t tell you how much it resonates with Eastern thought (Vedic—Hindu Metaphysics—in particular, with flashes of Buddhist mind (manas) stuff as well).

A few final (of many) great moments. From page 155:

Quantum mechanics forces us to accept that the Mechanistic Newtonian view of the world [and thus could you not throw in the genius of Darwin's view, also?]—and the intuitions fostered by it—are fundamentally flawed

[I]t is also fascinating to explore what Nature seems to be telling us.

As [Physicist] John Bell [of Bell’s Theorem] says:

Is it not good to know what follows from what, even if it is not necessarily FAPP ["for all practical purposes"]?

By FAPP, they mean scientists being able to do quantum physics while ignoring the virtually undeniable confrontation of Quantum Theory and consciousness.

Bell goes on:

Suppose for example that quantum mechanics were found to resist precise formulation. Suppose that when formulation beyond FAPP is attempted, we find an unmovable finger obstinately pointing outside the subject, to the mind of the observer, to the Hindu scriptures, to God, or even only Gravitation [some paths in the Vedas would say Gravitation has consciousness, has beingness]? Would that not be very, very interesting?

Scientists with the courage to say such things are so inspiring.

And this monster from Niels Bohr:

[T]he apparent contrast between the continuous onward flow of associative thinking and the preservation of the unity of the personality exhibits a suggestive analogy with the relation between the wave description of the motions of material particles, governed by the superposition principle [let's say in infinite places at the same time], and their indestructible individuality.

It is as if, with observation, we ‘collapse’ to individuality. Before that, we are infinite possibilities. And in fact, even as individuals we are infinite possibilities (don’t get me wrong, I have no idea what this means, either).

The Bengali 15th century Vaishnava mystic Caitanya (Shay-tanya) said this: “We are inconceivably, simultaneously, one [with everything, the Supreme] and different [distinctly individual].”

Rosenblum and Kuttner repeat over and over and unabashedly that (pg 201):

“…if you take quantum theory seriously beyond practical purposes, it has baffling implications. It tells us that physics’ encounter with consciousness, demonstrated for the small, applies to everything. And that “everything’ can include the entire universe.

Copernicus dethroned humanity from the cosmic center. Does quantum theory suggest that, in some mysterious sense, we are a cosmic center?”

They finish the book with, in my opinion, just the right, beautiful emotion (at least for me!).

Most physicists will dismiss the creation of reality by observation as having no significance beyond the limited domain of the physics of microscopic entities. Others will argue that nature is telling us something, and we should listen.

Our own feelings accord with Schrodinger’s:

“The urge to find a way out of this impasse ought not to be dampened by the fear of incurring the wise rationalist’s mockery.”

Man, I love that. I’ll keep that in my heart, Dr Dawkins—whose greatness is not denied.

When experts disagree, you may choose your expert. Since the quantum enigma arises in the simplest quantum experiment, its essence can be fully comprehended with little technical background. Nonexperts can therefore come to their own conclusions. We hope yours, like ours, are tentative.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

—Shakespeare, Hamlet

I loved this stuff, this book—and their honesty and intellectual courage. And I love to be in awe—as the “real” world spins crazily into a black hole bail-out—at the wonder and mystery of it all, love, consciousness, me, you, us.

Time for dream sleep. Lots of love,

Pete xox

EPIGENETICS: SINS OF THE FATHER PASSED ON

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Funny how sometimes when you write about something, you start to see a lot about it—or maybe it’s just in the zeitgeist. But this piece was on CBC news about epigenetics.

Talking about the ‘hereditary’ effects of child abuse:

The team of scientists found early child abuse changed the expression of a gene that is important for responding to stress…

The study is the latest in the growing field of epigenetics: how our environment, including the social trauma or chemical substances, affects how our genes do their job and ultimately how they affect behaviour.

But as I pointed out in a previous blog, the following is my fear, as the Pharmaceutical companies salivate…

“The implications at this stage are you want to identify these people and then probably offer them some sort of intervention,” said study co-author Moshe Szyf, an epigeneticist in McGill’s department of pharmacology and therapeutics.

The goal, Szyf said, would be to find drugs that could reverse the changes [drugs, what a surprise!], but researchers don’t yet know how to do so.

That statement above, of course, makes me feel nauseous at its simple-minded assumption from such myopically brilliant people. Fundamentalists of all sorts, it seems to me (and I have my own fundamentalist leanings!), tend to see exact equations to solve problems, as if the epigenetic difference is the whole key—and switch that and all will be normal. Of course it isn’t the whole answer. Not by a long shot.

In fact, we seem to be an increasingly medicated world, which might be reason to question the effectiveness (but not the economics) of those medications.

The human being is subtle, and infinitely complex, and a thousand other systems within the body and brain will also be altered by stress, or whatever other environmental factor. Not only that, those systems will also have tried to adjust to the situation. Where are they left? Who is the being being altered? Well, what difference does that make if humans are nothing more than a big vat of chemical reactions?

Man, that upsets me—because no one individually lives as if that is true!

A drug may help of course—and drugs obviously do help in certain psychological situations, to be sure. But I felt immediately upon reading about epigenetics that one of the first things scientists would think of and want to do is find a new drug—a panacea, a cure all—and that appears to be true. This hardly makes me insightful—it is the way of Big Pharma and our medicated world, with a disdain for things holistic, subtle.

Heck, for all we know, extensive breath relaxation techniques over time may also change epigenetic markers, and that is self-directed, self-exploratory, wonderful for a thousand other reasons, and would effect the entire body/mind complex, not to mention a pharmacologist’s funding. Plus he’d have to expand his Weltanschauung (worldview).

Ah, but that may reduce the amount of medications we take.

If one hates things spiritual, try the Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness for a scientific mind opener. The relationship between genes and behaviour is vital, but what about between behaviour and consciousness?

We know so much and we know so, so, so little.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, then are dreamt in your philosophy.

Anyway, I know we’re all just tryin’ to do our dharma. May everybody feel a little less emotional pain, and a lot more joy, love, community and freedom,

Pete

Epigenetics Continued: Our Sacred Environment

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

If epigenetic theory is indeed true, and stress of different kinds—including emotional stress itself—create gene inhibitors and so on, and cause ‘genetic’ results in future generations, one can only shake their head in wonder at this diversely inconceivable journey. The interconnectedness of everything, including our thoughts, is rapturously mind-blowing.

In the film Ghosts in Your Genes (mentioned yesterday), less nurtured baby rats, unsurprisingly, showed themselves to be more anxious adults etc, etc. But this is where epigenetics step in. If I understood correctly, certain ‘markers’ that allow a given gene to express itself ‘normally’ were not there. The film then showed that, through the use of some kind of drug, restoring the body to its healthy marker state also restored more normal behaviour, at least in rats.

One can almost see Big Pharma CEOs salivating. But as exciting as that may be for certain conditions, one can only wonder if using a pharmaceutical band-aid and ‘curing’ a condition that is caused by something that still remains—say a lack of nurturing or environmental toxins etc—is the way to look at the picture.

This brings to mind an interview I read the other day with Seyyed Hossein Nasr (who I don’t think I’ve read before, although I’ve read his son Vali Nasr), whose answer about modernism was thought-provoking. The title of the piece, in something called Today’s Zaman, was: ‘You cannot be fighting against God while trying to have peace on earth’:

TODAY’S ZAMAN: The 20th century saw dramatic scientific, philosophical and cultural changes. What is different about the modernity of the 21st century as compared to the modernity of the 20th century?

NASR: In a sense, nothing…That is, modernism contained within itself the seeds of its own destruction. And we see this in postmodernism. But that doesn’t mean that this whole phenomenon is gone by any means.

[I]n the 19th century, when people talked about modernism, they talked about its social implications. People [in the 19th century] were not aware that modernism leads to the death and destruction of the natural environment in which we live. Even now people don’t want to accept that; they want to evade this. They say, “Oh this or that is due to bad engineering [my point about epigenetic breakthroughs and re-engineering the 'problem' through pharmaceuticals, while ignoring the problem altogether], bad planning,” but it’s really due to a worldview that negates the fact that nature is, by itself, sacred and has its own rights, and that goes against tens of thousands of years of human experience and human perception in relation to nature.

So this is, yes, something that has changed, but not in the nature of modernism itself, as it continues to be a philosophy that tries to see reality independent of divine reality, which posits the independence of man from any other agency in the universe and makes the powers of thinking and of doing independent of both the spiritual element within man and religion and revelation. That has continued very much unabated.

TODAY’S ZAMAN: Recently there has been a trend in Europe and America among certain writers, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, of very direct criticism—and even hostility—toward religion. What do you see as the significance of this trend?

NASR: Many think this is the swan song of Western atheism. That is, now with religion becoming stronger, these secularists never imagined that.

Everyone was taught at school that the flow of history is away from religion and toward secularism, and the secularists believed that they had already won the day. But then you have this tremendous revival of interest in religion in the second half of the 20th century…

So these people come along, who are usually very haughty people and they’re not really that intelligent [I wouldn't go that far—they're smarter than I am!], but what they’re attacking is the simple faith of people that is coming back, what they call fundamentalism [I would call their intelligence—by design, like all of ours—fractured]. Therefore, they posit their own intelligence against a sort of “simpleton faith,” considering their opponents to be stupid—with themselves being the “brights,” which is what Dawkins calls himself.

I think it’s an unfortunate phenomenon. I don’t think that it’s going to be very long lasting, but it will have a role in polarizing more and more the landscape of Western thought.

Interesting. If you read the rest of the article, his thoughts on peace and the intrinsic nature of life being one of violence simply in terms of how every species and individual survives (and the miraculous beauty therein); about Gaza; about Islam etc; are also instructive.

The rest of the article is here, and somehow able to be read as an individual piece in this wildly interdependent world. Oh, I guess it’s not so individual when one considers the physical, historical and even the environmental factors that allow any moment to unfold. Damn, I thought for a moment I was free. It turns out I’m only free to remember…

Lots of love to you,

Pete

EPIGENETICS and the MYSTERY DEEPENS, of course…

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Once again, scientific results are showing in yet uncertain ways that life is always more interconnected, more subtle, and more stunningly beautiful than science previously thought. In fact, epigenetics may just usher in a huge expansion on the traditional view of Darwinian inheritance, and that would be wonderful.

So much for our heavy-handed, definitive—if not fundamentalist—conclusions on the mystery of it all being solved.

From a BBC web-page for the very interesting documentary Ghost in Your Genes:

Biology stands on the brink of a shift in the understanding of inheritance. The discovery of epigenetics—hidden influences upon the genes—could affect every aspect of our lives.

At the heart of this new field is a simple but contentious idea—that genes have a ‘memory’. That the lives of your grandparents—the air they breathed, the food they ate, even the things they saw—can directly affect you, decades later, despite your never experiencing these things yourself. And that what you do in your lifetime could in turn affect your grandchildren.

The conventional view is that DNA carries all our heritable information and that nothing an individual does in their lifetime will be biologically passed to their children. To many scientists, epigenetics amounts to a heresy, calling into question the accepted view of the DNA sequence—a cornerstone on which modern biology sits.

At the conclusion of the documentary, scientist Marcus Pembry offers this:

“They may get to the point where they [scientists] realize you live your life as a sort of guardian of your genome. You’ve got to be careful of it because it’s not just you. You can’t be selfish. You can’t say, ‘Well, I’ll smoke or I’ll do whatever it is because I’m prepared to die early.’ You’re also looking after it for your children and grandchildren. It’s changing they way think about inheritence forever.”

In the film, a Professor, Lars Olov Bygen from Sweden, had studied—via well kept records—generations of a small farming village in Sweden, near the Arctic Circle. He had started to see increasingly interesting patterns across generations that indicated that environmental pressures (ie famine) in one generation might be causing genetically interesting results (both positive and negative) in another generation. Bygen sent the information to Pembry, and the two joined forces in the research.

The NOVA narration states:

Pembry was immediately struck by seemingly bizarre connections between gender, diet and health—connections that were most pronounced two generations later. Men, for example, who experienced famine at around age ten, had paternal grandsons who lived much longer than those [grandsons] whose grandfathers experienced plenty.

Yet women who experienced famine while in the womb had paternal granddaughters who died on average far earlier.

Pembry adds:

“…we were dealing with a trans-generational response. [The results] were so coherent, and that’s important in science. The effect was coherent in some way—was tying in when eggs and sperm were being formed.”

NOVA states:

The diagram [the results Pembry is talking about] showed a significant link between generations, between the diet in one, and the life expectancy of another.

Questions remain of course: why does the situation appear to only effect the paternal line of inheritance? And why does famine appear to be damaging and/or beneficial, two generations later, depending on the sex and age of the grandparent who experiences a given environmental condition?

Either way, Pembry says:

“We’re changing the view of what inheritance is. You can’t in life, in ordinary development and living, separate out the gene out from the environmental effect. They’re so intertwined.”

But are these effects truly epigenetic? Michael Skinner (in research with rats), says:

“We knew that if an individual was exposed to an environmental toxin, they can get a disease state, potentially. The new phenomena is the environmental toxin no longer effects only the individual exposed, but two or three generations down the line.

I thought this effect was evident already from Hiroshima and even Vietnam post-war descendants. In Vietnam, birth defects appear to be from exposure to Agent Orange, brought to you by that wonderful producer of nutritious food for a healthy future for our kids, Monsanto. If only the company leadership had a conscience! They could do such beautiful things.

I just don’t think companies like this or Philip Morris (cigarettes) should have power in the world’s food supply, but they have massive power (ie market share). That is a deep, deep perversion.

What a world.

I’m also reading Survival of the Sickest, which is equally interesting, and talks about how certain diseases that kill us now, diabetes for example, may have been, in a sense, adaptive and necessary for survival under certain environmental conditions (say, a quick Ice Age!) at some time in the relatively recent past.

Man, we are the past and the future.

Love to you and your ancestors and descendents, may the live with dignity and beauty,

Petexo

QUANTUM THEORY AND SIXTEEN TRIPS AROUND THE SUN

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I actually wrote a decent sized essay recently, in an effort to not be a total and useless knob while trying to explain the mysteries of Quantum Theory to my perfectly lovely, recently turned 16-year-old, niece.

Heck, Quantum Theory is a mystery—a counter-intuitive, science-tested meditation that forces an honest person to question so much of how we believe the material world actually works—and in that sense, who and what we are. And who am I kidding? I’m trying to explain it to her to explain it to me, and you know how that goes.

I must say it can’t be easy being an honest scientist these days, either. The relentless drive, through scientific experiment, to support the idea of a purely mechanistic universe has led to not only a vision of a world more mysterious than we’d imagined, but perhaps more mysterious than we can imagine, to quote an old physicist.

The piece is called QUANTUM THEORY AND SIXTEEN TRIPS AROUND THE SUN, in which we talk about Aristotle, Einstein, consciousness, asymmetrical balls, the Pope’s undergarments, Newton, entanglement, breakfast burritos, vegetarian-eating Frenchmen, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and a few things about the Theory itself—like how only the observation of the theory makes it, or anything else, real, according to a bunch of nerdy physicists who were yogi renunciates in a past life.

It’s all here—and more darn fun than lawn darts!

Anyway, it’s for my niece, but I thought you might like it. I’ll probably change bits over the next few days. I always do. Any extrapolations, ideas or corrections are always exciting.

Hope all else is shining and good. Lots of love to you,

Pete

SAVING PRIVATIZED RYAN*: CHOMSKY and COMPUTATIONS on the ROLE of PUBLIC SUBSIDY to PRIVATE PROFIT in COMPUTER HISTORY

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

First off, I would like the court to note that my girlfriend who “claims” to love me, mocked me for this title, and accused me (wrongly) of being a giant nerd. She also “steadfastly” refuses to put my blog in her Favourites.

Yes it hurts, but I carry on. Now where was I?

Oh, yes:

“Britain and the USA, the two countries that are supposed to have reached the summit of the world economy through their free-market, free-trade policy, are actually the ones that had most aggressively used protection and subsidies.”
—Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang

Warning: This is fairly long, but if you’re interested in a little history of computer technology, state subsidy, ingenuity, protectionism and the Internet…)

A MASS DEBATE (SAY THREE TIMES QUICKLY)

Who’s the Ryan in Saving Privatized Ryan?’ you might ask. Ryan is a fella I know a little who comments on this blog now and then. I can tell you without hesitation that he’s intelligent, erudite, he has a remarkable memory, and the information he passes on is appreciated (although it took up a lot of my time tonight, when I should be working).

Ironically, although a comment in itself is gratifying, in the many responses he’s written to whatever I write, I don’t think he’s nodded an agreement, conceded he learned something, or barely said a nice word—in fact, quite the contrary. This is even more interesting to me by fact that I so often agree with his comments.

PUBLIC SUBSIDIZING OF TECHNOLOGY

I wrote a blog the other day pointing out that there is a significant degree of tax payer subsidy/state intervention in the American economy and that this is worth mentioning, particularly in light of how often it is denied; how the American system is thought to be so profoundly free market capitalism

My four off-the-top-of-my-head examples of state intervention in the economic system—thus a degree of state capitalism—were:

1) the pentagon’s tax-subsidized trillionaire child known as the computer industry.
2) the torturous stench of tax-payer subsidized factory-farm agribusiness.
3) tax-payer financed invasions and ruinations of countless countries, enriching and protecting private oil companies.
4) the bailout of the usurious banking institution.

AND THEN…

I backed up the comment about the growth of computer technology (and other massive industries) being state subsidized/publicly funded to a significant degree with a quote from Chomsky, that began:

I came here [to MIT] in the mid-50s…[1955] The electronics lab, along with the closely connected Lincoln Labs, was just developing the basis of the modern high tech economy. In those days, the computer was the size of this set of offices and vacuum tubes were blowing all over the place [with] computer printouts, paper running everywhere.

AND SO IT BEGINS

Ryan’s comments were, of course, negative—and never intentionally conceded a thing, or asked for clarification, or engaged in dialogue. Believe me, they could be worse. Ryan’s clearly a good guy. Nonetheless…

Ryan says:

Hm. Chomsky’s thesis appears to be…incompatible with reality.

Pete says:

You see what I’m saying? And given that I used Chomsky to back up what I was saying, well, gosh, I get the implication and, well, it just hurts a lot, that’s all.

Ryan says:

The IBM 1401 was introduced in 1959. Mr. Wiki says it sold or leased about 2000 units through 1961, and the lifetime number of active 1401s peaked at around 10,000. If I’m reading that article right, the US computer market was about 8000 computers in 1961.

Pete says, from that same Mr Wiki, in The history of IBM:

In the 1950s, IBM became a chief contractor for developing computers for the United States Air Force’s automated defense systems. Working on the SAGE interceptor control system, IBM gained access to crucial research being done at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working on the first real-time, digital computer (which included many other advancements such as an integrated video display, magnetic core memory, light guns, the first effective algebraic computer language, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion techniques, digital data transmission over telephone lines, duplexing, multiprocessing, and networks [which appears to be proto-Internet stuff, too]). IBM built fifty-six SAGE computers at the price of US$30 million each, and at the peak of the project devoted more than 7,000 employees (20% of its then workforce) to the project.

And though this is not to do with the conversation, while we’re on the subject of funding, by whatever means, this is interesting history:

Although IBM actively worked with the Hitler regime [subsidized!] from its inception in 1933 to its demise in 1945 [IBM's New York headquarters and CEO Thomas J. Watson acted through its overseas subsidiaries to provide the Third Reich with punch card machines that could help the Nazis to track down the European Jewry (especially in newly conquered territory)], IBM has asserted that since their German subsidiary came under temporary receivership by the Nazi authorities from 1941 to 1945, the main company was not responsible for its role in the latter years of the holocaust.”

Chomsky’s words, off of which Ryan was bouncing. Once again:

I came here [to MIT] in the mid-50s…[1955 to be exact, four years before the IBM computer came out]. The electronics lab, along with the closely connected Lincoln Labs [see below], was just developing the basis of the modern high tech economy. In those days, the computer was the size of this set of offices and vacuum tubes were blowing all over the place [with] computer printouts, paper running everywhere.

Pete quotes from Mr Wiki, about Lincoln Labs:

MIT Lincoln Laboratory, also known as Lincoln Lab, is a federally funded research and development center managed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and primarily funded by the United States Department of Defense…

The Lincoln Lab was the mother to a revolution in modern computing in 1956, the TX-0 computer. The TX-0 was born in the Lincoln Lab, created as a military development and shipped over to the MIT campus on a long-term loan. This loan was priceless in terms of its value towards computer programming…

Ryan writes:

In 1965, DEC introduced the PDP-8 minicomputer. Hugely popular, it sells about 300,000 units. That’s because every medium-to-large sized business on the planet was using something this size or larger to do mundane stuff like customer management, billing, and various other batch-processing projects that were previously done by hand.

From Pete, quoting Mr Wiki:

[DEC, Digital Equipment Corporation] was founded in 1957 by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson, two engineers who had been working at MIT Lincoln Laboratory on the TX-2 project. The TX-2 was a transistor-based computer using the then-huge amount of 64 K 36-bit words of core memory. When that project ran into difficulties, Olsen and Anderson left MIT to form DEC.

From Ryan:

These are benchmark computers that sold, much earlier than Chomsky would have you believe, in mass-production numbers to private enterprises.

From Pete:

What you assume Chomsky was saying never really occurred to me. I just got the sense that Chomsky was making a point: that the journey of the computer’s development/history has been heavily state funded/tax-payer subsidized. The results of this public funding led in some sense all the way to the relatively recent boom of the personal computer—which weighs considerably less than the 5 ton IBM 401.

Chomsky comments, obviously loosely:

It was not until the 1980s after 30 years of development essentially in the state sector [tax-payer] that these things became marketable commodities [for individuals, obviously] and Bill Gates could get rich.

Ryan says:

Of course, we shouldn’t discount the shadowy government agency that was an avid customer of early computing equipment: the US Census Bureau, purchasers of the first UNIVAC I.

Pete says:

Indeed—even though I don’t know a thing about it, you do, and we shouldn’t discount this tax-payer subsidized government US Census Bureau.

Ryan says:

The first six customers for UNIVACs were all government bodies (though one was stationed at New York University; I’m pretty sure Chomsky didn’t mean to excoriate government-funded university research projects, did he?), but 12 of the next 13 went to companies. Big ones, but not government entities.

Pete says:

You’re information is terrific, as always, and increases my very limited knowledge of that time. Thank you.

But Chomsky, to me, is neither applauding nor excoriating government-funded research projects. He’s excoriating the lie that these massive market successes are not presented as also arising from great amounts of public, tax-paying subsidy, which denotes a sort of state capitalism, or public subsidy for private profit.

His point, from my take, is that this is a fact, and it should be known. That’s the essence of it.

Ryan says:

The original relay-based and tube-based computers of WW2 were indeed military creations, but they were outgrowths of pre-war technology, and well, there was a war on [what better time for increased state subsidy in R&D, invasions of non-complicit countries and bailouts of banks]. Technology was deficit-financed [by the tax-payer] and put to the service of fighting off existential challenges to democracy. Why does Chomsky hate democracy?

Pete writes:

Again, as you point out, these earlier models were “military creations”, which means tax-payer/publicly subsidized—Chomsky’s point. It has nothing to do with how Chomsky feels about democracy. Indeed, I believe he feels the general public/tax-payer should know, in a democracy, the truth of their profound role in subsidizing these seemingly “free market” adventures. I would say that’s the exact opposite desire of someone who “hates democracy.”

Ryan says:

Ahem. Returning to our narrative, MIT got a lot of pure-research money. Also, there were lots of military applications of computers, at a time when, as much as Chomsky loves to deny it, democracy was facing yet another existential battle, the Cold War.

Pete says:

That’s Chomsky’s point, too. Pure tax-payer research money. Development of technology via the state. This is to me, contrary, say, to Wilber and Orville Wright in a field somewhere in Middle America with their own creations, at their own expense, trying to take flight. That, to me, is an example of a very pure spirit of entrepreneurialism and even capitalism at its magnificent best.

Chomsky, in my reading, doesn’t out of hand deny the threat of the Russians. He gives an alternate view on that threat, with the suggestion that it was exaggerated at different times for political expediency—and, indeed, on one level, to ensure the ongoing tax-paying/public-subsidy of, for instance, the Military Industrial Complex. And if that is a lie, then the military-decorated President Eisenhower lied long before Chomsky.

Eisenhower says in his 1961 Farewell Speech:

This conjunction of an immense [tax-payer funded] military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Ryan says:

A brief interlude here from my more serious point: Chomsky seems to assume that any endeavor in which research is funded with public monies and in which private companies use the public knowledge thereof to create profitable products is some sort of mortal taint on capitalism.

Pete says:

It’s funny, I don’t read him that way at all. Indeed, it pays his salary, for which I have always felt he is grateful, and aware of the paradox. My take is he’s pointing out what people and the general media seem to forget, or deny, or don’t grasp—the type of capitalism this is, at least to a considerable degree: state capitalism. And this state capitalism (and massive protectionism, by the way) via the Big Government Powers That Be is a massive part of what is generally heralded as free market capitalism.

Ryan says:

Is Chomsky thus arguing against publicly-funded research, or in favor of government-owned patents and licensing for publicly-funded research?

Pete says:

The way I see it, neither. In fact it’s not his point at all. Again, like you do to a certain degree, even if unconsciously—he’s pointing out the reality of state capitalism.

Ryan says:

It’s as if he’s decided the only fiendish path is the middle road taken by the US.

Pete says:

By “middle road”, I think you might be saying subsidized road (as opposed to the Buddhist idea). Either way, that is Chomsky’s observation, too. These successes are subsidized by the state—and thus are by definition a form of state—or a “middle way”—or publicly subsidized capitalism.

Ryan says:

Though I wouldn’t put it past him to be arguing for the latter of my two weird choices, in which case I would have a philosophical disagreement with him about the value and purpose of intellectual property.

Pete says:

He’s saying little about either, as far as I can tell. But instead of insulting him, or presuming so, just write him. Be kind about it, and he’ll write you back very quickly. He’s great that way, and although you don’t read him as I do, he is a wealth of knowledge and observation—as are you, by the way.

But as Chomsky has said, the inability to see that this economy has been intensely publicly subsidized and state protected [what is the Iraq War, to a degree, if not protectionism?] goes “…beyond manufacture of consent. It belongs in the history of organized religion.”

Ryan says:

And the founding fathers would be on my side. (“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”)

Pete says:

Whether Chomsky would agree or not, I can’t say. But if I understand this correctly, I agree with you and the Founding Fathers, too.

Either way, to a significant degree the “Authors and Inventors” of the works we have been speaking of here were, indeed, often heavily, state/tax-payer subsidized. This may be either good or bad, or neutral, at different times, in its meaning, but a fact nonetheless (and an often unspoken one), which Chomsky was pointing out, and you have also pointed out.

Ryan says:

Okay, now it’s Chomsky versus the Internet. DARPA/ARPA did indeed provide a lot of funding for what became the Internet, but its function was, at least until the 1990s, primarily as a university research network. They were the prime users, and passing data among those universities was a prime purpose.

Pete says:

I don’t see it at all as you do, as a Chomsky vs the Internet argument. In fact it has nothing to do with that. And Chomsky certainly wouldn’t see it that way. He in fact sees it as you do: “DARPA/ARPA did indeed provide a lot of funding for what became the Internet.” In other words, “a lot of funding for what became the Internet” was state funding/public/tax-payer funding.

Ryan says:

The separate military networks, well, heck, you read the article and draw your own conclusions.

A second interlude: Is Chomsky innumerate?

Pete says:

I’m not sure if Chomsky is innumerate, but I doubt it, but I must be nearly illiterate, for I had to look up innumerate. It means: Adj. 1. innumerate—lacking knowledge and understanding of mathematical concepts and methods. Chomsky seems pretty smart to me.

Ryan says:

Okay, he’s decided that the roots of the US computer industry are in Pentagon-funded research projects.

Pete says:

It seems to me, according to some of the quotes above from Wikipedia and elsewhere, from Chomsky, from my own research, and from many of your own quotes, a lot of the roots of the US computer industry are tax-payer/subsidized research for military/Pentagon use.

Ryan says:

He himself describes that industry as a “trillionaire child.”

Pete says:

That isn’t Chomsky’s line, it’s mine. Maybe computers aren’t yet a trillion dollar industry, but I would guess it’s got to be close, my god. And an incredible economic success story. Almost like no other we have seen, except for perhaps the oil business in times of war over oil [see how effective publicly subsidized protection is?]. Either way, despite my best efforts, I remain relatively innumerate.

Ryan says:

Is it just me, or haven’t those companies (and their employees) paid back in taxes way more money than the Pentagon ever spent on computer research (and quite possibly, on everything else the Pentagon spends money on, too)?

Pete says:

I can’t say whether you’ve paid back in taxes way more money than the Pentagon spends, but I’d doubt it. As for the Pentagon, I don’t know if you’re correct, but even if you are, does it make it all right? Some, yes, surely. Some, surely no?

For instance, the weapons industry in all its facets: I don’t know if a huge economic return on an industry of that nature, say, from a higher plane of observation, would justify its existence morally—at least at its tentacled, worldwide pervasive size.

And no countries can come close to matching the US’s weaponry research and development budget, but I also despise, say, the creation and foul smuggling of small arms (Russian AK-47s etc) from former Eastern Bloc and Middle Eastern countries and elsewhere to all across debt and civil war riddled Africa.

Ryan says:

Doesn’t that make the Pentagon’s profligate spending [tax-payer money] a net benefit to taxpayers? Doesn’t that make Pentagon spending seem like one of the most fruitful engines of any economy ever?

Pete says:

To question one, it depends on how one judges “net-benefit.” Actions, of course, have consequences. The unstoppable growth of, say, the weapons industry, and use of said weapons, has huge consequences, including ongoing cost, massive environmental degradation and innumerable civilian casualties.

Nonetheless, if the key economic marker is, say, GNP, perhaps you’re right. For me, that is instructive yet vastly incomplete.

That said, the factors that define a healthy or unhealthy economy are simultaneously so simple and so complex, disfigured and manipulated that their distillation by an innumerate-disadvantaged fool like me remains beyond challenging.

However, in my opinion, statistics on mental stress, physical health, general happiness, incarceration, freedom of speech, working hours, environmental degradation, racial and social justice, education and on and on should be an inherent part of the equation.

Either way, the price and cost of externalities (as you know cost via unaccounted-for damages) are forever left out of the equation, making, perhaps, economists the most innumerate.

With regard to economic health, the American economy, in all its greatness and flaws, I think has a debt of 11 trillion dollars and counting. And I’m not sure—and I’m sure you know more of this then I do—but I don’t think that even includes personal debt. That seems, at least to some degree, a sign of ill-health.

Ryan says:

Why does Chomsky love the Pentagon?

Pete says:

I’m not sure what you mean. But even as sarcasm, it deflects the conversation from Chomsky’s point, which is that state subsidy has played a large role in America’s capitalistic journey, making it a form of state capitalism—as you in a sense, by certain quotes, have also pointed out. Again, a debt of $11 trillion, a number most any mainstream economist would have mocked fifteen years ago as even a possibility, must be some kind of reflection of excessive public subsidy/government spending and poor fiscal management.

Ryan says:

I know a little about the private competitors to the Internet, because I was an avid user of them (FidoNet, most notably) starting sometime in the late 1980s. To the extent those private competitors disappeared after the rise of the Internet for everyone (and to clarify, the Internet was not, to any meaningful extent, “privatized.” Instead, it was thrown open to commercial use, and an NGO (the IETF) was put in charge of its governance)…

Pete says, quoting IETF:

The first IETF meeting was on January 16, 1986, consisting of 21 U.S.-government-funded researchers…During the early 1990s the IETF changed institutional form from an activity of the U.S. government [hardly NGO] to an independent, international activity associated with the Internet Society.

Ryan says:

…it was largely because it was the biggest coherent and interconnected network, and it had the best stuff (like Usenet) on it. Before I entered SFU, I was paying a private provider (Computer Dynamics) for a few years to get access to Usenet and my own Internet e-mail address via dial-up.

Pete says:

I am sure what you say there is correct, but I don’t know enough about what you’re saying there to comment. But I read this from Mr Wiki:

“In the 1960s, computer researchers, Levi C. Finch and Robert W. Taylor pioneered calls for a joined-up global network to address interoperability problems. Concurrently, several research programs began to research principles of networking between separate physical networks, and this led to the development of Packet switching. These included Donald Davies (NPL), Paul Baran (RAND Corporation), and Leonard Kleinrock’s MIT and UCLA research programs.

As far as I can tell:

NPL is England’s National Physical Laboratory. I couldn’t find out if this was publicly funded, but I think so.

As for Paul Baran and RAND Corporation, I read this from an article on Paul Barand entitled The Influence of Paul Baran On The Development of the Internet:

“The Internet dates back to the beginnings of the Cold War. In 1957, the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics has launched the Sputnik satellite. This set off fears in the United States about a possible technological and scientific gap between the two nations [that according to Paul Baran did not exist]. In response to this, before the end of the year, the United States’ Department of Defense (DoD) created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) [see Ryan’s mention of publicly-funded ARPA above] in order to establish an American lead in science and technology. One of the earliest concerns of the [publicy/tax-payer funded] DoD was the issue of communications in the event of a nuclear war…

Near the beginning of 1960, the United States Air Force commissioned Paul Baran of RAND Corporation to study the possibility of creating a decentralized network which could survive a nuclear attack, while allowing the United States to retain command and control of communications to it’s Army, Air Force and Navy in order to launch a counter attack. The United States saw a survivable communications framework as a necessity in the case of a nuclear attack, in order that proper command and control might be maintained.”

And Leonard Kleinrock’s MIT and UCLA research programs are, by definition, publicly-funded/state subsidized. Huge state subsidy, it seems.

Ryan says:

However, the story of the really big private networks of that era (Compuserve, AOL, The Source, others) is a whole other tale, and I’m not sure what Chomsky’s explanation for their existence in the first place is. But I suppose the existence of those very large private networks doesn’t fit Chomsky’s Standard Model…

Pete says:

I don’t know, but I don’t think Chomsky would disagree with a lot of your facts and statistics. Nevertheless, you would have to define Chomsky’s Standard Model, then send him that definition and get his thoughts on it to see if it is what he’s saying. From there your supposition would be in greater integrity.

Ryan continues:

…nor does the fact that to a large extent, the success of the Internet had little to do with infrastructure, and everything to do with having a nice, well-developed interoperability protocol (TCP/IP and related technologies) at a time when inter-linking the big private online companies looked like a really good idea.

I mean, I guess what I’m saying is that Chomsky has created a ludicrous version of computer history to suit his own rather bizarre preconceptions.

Pete says:

It seems to me that his preconceptions are that the foundations of computer development have been state subsidized to a significant degree. This appears to me accurate by both what he has written and what you have written.

Ryan says:

That his delusion has its adherents doesn’t make it less daft.

Pete says:

What I discovered in literally a few minutes of searching—and I have explained what I believe Chomsky was saying—is that computer technology in America has developed not in a small part by state intervention/public subsidy (and protectionism has also played and plays a major role in many industries).

This appears to be true despite the ongoing perception and media expression of America being so free market. Several of your comments back this up.

Ryan says:

The Chomsky Model would probably explain the pocket watch as a tainted commercialization of the militarily-funded Longitude Prize. Which is a way of looking at history, but doesn’t really capture the essence of the story, does it?

Pete says:

Again, you’d have to define the model, and be correct about the definition. Why use an analogy when we’ve just had all these examples of state subsidized development with the computer? By no means the complete story; by no means a denial of remarkable ingenuity; by no means one type progress is better than another. It might even be a great thing. I can’t see why admitting the truism of state intervention is necessarily so terrifying, or negative (although it may be). Perhaps because we’ll feel scared like the people who voted McCain because they were afraid of Obama’s socialism!

Fair enough. But in the words of Conservative John Lukacs:

“[Conservatives] who oppose governmental regulations, bureaucracy, further and further applications and extensions of the American welfare state, are, more than often, believers in and vocal supporters of ‘defense’ expenditures, of the army and navy and air and space programs, of more police powers, etc.—as if these were not ‘government’

As for Paul Baran, I stumbled on this interview with him in Wired, which is quite over my head, but, Ryan, I think you’d find it really fascinating.

Lots of love to you and yours, and all wired-in beings,

Pete

*This essay was called Ryan’s Hope, a long extinct Soap Opera that I’ve never seen, but this opening sequence seems to extol a time of utterly free market happiness and unsubsidized joy spinning around the Statue of Liberty. Watch at your own peril. Later, Saving Privatized Ryan just seemed wittier.

RICHARD DAWKINS on the queerness, as it were, of the Universe

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I joke, because Taoists and Tantrics (and the Vedantists, in some paths) sometimes suggest the Universe unfolded and unfolds from the eternal embrace of yin and yang, Shiva and Shakti, the male and female principle in ongoing sexual embrace.

Two quotes, with which I feel a warm kinship (if one can feel kinship with a quote):

The inimitable Richard Feynman:

“I think I can safely say that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics.”

And from Sir Arthur Eddington:

“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”

Anyway, I so enjoyed this inspired and funny talk from legendary evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

I found his “…we are evolved denizens of middle world and that limits what we are capable of imagining…” wonderfully provocative, exciting, and begs infinite questions. In fact, using both scientific equipment, as he knows, of course (and, brace yourself, even deep contemplation from, yes, millenia past—I can provide examples!), we have imagined much beyond this middle world, but his point is well taken.

Dawkins’ talk for me, I must confess (and forgive me, ye savage non-poets), is mystical in its passion and information.

He asks:

“Could we by training and practice emancipate ourselves from middle world, and achieve some sort of intuitive—as well as mathematical—understanding of the very small and the very large? I genuinely don’t know the answer…”

The talk, another of the brilliant TED talks, is here.

Lots of love, and an old chestnut, Wide Open.

Pete xo

HOPE AND LOVE: CRADLE TO CRADLE AND THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE INFINITE—YES, YES and, well, uh…YES!

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Thanks to a certain aspect of human nature and the mainstream media, have your neurotransmitters lately been obsessively focused on ugliness, shouting, destruction and the politics of fear by things like $700 billion bail outs, economists and leaders as liars/short-term thinkers, enviro/mental abuse and the tiny mental bandwidth of modern politics?

The yogis (including Yogi Bear, Yogi Berra and Yogi Barely) say we become like that with which we associate. I believe this, very much, to be true. So be conscious, at the very least, with whom and what you associate!

Here’s a great little talk given by green architect/visionary William McDonough, reminding us of ourselves as infinite natural systems, and the beauty and potential of sustainability and the true meaning of competition, from the Latin root which means “to strive together.”

Aah. Doesn’t that just inspire a bigger exhale?

Think big and beautiful, small and sustainable, and remember your beautiful self in it all. De-contract with great discernment. You are a spiritual being, Steven Pinkar and other evolutionary psychologists (who fall in love) notwithstanding.

Here’s the link. Sustainable cities are spoken of at the 15-ish minute mark, but watch the whole thing, and some terms like economics, growth and potential will shoot into our too-worn neural pathways, and start to build healthy, gorgeous, infinite-seeking tributaries.

Here’s a ten minute version (of the 20 minute version).

Here’s Wide Open, just because…

Love and more love, in this infinite experience, and a big fat AUM/Amen for the day…

Pete xoxox

SMALL ISLANDS and GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

I’ve been working so intensely, I have had virtually no time to write on this blog this summer. A mild shame—perhaps much more for me than anyone else! The Facing Ali project is a couple of weeks from what is called picture lock.

But I thought I would quickly post this message from avaaz.org, talking about the immediate threat of changing climate to small islands everywhere. It is something to see politicians from these countries saying that the people and their islands are on the verge of being submerged/overwhelmed by rising tides, increased storms and so on. It feels very much like a clarion call, a microcosm, of the effects of what could or will come to coastal people everywhere…which includes countless major cities all over the world, of course.

Read it and send it. It is hard to wrap my head around such events, but they are, indeed, real, and so our heads must try and see a little deeper, farther, clearer.

Next week, the leaders of a group of small islands are planning an unprecedented effort to press Security Council itself to address climate change as a threat to international peace and security.

For those in small island states, rising sea levels are an existential threat. Climate change isn’t a far-off menace, it’s a day-to-day crisis; as an Avaaz member in Fiji wrote this week, “whenever there is a particularly high tide, the village is flooded and homes are awash.” Moving the climate debate into the security arena could shift the global politics of the issue — but the effort is likely to meet fierce opposition from the world’s biggest polluters. Sign the petition now to raise a worldwide chorus of support for this call—it will be presented by the islands’ ambassadors next week at the UN:

avaaz-petition, press here

For the first time in human history, the North Pole can be circumnavigated—the Arctic ice is melting more quickly than almost anyone anticipated, pushing up sea levels week by week. Now, small island nations—where homes are, at most, mere meters above sea level—are preparing evacuation plans to guarantee the survival of their populations. They are on the frontline, experiencing the first wave of devastating impacts from climate change which soon will threaten us all.

The more signatures we raise to be delivered to the UN next week, the more urgently this call will ring out to protect our common future. Sign now:

avaaz-petition, press here

The small islands’ brave campaign for survival is our campaign as well. Just as sea levels rise or fall everywhere at the same time, the choices of every person everywhere affect the future of our common home. By standing with the people at the front line of the climate crisis, we show them, and ourselves, that we recognize our fundamental shared humanity—and the responsibilities that come with it.

These are the States who are sponsoring the resolution: Fiji, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, joined by Canada and Turkey.

For a draft of the Small Islands States Resolution, please see:
Small Islands States Resolutions

For more information about those presenting the petition
please press here.

For information on Tuvalu’s evacuation plan and climate refugees press here.

For information about how rising sea levels will affect us all.

For more information about all of the island states.

No answers or even insight, but one can only hope that awareness is one of the keys—then love, compassion, greater vision, and from the epic proportion of the problem, grace, of course.

Sending love, missing the interactions,

Pete xoxo

In Search of Cosmic Humour: Vedic Astrology, Skeptics, Youtube, Jeffrey Armstrong and Michael Shermer

Friday, July 4th, 2008

I’ve been getting a few letters from people asking questions about the editing I did to post the Jeffrey Armstrong/Michael Shermer Vedic Astrology meets Professional Skeptic piece on youtube.

One letter asked: Why should I trust your blog? I wrote back: You shouldn’t, trust your instincts (there’s an ironic double-meaning in that).

Anyway, because I’m confused by the inner workings of youtube, I don’t know if this return letter to one fella got through, but here it is with a few typos corrected and clarifications enhanced:

Hope all is well. It sure gets heated on the youtube comments there. The person you were going back and forth with certainly knows everything, which makes it difficult. My blog isn’t really free association, as he said, but it is indeed wordy. For that, forgive me.

Anyway, if what I wrote in my blog adds nothing, as he said, then I have nothing to add, because that’s all I know about the piece (which I thought was a fair bit).

The fact that the person says what I wrote adds nothing, when I edited the piece, is instructive in itself, don’t you think?

As for the Shermer-Armstrong show, I once had not a thirty minute version but I think an 18 minute version, for whatever reason. It was digitized, and has long been lost in the collapse and crashing of computers, as they are wont to do (where economics meets science). It’s possible it could have been 22 minutes long, which is standard for a half hour format, but I thought it was 18 minutes.

As I said, I edited the piece to under ten minutes for youtube, and I also cut out all of the negative comments about astrology—in other words ALL of the commentary chosen by Shermer or his producers—because they were irrelevant to the experiment at hand.

For example, the blonde woman’s references to the readings being more psychology by observation than anything else. Jeffrey, of course, didn’t even meet a bunch of the participants at all, facially or even verbally (nine, in fact—all but the first one, which make the woman’s points about psychology through observation virtually pointless).

There was also a scientist (I can’t remember his name) saying astrology was no more valid than reading entrails—and who has the guts for that?—ha ha ha. Again, this commentary adds nothing to an actual experiment.

Therein were most of the extra minutes, if not all of them.

I left in, I think, nearly all if not all of what Jeffrey Armstrong did and said, and I definitely left in ALL of how Michael Shermer scored the procedure and the results at the end etc.

At the very end I let Jeffrey’s comments finish. They were in fact followed by Michael’s, which were:

“While skeptics will explain the results of our study as due to chance and wishful interpretation, believers will see them as further proof that the stars and planets directly influence our lives.”

I can only imagine what he might have said had the final two scores not have been what they were. A burning at the proverbial stake, to be sure.

Anyway, what is more interesting than any of it, is to read the comments and see the wonderfully spirited yet often outlandish speculation by skeptics and non-skeptics as to my motivations, or the cowardly nature of my editing etc. Hilarious, but, again, instructive.

Whether astrology has merit or not is not for me to say, but a line in the Bhagavad Gita says we as humans are virtually hopelessly bound to follow our innate, individual propensities, whether we want to or not. The comments definitely show that.

What we could all use, in my opinion, is a little more humour and a lot more love. But hey, that’s just my propensity. Maybe it’s all up to the stars, or it’s in the protoplasm, or both.

Hope this helps. Wishing you well,

Pete

Anyway, here’s the piece on youtube, fun to watch just for itself:

Here’s a link to my original blog—yes, it’s wordy!

And here, in a Coles Notes form, are a few of its points:

In a scenario set up to debunk astrology, Jeffrey Armstrong reads NINE charts in about TWENTY minutes. Most charts are usually given an hour of study each.

EXPERIMENT I: Face-to-face reading with a skeptic. The subject, afterwards, said Jeffrey’s reading “officially blew me away.”

EXPERIMENT II: Nine “blind” readings. Results [scored by Shermer's team]: 105 of 137—or 77%—of Jeffrey’s statements deemed accurate, ALL scores 63% or over, high of 89%.

EXPERIMENT III: The kicker. Two of the nine, unbeknownst to Jeffrey or the subjects, have their charts switched. Accuracy rating drops to 38 and 21% respectively. Switched back to true charts, accuracy goes to 94 and 92%.

And another:

BEHIND THE SCENES

As for the piece with Michael Shermer, I recently learned from conversation with Jeffrey that, in his opinion, by far the best astrology moments from the ten-hour, three camera shooting day were left out from the final cut (the piece you saw, incidentally, is an abridged version of the original 18 minute version).

For example—and this really did happen (all my jokes aside):

Due to Capricorn rising in her chart, Jeffrey mentioned the first woman’s eyebrows would probably have a tendency towards bushiness. It turns out—cut from the piece—that the woman not only responded “Yes,” as we saw, but for that reason, in high school, she was actually nicknamed “Bush” (go easy, this is a family blog).

Coincidence? Luck? Or is something hairy?

Jeffrey told the charismatic older man and his wife, according to their chart, that they were likely in the middle of house renovations and living there at the same time (due to certain transits in both their charts). They were astounded and said they were—and would never again live in a house while it was being renovated.

And the Asian American woman who said she’d in fact had a strong relationship with her father, didn’t hear (but you can hear it if you listen) Jeffrey say that she might have had a “difficult father relationship” or “separation from father.”

Her father, it turned out, had been in China for something like the last ten years, in which time they had hardly if ever seen each other.

And there are other tidbits too personal to mention.

So you see, both skeptics and charlatans—and all the rest of us—stack the deck.

So there it is, my friends and fellow humans—and god knows it’s not easy being human, knowing so little: the youtube clip, a few clarifying points from my blog, and Michael’s ending.

And the mystery rolls on—and what a mystery it is.

Your eternal pal, in love and solidarity with all seekers and skeptics. The fact is, we’re in a dead heat with your average turnip when it comes to what we don’t know about the universe, the ontology of our origins, and so many other great and potentially expansive questions,

Pete