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Federov's Rapture

Last week I did a brief hit and run on the concept of the Singularity. Today I'd like to raise awareness of one of the taproots of Extropian thought — specifically, the origins of modern singularitarian thinking in the writings of the 19th century Russian Orthodox teacher and librarian, Nikolai Fyodorov (or Federov).

(Before I start, I'd like to add an explanatory note: I'm an atheist and a materialist who conditionally believes in the validity of the scientific method as a tool for probing the universe we live in, and I'm an anti-supernaturalist: magic, ESP and so on don't make sense within our existing scientific framework, so I tend to be deeply suspicious of anything that involves alleged miracles. I'm willing to test this framework when contradictory evidence emerges — but I use it as a detector for stuff that smells "wrong". And I tend to get rather disturbed when it transpires that a purportedly atheist, materialist, non-supernaturalist ideology — indeed, a science-fictional one — has its taproots buried deep in Orthodox Christian mysticism. Although I probably shouldn't be too surprised, in view of the way the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment sprang originally from Presbyterian fundamentalism ...)

A whistle-stop tour is provided by the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy: "Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov was born June 9, 1829, and died December 28, 1903. He was founder of an immortalist (anti-death) philosophy emphasizing "the common task" of resurrecting the dead through scientific means."

The illegitimate son of a Russian prince, Federov worked as a librarian at the Rumiantsev Museum for many years, and as a teacher. During the course of his life he spent some time with the young Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and was cited as an influence on Peter Ouspensky. He was also the formative influence on the Russian cosmists, a Russian philosophical movement that prefigured transhumanism (and specifically extropianism) in many respects — and which exerted mainstream influence (by way of Tsiolkovsky) on Soviet attitudes to space exploration.

A devout Christian (of the Russian Orthodox variety), "Fedorov found the widespread lack of love among people appalling. He divided these non-loving relations into two kinds. One is alienation among people: 'non-kindred relations of people among themselves.' The other is isolation of the living from the dead: 'nature's non-kindred relation to men.'" ... "A citizen, a comrade, or a team-member can be replaced by another. However a person loved, one's kin, is irreplaceable. Moreover, memory of one's dead kin is not the same as the real person. Pride in one's forefathers is a vice, a form of egotism. On the other hand, love of one's forefathers means sadness in their death, requiring the literal raising of the dead."

Federov believed in a teleological explanation for evolution, that mankind was on the path to perfectibility: and that human mortality was the biggest sign of our imperfection. He argued that the struggle against death would give all humanity a common enemy — and a victory condition that could be established, in the shape of (a) achieving immortality for all, and (b) resurrecting the dead to share in that immortality. Quite obviously immortality and resurrection for all would lead to an overcrowded world, so Federov also advocated colonisation of the oceans and space: indeed, part of the holy mission would inevitably be to bring life (and immortal human life at that) to the entire cosmos.

(The wikipedia article on Federov discusses his transhumanist program in somewhat more detail than the IEP entry.)

The final word probably deserves to go to Nicholas Berdyaev (secondary source here) who in 1928 wrote:

The novelty of Fedorov's idea, one which frightens so many people, lies in the fact that it affirms an activity of man incommensurably greater than any that humanism and progressivism believe in. Resurrection is an act not only of God's grace but also of human activity. We now come to the most grandiose and bewildering idea of N. Fedorov. He had a completely original and unprecedented attitude towards apocalyptic prophecies, and his I doctrine represents a totally new phenomenon in Russian consciousness and Russian apocalyptic expectation. Never before in the Christian world had there been expressed such an audacious, such an astounding concept, concerning the possibility of avoiding the Last Judgement and its irrevocable consequences, by dint of the active participation of man. If what Fedorov calls for is achieved, then there will be no end to the world. Mankind, with a transformed and definitively regulated nature, will move directly into the life eternal.
(You will note that the source of that essay was this collection of liturgical essays on the Orthodox church.)

So. Transhumanism: rationalist progressive secular theory, or bizarre off-shoot of Russian Orthodox Christianity? And should this affect our evaluation of its validity? You decide!

238 Comments

1:

Both, of course. The philosophical and psychological connection between the Singularity and the Rapture is more than just the 'Rapture of the Nerds' joke.

3:

Couldnt it be just parallel and unrelated development?

After all, extropianism and transhumanism are Western cultural phenomena. It would be very weird if they didnt show their roots, in particular given they are the newest messianic interpretation of history in a culture that is founded on the study of 1 messianic interpretation and seems to like the genre so much it needs new ones every few years...

4:

Latro - The influence is a very real one, though mostly indirect (through the Catholic theologian and evolutionary biologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his Omega Point idea).

5:

Having grown up with Orthodox Christianity all around me, I'm pretty sure he's read his "Holy Fathers'" writings wrong. I barely see any resemblance between Federov's ramblings and the ramblings of the various orthodox priests I've talked to.

6:

Oh, so you can trace the heritage, so to say... interseting.

7:

It's a dessert topping and a floor wax, but it tastes more and more like a floor wax the older it gets!

Should its root affect our evaluation of its validity? No, unless modern transhumanism is palming a card, and really depends logically or morally on one of Federov's supernaturalist or infallibilist assumptions.

Should this affect our estimation of its likely failure modes or unexamined assumptions; or of what sort of personalities it's likely to attract; or of what needs it's trying to satisfy for good or ill? Hell, yes!

But to me the total effect is of informing the ideology's evaluation, rather than clearly weighing down one pan or the other.

Thanks for bringing it up. That was a historical connection I really had no clue about.

8:

Should its root affect our evaluation of its validity? No, unless modern transhumanism is palming a card,

I have two possible palmed cards to worry about:

1. That the transhumanist agenda plays, subtly, to human cognitive biases in favour of supernatural and/or teleological explanations, despite purportedly being based on a rational analysis of our situation,

2. That it's essentially a stalking horse for religion, in much the same way that "intelligent design" (ack, spit) is a stalking horse for young-earth creationism and in turn protestant fundamentalist christianity.

I currently tend to think that (2) is quite unlikely, but I can't rule (1) out.

9:

Charlie:

I'm an atheist and a materialist who conditionally believes in the validity of the scientific method as a tool for probing the universe we live in

I don't think that "conditionally" is a meaningful hedge. It's a common trope, a claim of fairness, that I think is fallacious. How can one "conditionally" accept a fundamental method for probing reality? Either one accepts or rejects -- it's not conditional, because any means for testing assumes the validity of an empirical testing mechanism, which is the general "scientific method" as opposed to the "revelatory method" or "traditional method".

Any one of them that claims some kind of "conditioning" is fallaciously failing to distinguish between the result of a method (a testable hypothesis, a Quranic exegesis, a prophetic vision) with the method itself -- Quranic exegesis can't prove the infallibility of the Quran, given that it assumes it; prophetic visions assume the validity of prophetic vision; a scientific theory assumes a global, consistent external reality amenable to human understanding.

At some point, you just stake your claim and let the chips fall where they will.

10:

Transhumanism relies on particular human tendencies. Immortality of the individual over the community isn't desirable except in a cultural context of individuality (which is something not completely universal in nature, and that may not even be completely universal in humanity -- any sacrifice of the self for the group is a point for altruism over individualism), and so it feeds on a particular conception of selfhood (the kind that advertising likes so much -- 'just be yourself because no one else can be you', something of dubious truth and doubly dubious meaning). Immortality of the individual (and by extension, the concept of constant selfhood underlying any other changes to personality) also underlies the life-after-death frameworks. However, it underlies things like shoe marketing, too.

(As a side note, it's kind of strange that he should support the ego, not as an orthodox christian but as a mystic/theologian, because mystics of all stripes have historically tended to stress the ego as a trap. However, as a mystical movement, Cosmism is very strange.)

11:

I've been reading Michael Scheuer's "Marching Toward Hell" and he claims that the French philosophies revolving around the perfectibility of man were invalid because they led to the wars of the 20th century and the Holocaust. No idea how true that stuff is but it makes me wonder if that "perfectibility" meme has any effect on transhumanism.

12:

eh, studying French influence on it probably isn't the point of this discussion and just leads away from the main topic, should probably forget about it

13:

Those Russians. If you think their nuclear reactor designs are weird, wait 'til you see their philosophy.

14:

Yes
Scientific "validity" is an underlying assumption - "faith" if you must.
EXCEPT
That it has always worked, EVEY TIME - so far. And we can see no reason why that should not continue to be so.
That natural events have natural, physical causes, and that changes and circumstances are detectable.

Hence my fundamental proposition to the (religious) belivers: "no "god" is detectable.
And since non-detectable - irrelevant even if existent.
Note, that this is deliberately framed as a falsifyable, scientific test. Needeless to say, no believer has ever taken me up on it....

15:

For further reading, John Gray has an interesting book which includes parallels between transhumanism and both Victorian spiritist thinking and Russian cosmism/immortalism. The British side of the story is also quite interesting, including a plan to download the saviour of the world from the afterlife into the brain of an infant specifically produced in an extramarital affair between a Prime Minister's brother and a society lady...

16:

I'm not sure that transhumanism is a stalking horse for any religion. If anything, I suspect that Teilhard de Chardin was more influential on western transhumanists, simply because the Cold War would have made any Russian influence problematic until a few years ago.

That said, anyone who talks about atheism and materialism and likes gadgets isn't paying attention to their fundamental human tendencies.

After all, animists tend to see everything as alive and aware (in some way). The high tech industry is attempting to bring this basic human belief into reality. This even though most things don't actually need to talk to us, and it takes massive resources that we don't actually have to do it. Self-driving cars? Refrigerators with bluetooth connections? Why bother? Is it Disney, programming us into believing that princes and princesses get the magic items? D&D? Or is it just human nature to want to make everything into a pet that has a cool trick?

So, is every techie a crypto-animist, perhaps a wannabe cyber-shaman? No? Merely a tool of Disney and Apple? I'd rather be a cyber-shaman, personally.

Transhumanism is in the same vein. To me, it smacks of all that science fiction that attempts to make the supernatural work with gizmos and gadgets. This has roots back to Heron of Alexander.

17:

Oh, it's not much of a meaningful hedge; my criterion for dropping the scientific method would be something like a clear, repeatable proof that the Simulation Hypothesis is unequivocally true (complete with concomitant arbitrary violations of the laws of physics on demand) or an equivalent level of evidence for a theological explanation (with or without Invisible Sky Daddy). And I'm not saying I'd weather such a fundamental axiomatic change in my world-view very well ...

18:

To be achievable, transhumanism requires that we develop scientific processes and techniques that are very close to what most people would see as God-like powers. So it could easily turn into a religion, with actual "miracle-working" to awe the masses, books of dogma handed down by the high priests and an evangelising creed: "Join us and gain eternal life - or reject us, live a few short years and vanish forever into the outer darkness!" Given human nature and what we know of history, I wouldn't bet against exactly that happening.

19:

That's one interesting looking source ...!

20:

I just read The Quantum Thief, and was a little confused as to what it is that they wanted, so this post is very welcome.

@heteromeles
You asked why bother with self-driving cars? Do the words safety and convenience come to mind? Safety is a big one, because humans in general suck at driving.
Convenience, the other reason, is the reason for most technological development. Putting computers into appliances has almost nothing to do with animism, and much more to do with not running out of frigging apples (or milk) because *somebody* didn't have time to go shopping.

On a funnier note, here's the story of The Toaster Rebellion of '08
http://informationwarfare.blogspot.com/2005/08/toaster-rebellion-of-08.html

21:

The people who came up with the rapture and judgment day were daydreaming. The people who came up with transhumanism were daydreaming. People tend to daydream about similar things. It makes no difference whether transhumanism is based on someone else's borrowed daydream, or an original daydream.

Either way, it's a fairy tale that flatters people who are afraid of death and have a very high opinion of their own intelligence. Whereas Christianity is a fairy tale that flatters people who are afraid of death and have a very high opinion of their own morality. And Buddhism is a fairy tale that flatters people who are afraid of death and have a very high opinion of their own compassion. I'm sure you see the pattern: everyone is afraid of death, and everyone believes they have some vaguely defined personality trait that makes them superior. And so the cheese falls from the crow's mouth.

22:

Slightly off-topic here: I consider myself a Christian (Protestant sub-type, Dutch-Reformed class, possibly heretic?). What's probably strange to everyone (except me), is that I fundamentally agree with the scientific method, and the anti-supernatural views. On the one hand, I firmly believe that we, as human organisms, are bound just as much as any "dead" matter to the laws of physics that describes our universe. On the other hand, there is no reason to believe that the laws belonging to the universe extend in any meaningful way beyond it. Discussing whatever is "outside" of the universe makes absolutely no logical sense, and cannot ever be part of a scientific discussion, by definition.

And finally, on the gripping hand, we as humans have the wonderful capacity of "surpassing" logic. In some sense, it is possible that it is our greatest achievement: seeing beauty in pure mathematics, creating works of art and science, charting our way through the massively weird and wonderful system that is the observable reality.

So here's the wacky thought I'm going to leave you with: perhaps humour and religion is somehow related, and is a strong requirement for the survival and maturity of an intelligent species. The only way to prove this, would obviously be the discovery of many extinct civilizations that somehow were so serious and uninteresting that they just stopped living after reading any book by Richard Dawkins.

23:

Self-driving cars being safe? Oh yeah. Right. I will believe that when I see it. The failure mode on that one is catastrophic, and it's the same reason why we have two pilots in every cockpit, even though planes can land themselves. Having an inexperienced, distracted human driver grabbing the wheel when the system crashes is not my idea of safe driving. And that's even though I routinely navigate highways spiked with Gulf War veterans who apparently think they're driving in Baghdad and/or are dealing with PTSD.

As for bluetooth refrigerator, you can spend your hundreds on that. I'll use my junk mail and a ten cent pen to keep a list, tagged to the fridge with a free magnet.

People mistake "cool" and "convenient" for reasons, when they're merely programmed excuses. Most people on this planet do without them just fine.

24:

Is it a surprise to anyone that transhumanism fills the role of religion for the non-religious? Provided people say "I hope and believe that I am going to live forever as an upload/robot/genetically engineered superman" rather than "I am going to...., and any counter argument is by definition false" I'm OK with it.

25:

Self-driving cars don't have to be safe -- they just have to be safer than a soccer mom who's driving while texting, or your neighbour's 16 year old son trying to impress his girlfriend, or that alcoholic guy who lives down the street on his way back from the pub after closing time.

Meanwhile, work is in hand on formal proof of correctness for car control algorithms. It's still early days, but at least they're aware of the requirement.

And finally, self-driving cars have a huge advantage over aircraft in that the failure more doesn't have to be catastrophic: a car autopilot just needs to be able to slam on the brakes, pull over, and scream for help if it doesn't understand what to do (presumably while broadcasting a warning to other autonomous vehicles on the same stretch of road: "watch out, I'm panicking!"). Which is a much more limited problem domain than, say, trying to bring a fixed-wing aeroplane in to a safe landing.

26:

Self-driving cars being safe? Oh yeah. Right. I will believe that when I see it. The failure mode on that one is catastrophic

Agreed. An exercise for anyone who thinks that self-driving cars are "safe". Draw up a failure tree for both computer and human control. Bear in mind that different modes of failure require their own branches, and "willfully disregards $law" is only one mode. I've not done this in depth (yet) but reckon you'll have about 1 more mode on the human failure tree.

27:

Sounds a lot like the Calvinism->Scottish Common Sense->Positivism->Pragmatism succession, which was so influential on American culture and policy. (http://americanphilosophy.net/)
Do you think there IS a connection between transhumanism and Federov (perhaps through Russian Science Fiction?) or is this convergent evolution of ideas?

28:

Do you think there IS a connection between transhumanism and Federov (perhaps through Russian Science Fiction?)

Yes, definitely.

First, Federov taught the young Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who was basically the father of rocketry -- highly influential on Robert Goddard, for example. Secondly, the Ouspensky link: Heinlein and others in the SF scene were interested in Gurdjieff, and Ouspensky was G's big popularizer. (Oh, and Federov was also influential on Tolstoy, but that's another matter.)

Federov died before the Soviet revolution; his ideas percolated out before then, as did those of Tsiolkovsky and the other early cosmists. The Iron Curtain wasn't an instantaneous guillotine blade descending on Russian/Western cultural exchanges -- it took some time to block everything, and Federov's ideas would have been out in the zeitgeist at around the time the early SF pulps were beginning to appear. For example, it's a long time since I read them but I think some of Federov's less out-there stuff is present in E. E. Smith's early space operas (such as the Skylark series).

29:

This is also my reaction, that this is parallel evolution. I think extropianism, transhumanism, whatever Goetzel/Kurzweil -ism you choose - are all speculation on the emergent properties of accelerating technological progress. No?

30:

"(b) resurrecting the dead"

"Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, roughly a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth."
- Forward by Clarke - 2001 A Space Odyssey

That is an awful lot of people to resurrect, depending on how far back you want to go. ;)

Fear of death is so common among people (and why shouldn't it be?) that any memes for extending life, eventually to immortality, should perhaps be considered likely independent convergent evolution.
No particular history should be considered more or less important, except to the individual.

31:

I think there is a flaw in that reasoning. Scientific method is a statistical method. But can we use a method to prove the validity of the same method? Can we assume science is right because science says so?

32:

Wow, I'd forgotten about Fyodorov, though I read about him back around 1980 in an anthology of Russian psychology—the same one where I first encountered Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. (An interesting work in its own right; its metaphysical and epistemological ideas had striking parallels to Ayn Rand's, though they led to quite different political conclusions—and I realized as I read it that her rhetorical style was a lot like Lenin's, too.) I remember being astonished by his idea of a scientific resurrection of the dead, but I hadn't thought of it in years. Thanks for the reminder!

33:

"Hence my fundamental proposition to the (religious) belivers: "no "god" is detectable.
And since non-detectable - irrelevant even if existent.
Note, that this is deliberately framed as a falsifyable, scientific test. Needeless to say, no believer has ever taken me up on it...."

Maybe not. If "god" is an abstraction that only manifests itself in human responses. By analogy, "love" doesn't exist as an external entity, although you can detect love using a variety of responses in humans. We don't say "love" doesn't exist.

Perhaps one should not take the fundamentalists' ideas of a sky person too seriously, but rather those that go for the "I can feel God/Jesus/Spirit in me". Clearly something is happening to these people that is quite measurable, even if there is no external object of their experience.

34:

I'm not sure why this question would be considered interesting.. perhaps I'm missing something that makes this non-obvious.

Mind-set Goal
--------------------------
religon ---\
science ------> eternal life
magic ---/

within each mind-set constraint they manipulate their symbolic constructs to goal-seek eternal life. Of course there will be overlap as each has the same goal.

Among the requirements for science to reach the end goal includes not being seduced/distracted by mind-sets that contain non-optimal algorithms (i.e. not suited for solving problems in reality).

Each mind-set has its own algorithms it considers optimal within its frame-work to achieving the end-goal. Cross-pollination and noise can dilute a mind-sets clarity of vision, or perhaps as the vision evolves it is contaminated by interpretations from alternate mind-sets. The conceit of dismissing/demeaning ideas because they fit a "trope" appears to be a common approach used by one camp over the other.

The trick in achieving successful solution sets is accurately modeling the universe in ways that don't artificially blinker your possible solution space. The fact that a kernel of an idea originated in an alternate mind-set doesn't invalidate its achievement within another.

35:

Actually Charlie,

This is incorrect. A commercial plane with a pilot failure can land on its own (as demonstrated on Mythbusters) so long as Air Traffic Control clears the airspace.

A car with an autopilot failure has to contend with dozens to thousands of other cars, which makes for a more complex problem. Moreover, if there's a systemic issue that's causing dozens of cars to fail in one area simultaneously, that failure will ripple up and down the roads.

I grew up and live in Southern California, so I know a thing or three about aggregate behavior of cars. That's why I'm happy to piss in the beer of anyone touting autopilots on cars. As with the carbon monoxide alarm I have to buy, it's a solution in search of a problem.

The solution, to be very blunt, is mass transit. In Southern California, the roads are built out, and advances in vehicle safety seem to encourage bad driving (as in large pickups assuming that everyone will get out of their way or die). Getting people off the roads is the best solution, and it's the one that the local governments are working towards (at least, according to the 2050 plan I'm supposed to read and comment on in the next month or two).

They simply can't afford the maintenance bill on the roads they have.

BTW, the best rush hour driving I ever saw in California happened in the early 1990s. Why? That was when road rage first became an issue, and people were shooting at each other, car to car. For about 3-4 years, everyone was real polite, because cutting someone off could lead to you getting shot. Then cell phones became popular, as did bloated SUVs, and the roads really started going to hell. In my darker moments, I'd say that the best encouragement to driver safety is to arm everyone and let them act out.

36:

Not everyone is afraid of death.
What people are afraid of is the method and process of dying.

37:

I'm sorry Charlie, you have lost me.

Why are you evoking such a esoteric source (Fyodorov) over the simpler explanation (Occam's razor) that humanity has an inherent desire to improve itself and that periodically it invents new terminology and justifications for this drive?

38:

Because you've misapprehended what I'm doing here by getting it exactly upside-down.

39:

wow, I wasted paragraphs trying to say what you did.. As a historical origin its an interesting tidbit.

40:

Fedorov's idea is not quite as novel as Nicholas Berdyaev suggests. Early Mormons (1800s) on the other side of the planet were teaching similar ideas - humans becoming gods and engaging in the work of resurrection.

41:

All else aside, Federov's Transhumanism sounds like a cracking basis for a steampunk novel.

42:

What would the steampunk transhumanism portmanteau be? Steamed humanism? Steam trannies? I like it. .

43:

It looks to me like there's more than one thread in the transmission of ideas from Federov to contemporary transhumanism. J. D. Bernal, who wrote The World, the Flesh & the Devil: An Enquiry into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul was for most of his life a Communist and Soviet sympathizer; he had many contacts in the Soviet scientific community, and was probably familar with Federov's ideas as a result.

Bernal's essay has been well-known in British and American scientific and science-fiction circles for a long time (I don't remember where I first heard about it, but it was almost certainly before 1970, and very possibly from reading something by Arthur C. Clarke) and it's been available on the internet for at least 25 years.

44:

It's a cookbook!

45:

To move closer to the topic: transhumanism is still valid, even though it traces its roots back through invalid la-la land. It may well be inachievable or indesirable, but if we can postulate a goal and outline a roadmap for it, it is not invalidated by Christian mystic roots. Much like the scientific method traces its precursors in Islamic golden-age mysticism (the 'ilm ideal of scientifically exploring God). A contrary example is Samuel Richter who generated worthless mystic results by way of a bastardisation of scientific repeatability in "A true and completed preparation of the Philsopher's stone by the Rosicrucian fraternity".

I'm happy you brought Fyodorov up, as I recently wrote on the value of space exploration. In response to narrow-minded views of space colonization as a waste of money best spent elsewhere, Tsiolkovsky and Fyodorov pries open a fascinating, gaping maw of wild ideals and ambitions.

I'm also interested in seing Teilhard being brought up in this thread. I can't see the Omega point idea being that close kin to transhumanism. I'm confused by OPT, but OPT seems to talk about an end-of-history all-encompassing nöosphere, whereas transhumanism and anti-death are comparatively pragmatic and myopic.

46:

Of *course* it plays to our non-logical biases. Everything that we are interested in does. One of the biases is that ideas that are new tend to arise as mutations of older ideas. Because "nature does not make jumps". (Of course it does...but the larger the jump, the more likely it is to be immediately fatal.)

This is true in ideas, in actions, in remembering history, everywhere. We tend to be conservative. We make the least change possible. And children have simpler ideas then their parents ... so their "simplest change" is sometimes different form that of their elders. This leads to revolutions in science as new scientists replace older ones. This leads to revolutions in philosophy as... etc., etc., etc. (See "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" and generalize.)

So, unlike my parents, for me a technological singularity is a simpler idea, requiring fewer changes in my ideas. I don't even try to convince most people. I'd be just as happy if the government considers it a crackpot idea. (I don't trust the government at all.) Unfortunately, many sources of the singularity are quite interesting to may government officials, e.g. the panopticon prison. And robot soldiers. So they aren't ignoring it as much as I wish they would.

Also, I don't think that talking about The Singularity is at all appropriate. There are a vast number of plausible technological singularities moving forwards from the current now. Many of them quite unpleasant. And centralized power structures tend to promote the less pleasant, and attempt to suppress the more pleasant. This is inevitable, because centralized points of control tend to be occupied by people who have a pathological need for control, because they are more driven to get them. OTOH, there's a time lag involved, of around 10-20 years, between the time a technological innovation becomes important and the time that government starts responding "appropriately" to it. Because the foci of control tend to be occupied by older (male) people. And they, as everyone, try to adapt with minimal change. (E.g., I'm a part of everyone. I still don't do dynamic HTML, and barely do static HTML. I'm basically a compiler language person. I may be quite willing to change languages, currently Digital Mars D is my favorite, but I cut my teeth on IBSYS FORTRAN IV, and continued with various dialects of Fortran for the next 15-20 years. And Python is about the limit of my comfortable flexion. Snobol was a bit beyond my comfort zone. LISP was just a bit too far. Haskell remains incomprehensible. I can't figure out how to do I/O.) But I'm a very long time science fiction reader, so many technical and social ideas don't feel threateningly unfamiliar.

When I say everyone, I'm including myself. (And I'm also well aware that I have blind spots, but, by definition, I can't tell where they are except very indirectly.)

-- the rest of the post is a digression from the main topic --
-- to justify one minor point --

N.B.: Global social collapse would, I believe, count as a technological singularity. I think we'd lose essentially all our technology, and over 90% of the population. And I think that any advance from there would only be after our current civilization was as forgotten as that of Classic Greece before the Renaissance. And would probably *NEVER* be recovered. (There are a multitude of factors that would cause this, but certainly a primary one is the transience of the media on which technical information is stored. Wood pulp paper is temporary compared to cotton fiber paper, which in turn is temporary compared to parchment. And CDs and DVDs are not only temporary, but they can't be read without technical mechanisms. DRM just makes impossible conditions impossibly worse. Resource depletion is nearly as important, and makes maintaining enclaves of knowledge essentially impossible. Knowledge of ceramics and glasses MIGHT be able to be saved.)
N.B.: This is a state of affairs never seen before. During the middle ages technological progress continued, though some things got lost, e.g. how to construct an elevated aqueduct. But the collapse of Rome didn't kill of anywhere near the amount of population that would be killed off in a modern social collapse. And I don't consider the isolation of Britain during WWII to be even comparable. That wasn't a social collapse.

A part of the problem is that even with high-tech boosts we are currently well above the carrying capacity of ...
(Cut here by author)

47:

Great discussion -- you are really in my in my mental territory here! If I wasn’t such a lazy person, I would write a book about the magical history of mankind, and argue that history is really a story of wizards expanding human knowledge and power by a mysterious process of mystical revelation, which seems to be pushing the world toward ever more magical states of being. This is basically what the Cosmists, the Singularitarians and most other religions are saying; even Marxism, with its inevitable organic evolution toward a workers’ paradise was a form of mysticism. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to find a really original, influential idea that wasn’t mysticism of one kind or another. Yet people persist with this idea that the world moves by some rational, algorithmic process of incremental progress via scientific discovery. Utter poppycock!

That’s one thing I love about Russian culture; unlike the modern West, they celebrate their great tradition of mystical thought and retain certain irrational ideas that we have been trying to suppress since the (so-called) Enlightenment.

48:

Come on people, stop feeding the troll ;)

49:

Right, the Cosmists like Fyodorov and Tsiolkovsky understood that space exploration was almost a religious activity, part of mankind's cosmic destiny, etc. Clarke and Sagan were cosmic mystics of this school also. There is still a strong element of Cosmism in the Russian space program today. I'm not sure what other justification you can give for space exploration at this point.

50:
I don't think that "conditionally" is a meaningful hedge. It's a common trope, a claim of fairness, that I think is fallacious. How can one "conditionally" accept a fundamental method for probing reality? Either one accepts or rejects -- it's not conditional, because any means for testing assumes the validity of an empirical testing mechanism, which is the general "scientific method" as opposed to the "revelatory method" or "traditional method".

This makes no sense that I can see. Are you saying that supernatural explanations, appeals to authority, etc., are just as good as the ones generated by employing the scientific method?

Then why is the scientific method the overwhelmingly preferred mode of inquiry when it comes to the investigation of natural phenomena?

What you seem to be implying is some sort of pomo nonsense where what anyone believes is just as good as what anyone else believes, and who are we to judge otherwise.

51:

I think there is an element of push-back against "scientific method" cropping up. Perhaps its rigors and age have started to make it seem as stilted and officious.. especially when some of its proponents act that way...

On the other hand perhaps "conditional" covers not locking oneself into "absolutely the only approach".

Or even better, you are the ultimate in modifying belief systems as better information becomes available. Hence everything is "conditional". Though I do like push-back against officiousness....

52:

While I'd like to think that self-driving cars only have to be safer than existing cars to make it into our society, I kind of doubt that's the case.

We humans seem to have decided somewhere along the line to grandfather in old risks as "acceptable," while new risks of the exact same type are "unacceptable." Witness how much attention is given to the possibility of radiation exposure from nuclear plants or low-level waste, when vastly more radiation is released from coal-fired plants. (Not to mention carbon, but straight apples-to-apples, radiation!)

When the first fatality is caused by a driverless vehicle, I expect massive news coverage and lawsuits. I'd like cooler heads to prevail, but I'm uncertain what changes as a society we need to make to get there.

53:

Speaking of palmed cards, I am pretty sure Charlie knows that Dante coined the original word "transhuman" in the Paradiso -- trasumanar, to go beyond the human. A little odd to think of Pasolini as a transhumanist, but he certainly thought of himself as one.

54:

Well, he's an interesting sounding guy, I agree.

But you're making a strong claim that he had influence on American/British transhumanism, and I don't see the causality there. That trend seems adequately explained by the development of standard Enlightenment philosophy and hyper-development of science & technology since, combined with atheist or materialist views that are positively ancient. Where are the significant transhumanist figures citing and debating Federov's views and either adopting them or developing new views to refute him?

(For example, Benjamin Franklin wishing he could be embalmed in wine and resurrected centuries hence. Does this owe anything to retrocausal influence from Federov or cryonics? Of course not.)

56:

Perhaps shades of "Why Call Them Back from Heaven"?

57:

Call em all back to torture them with the cognitive dissonance of their concept of "afterlife" and what transpires for reality at the time of their resurrection. Just a minor adjustment...

58:
I think there is an element of push-back against "scientific method" cropping up. Perhaps its rigors and age have started to make it seem as stilted and officious.. especially when some of its proponents act that way...

This doesn't make any sense either. AFAIK, no one as claimed that the scientific method is the best mode of inquiry into natural phenomena. Merely that's it's proven more effective than any of it's predecessors.

If there's pushback because it's not all that effective, that's one thing. Saying that people are pushing back against it because it's stilted or officious, or that it's proponents are stilted and officious is quite another.

And quite stupid frankly[1]. In any event, saying that the system is hermetically closed, that you can't "disprove the scientific method with the scientific method" is nonsense.

[1] I suspect there's more than an element of "the scientific method is against conservatism" strain of thought going on here.

59:

How can one "conditionally" accept a fundamental method for probing reality?

That's a very interesting comment.

In theory you could make a choice based on the methods given and reconsider, if and when something more promising comes along.

In practice, a new, refined scientific method would be called just like the old one and few peoply would even realize something changed.

Which is exactly what I believe has happened at least once.

In Enlightenment Science, people deeply believed in reason. You would assume the existence a rational explanation. You would assume the whole can be reconstructed from its constituent parts. And a bunch of other things.

In Kuhnian Science, you simply don't care. You look for evidence. You don't care,if it's reasonable or unreasonable evidence,if you like it or if you don't. The whole notion of a preexisting exterior reality is optional. It makes everything easier. But one interpretation of the double-slit experiment essentially views reality as emerging from an interaction that contains at least one observer.

In Kuhnian Science, if the evidence supports it, that's it for the moment. And if you find it weird or irrational, that's your problem.

That's a very important distinction,if you understand that postmodernist philosophical discourse critically evaluates reason and then goes on to ridicule "scientism". If you mean by "scientism" the unquestioned assumptions of the Enlightenment Era, that's fine. But it's really problematic, if it's erronously applied to current science (in the Kuhnian minimalist style).

A lot of people don't grasp the underlying principle: the power of a simple, recursive method and then they reject what they believe to have in front of them - their own fata morgana.

60:
I can't see the Omega point idea being that close kin to transhumanism. I'm confused by OPT, but OPT seems to talk about an end-of-history all-encompassing nöosphere, whereas transhumanism and anti-death are comparatively pragmatic and myopic.

On the contrary, while I haven't read a lot of Teilhard de Chardin, I find the tone and overall sense of Frank Tipler's ideas very similar to what I've seen. And, IIRC, Tipler uses the term "Omega Point" to refer to the time in which intelligent life takes control of the development of the universe and resurrects everyone in silico.

61:
Which is exactly what I believe has happened at least once.

I'd cite Popperian falsification as another change; this time in what is considered an acceptable hypothesis, and by extension, what constitutes evidence for it. By the way, there's research in the history and sociology of science that shows that what's accepted as evidence varies quite a bit between the sciences: see the debate between physicists and biologists over what constitutes evidence about the mechanisms of biological development; it lasted for most of the 20th century, and is only now quieting down as a result of the rise of computational biology.

62:

Sure, but whoever controls the self-driving cars could control where you go and if you come back.

63:

Yeah, but Mormons still do that. They look through archives to make everybody Mormons so they'll be a god when they die. Not that they bother to ask or tell.

64:

If you want a British precursor of transhumanism from the early 20th century, I'll offer William Butler Yeats's "Sailing to Byzantium," which ends

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enameling
To keep a drowsy emperor awake,
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

I think this may be the first English literary work about uploading, as we would now call it.

I don't have any evidence that it influenced transhumanism or science fiction, but if I were going to look for one, I would go

Yeats => Aleister Crowley (via their old Golden Dawn connection) => Jack Parsons (well documented) => L. Ron Hubbard (pre-Scientology). Or maybe other connections of Parsons with the sf community.

65:
I don't think that "conditionally" is a meaningful hedge. ... Either one accepts or rejects ... the general "scientific method" as opposed to the "revelatory method" or "traditional method"

Perhaps a tangent, but ... you can conditionally accept it until a better method comes along. When it is Revealed (capital R) that you've been wrong all along, why stick with the obviously inferior method of observing with your lousy human eyes and drawing conclusions with your inferior human intellect when (capital T) Truth is available?

(Drawing from some of my experiences of discussing with Christian friends in my youth here - we'd agree on everything factual, but eventually it always boiled down to "yeah, but I just know".)

(This also reminds me of this story which sort of is on the same topic.)

66:
The solution, to be very blunt, is mass transit.

Whenever the topic comes up, I want to plug this concept. It seems to have the best of both worlds – it's mass transit when there is infrastructure for it, and individual cars for when there isn't. That's not to say it wouldn't come with it's own set of problems, but I'd be happy to have something along those lines around.

67:
I like it very much ! thank you.
...aand we're back to the topic of AI arising through the evolutionary arms race between spamming and antispamming systems.

(On a side note, if such systems begin to use "odd" timestamps for evidence, I'm in trouble.)

68:
Self-driving cars? ... Why bother?

Economics... self-driving cars slash the cost of road transport by about a half. Even on a minimum wage, the biggest cost component of a car on the road is the driver's attention.

Never mind convenience and safety. They will need to have that, but the real driver will be the cost saving.

69:

All the gods humanity has ever believed in have been at root very fallibly human but with lots more power (and only occasionally more than average human wisdom and kindness). Not terribly surprising, but a really strong hint that such gods don't really exist and are simply figments of our all-too-human imaginations.

Also not surprising is the idea that one day we could become powerful enough through advances in science and technology to do things that today seem god-like to us, such as live forever or merge with our machines (we can already do things that would make us seem like gods to the long dead founders of most of the world's religions). This is a problem for believers in religions (such as Russian Orthodox Christianity) but not an issue for non-believers. As Francis Crick used to say 'if we don't act like God who will?'

The only question is, will we one day really be able to do such things? The answer seems to be that we simply don't know. Yet.

70:

Russian Orthodox Christianity. So what?

Should we reject the beautiful visions of Martin Luther King because he was a Baptist minister?

No. The color of the cat is not important as long as it catches mice. I think the visions of King and Fedorov are beautiful, and that is what I ask to good philosophy.

71:

@ 33 "Perhaps one should not take the fundamentalists' ideas of a sky person too seriously, but rather those that go for the "I can feel God/Jesus/Spirit in me". Clearly something is happening to these people that is quite measurable, even if there is no external object of their experience."
Yes, they're having a fit - they are completely loopy.
Measurement of their brain-states, or at least the nerve-impulses could be interesting.
Isn't there work in this field, I remember someone called Saver & Rabin (of UCLA Neurological Research Center ? ) doing this sort of thing ???


72:

See the links here for a modern interpretation of Fedorov's resurrection ideas:
http://hplusmagazine.com/2011/06/28/engineering-transcendence-addendum-from-2011/

73:
A car with an autopilot failure has to contend with dozens to thousands of other cars, which makes for a more complex problem. Moreover, if there's a systemic issue that's causing dozens of cars to fail in one area simultaneously, that failure will ripple up and down the roads.

I'm with OGH — coming to a stop (gently or hard, depending on remaining capability) and turning on the hazard lights is a viable failure mode. It'll jam up the road until the tow truck arrives, and there's potential for rear-end collisions, but that's no worse than a human-driver failure.

In particular, the car with the autopilot failure doesn't have to contend with anything — it simply comes to a stop. The other cars now have to contend with a new obstacle, but they're not the ones with the failure.

If dozens of cars fail, then yes, it will ripple up and down the roads and jam up the whole area — but again it's not something that's directly fatal. It'll just take longer for the tow trucks to clear everyone away. There's an economic cost to any traffic jam, but the passengers will walk away from it with no worse than lost time.


Meanwhile, an autopilot doesn't get bored or distracted or tired. Its design can also continue to improve in safety from year to year and decade to decade, whereas human drivers are pretty much unchangeable (as a component of the system). Given that traffic accidents involving human-driven cars constitute about a quarter of the external causes of death in many countries, such improvement would be quite welcome.

74:

Yes, that's what's called a dual mode PRT as opposed to a single mode PRT, like the British ULTra. But you know, these kinds of things could only work in countries where everybody is incredibly polite, like in the UK or Denmark. You have to trust the customers to use the new stuff in the exact right way without getting angry when the bugs are getting worked out over the first years.

In the US any new transport technology (including the Google dreams of automated cars, which might become semi-automated like PRTs once Google discovers the nature of reality) is doomed to failure because of the tort system there. Any PRT manufacturer, any semi-automated car manufacturer is going to be sued out of its existence after the first accidents.

But at least, PRT are doable right now in exceedingly polite countries with enough space for the guideways.

Fully automated cars are...

... let's say, that if I saw airplane freight containers (called ULDs or Unit Load Devices by Wikipedia) being automatically loaded into airplanes in the same way that loads of the same weight are handled by robot trucks (called AGVs or Automated guided vehicles by Wikipedia) in warehouses and factories, then I would find the idea of fully automated cars convincing, in any country but the US.

But no, even in the most modern, ultra-efficient, computerized aircraft courier centers all those standard ULDs are manhandled into place, in the planes, on the warehouses and everywhere in-between, with not the slightest use of an AGV.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4VFf6eMGAI&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXw8tyqgoxA&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4IqZK1f8XA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDyi9Yipt7c&feature=related

It's also the same with Fedex and UPS.

75:

No. The color of the cat is not important as long as it catches mice. I think the visions of King and Fedorov are beautiful, and that is what I ask to good philosophy.

But that's exactly what makes me suspicious. Because beautiful visions tend to eclipse the hard reality behind them.

(I'm in the business of generating beautiful visions. But I'd like to think I don't mistake them for reality)

76:

Any PRT manufacturer, any semi-automated car manufacturer is going to be sued out of its existence after the first accidents.

Naah. They just need to emulate the sofware industry: "we're not selling you this control system, we're just licensing your temporary use of it for certain purposes, and if a dispute arises you agree to external dispute arbitration via an agency of our choice ..."

That's what Toyota did wrong, incidentally: they didn't implement a click-through shrink-wrapped EULA for their car firmware.

77:

Whatever motivates you, I say. I am a Christian-Transhumanist. I find the process of synthesis great fun and it is rewarding. Every day scientific discoveries and technological advances stoke my spirit. I can't imagine being an atheist one bullet away from its inevitable nihilistic conclusion.

78:

But that's exactly what makes me suspicious. Because beautiful visions tend to eclipse the hard reality behind them.

(I'm in the business of generating beautiful visions. But I'd like to think I don't mistake them for reality)

It seems to me that you're imposing a false dichotomy between "reality" (some kind of objective truth with a capital T) and human will, when in fact a more pragmatic approach would acknowledge that we are participants and co-creators in the universe.

If, as you acknowledge, beautiful visions tend to eclipse the hard reality behind them, that begs the question: to what extent are these "hard" realities as static or as immutable as you seem to want them to be?

Since pre-humans first started using tools, the entire history of humanity has been one effort after another to transcend present limitations. This desire is perhaps our only defining characteristic. It is impossible to state with certainty that any observed property of the universe is immutable. There will always be the possibility that people with sufficient desire and power will be able to overcome it or bend it to their will in some way or another.

"By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired." --Nikos Kazantzakis

It is certainly important to distinguish between such visions and present circumstances, but I see no indication that this is a widespread problem. We are confronted everywhere with our powerlessness over death. The difficult part is not distinguishing between reality and desire but having the courage to continue working towards the desire despite setbacks. A healthy dose of skepticism is important, no doubt, but too much has a tendency to immobilize you.

79:

"So. Transhumanism: rationalist progressive secular theory, or bizarre off-shoot of Russian Orthodox Christianity? And should this affect our evaluation of its validity? You decide!"

"This man Pasteur is trying to cure disease with this unproven method of 'vaccination'. The idea is ludicrous, diseases cannot be cured. I believe it will take a thousand years before we properly understand disease let alone eradicate or lighten the load of affliction. This man Pasteur is clearly emulating Jesus. So these 'pasteurians': rationalist progressive secular theory, or bizarre off-shoot of Christianity? And should this affect our evaluation of its validity? You decide!"

"These brothers Wright are trying to fly. The idea is ludicrous because every man of science knows that heavier than air flying will always be impossible. This man Pasteur is clearly emulating Icarus. So these 'Icarians': rationalist progressive secular theory, or bizarre off-shoot of Greek Mythological Paganism? And should this affect our evaluation of its validity? You decide!"

"This man Oppenheimer and his bold claims about nuclear weapons. The idea of nuclear explosions is ludicrous because every man of science knows that the atom is by definition indivisible. And then this man has a habit of quoting obscure Indian quotes about Vishnu. So these 'Oppenheimerians': rationalist progressive secular theory, or bizarre off-shoot of Vishnu Death Cults? And should this affect our evaluation of its validity? You decide!"

I dunno, Charles, you are kinda waging an angry battle here.

Also where do you get this idea that immortality would lead to 'overpopulation of the planet? That is kinda a ruthless argument isn't it? They used to say the same 'when we have a polio vaccine the planet will be overpopulated'. Would you suggest we make sure we do not study means "to bring back the dead", "to extend lives", to "create fail-saves against permanent death" or "to rejuvenate the ageing" on the argument of overpopulation? WOW that is creating a troubling precedent of my favourite of all SF authors. So if someone actually does come up with a way to do any of the above you (or gets close to discovering a solution) you propose outlaw it? And if it were developed, you'd propose death quota's?

Like I said, you think scary things, Charles.

Wouldn't it be easiest to make everyone who is alive healthy and live as long as possible, and restrict the influx of new humans if you are so worried about people living long?

By and large we had so much progress, why this odd insistence it "cannot be other than levelling off at some arbitrary point" you appear to advocate? I respect you advocating sepsis and scientific method, but of all people you must affirm that technology is escalating us into a very strange and hard to predict world.

I am not a fan of idyllic, utopian or 'final solution' futures. Things won't ever be easy and there tend to be no silver bullets. But when people argue against the very fundamentals of progress, hope, ambition, aspiration (even when not in a poetic, allegorical or idealist context or narrative) it tends to indicate one thing only.

These people are becoming a little older and set in their thinking.

Look forward to reading Rule 34, favourite rule of mine, Charles.

80:

One could ask whether Fedorov should be considered a Russian Orthodox Christian. What I mean is that; I've met quite a few people who have labeled themselves with a particular religious affiliation; yet, they adjust the tenets of said religion to accommodate a lifestyle that more suits their taste.

" Oh, I don't think God really cares if I drink.", " God doesn't concern himself with whether we have sex out of wed lock."

So, are they really a part of the original religion or have they in essence created a church of one follower with similar trappings?

It just seems, to me, that Federov was more amenable to scientific inquiry then the church's teachings of the proposed future of man; yet, he was unwilling to strip himself totally of the security of the church.

If this was the case. I could argue that the Transhumanist ideas that he proposed came from the secular element of his personality and is consistent with rationality.

I might be stretching here. :-)

On a side note. It seems that Mr. Stross's question could also be extended to the idea of an omniscient and omnipotent God vs Casual Determinism.

"God knows everything from the beginning of time to the end of time. The universe is as he knew it would be." Free will would then be an illusion.

"All reactions in the universe are causal in nature; So, if one could comprehend every atom's movement since the beginning of time; we could see that no truly random events have taken place or will ever take place." This again eliminates free will.

Are they the flip side of the same coin? Religious on one side secular on the other?

I might be totally wrong. I welcome any corrections of any glaring inconsistencies in my logic.

81:

you can conditionally accept it until a better method comes along

Quite. "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

Charlie's "conditional" position is in fact almost exactly where I stand on the issue (at least as far as the following colon - after that, he and I slowly diverge and I may come back a little later and explain how). I'm an atheist but I might be induced to change my mind by very strong evidence of certain kinds. In practice, the evidence would have to be strong enough to reverse my belief in a number of other things I reckon I know (like the scientific method being the least unreliable method we have for getting to know things) - and it might still not leave me believing in God (or whatever) the way God (or whatever) wanted.

82:

To Mr. Stross's question on whether this should effect our evaluation it's validity.

I don't believe so. The underlying questions seem to remain the same. The answers are dependent on the level of examination.

Where does lightning come from?
1. Zeus.
2. Electrical discharge.

How does the sun go around the earth?
1. Apollo.
2. The Sun is relatively stationary and we orbit around it giving the illusion that it moves through our sky.

All of the easy questions have been answered scientifically and the gods that had previously answered them have fallen by the wayside. The question of life, death, and our future haven't and so the gods that deal primarily with those answers still persist.

The questions are still valid and independent. Example.... I recently saw an article suggesting that our understanding of static charge was wrong and upon further examination we now have a new more comprehensive understanding of it. That means that while our previous explanation was grounded in scientific examination it was as wrong as saying elves did it. But, the question never changed; it was not influenced by the answer. " What is a static charge?"

83:

Also where do you get this idea that immortality would lead to 'overpopulation of the planet?

(Where do you think I get that idea? Because I've spent some time debunking it, if you go back and read the thought experiment piece earlier this week carefully ...)

84:

"So these 'pasteurians': rationalist progressive secular theory, or bizarre off-shoot of Christianity? . . . So these 'Icarians': rationalist progressive secular theory, or bizarre off-shoot of Greek Mythological Paganism? . . . So these 'Oppenheimerians': rationalist progressive secular theory, or bizarre off-shoot of Vishnu Death Cults?"

Both! Love it, Khannea.

. . . and Charlie, while I'm commenting here, I thoroughly enjoyed Accelerando.

85:
In practice, the evidence would have to be strong enough to reverse my belief in a number of other things I reckon I know (like the scientific method being the least unreliable method we have for getting to know things) - and it might still not leave me believing in God (or whatever) the way God (or whatever) wanted.

It's interesting that you say that because there actually is a more reliable method of determining the truth of things. Even more interesting is the fact that it predates the scientific method.

I'm speaking, of course, of the methods of mathematical proof. Say what you will about evolution, quantum mechanics, gravity, etc; those beliefs are all subject to updates. But how about, say, the belief that the sum of the first n positive integers is and will always be n(n+1)/2? That is forever beyond dispute.

This is also, incidentally, how it appears the vast majority of people like to argue. To extremely poor effect of course :-( Mathematical induction works because the terms and operations are very precisely defined[1]. Not so terms like "freedom", "God" or "Singularity". That's where you get what seem to modern sensibilities some extremely weird proofs of the existence of God: God is perfect, an attribute of perfection is existence, ego God exists, etc.

[1]Technically, mathematical induction works because of an odd property of the natural numbers, to whit, every subset of the natural numbers (you can include zero if you like, as algebraists often do) has a least element.

86:

To be a bit more on topic, could the overlapping programs of Fedorov and the more modern Singulatarians be something much more simple?

What if the wellspring is . . . Christianity itself? Or if you like, the Abrahamic Big Three.

87:

Sorry, got cut off. If this is true - as our host speculates - then one prediction would seem to be that philosophical speculators of Fedorov's type wouldn't be found among, say, Buddhists. I realize that proving a negative is extremely hard and the literature is extremely Western- or Euro-centric. But still, off the top of my head, I can't think of any.

Otoh, I was aware of Fedorov some time before Charlie made his headline post. I bring this up because I came to awareness of him via Ostrander's and Schroeder's "Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain" ;-)

88:

"I don't think that "conditionally" is a meaningful hedge. It's a common trope, a claim of fairness, that I think is fallacious. How can one "conditionally" accept a fundamental method for probing reality? Either one accepts or rejects -- it's not conditional, because any means for testing assumes the validity of an empirical testing mechanism, which is the general "scientific method" as opposed to the "revelatory method" or "traditional method".

Any one of them that claims some kind of "conditioning" is fallaciously failing to distinguish between the result of a method (a testable hypothesis, a Quranic exegesis, a prophetic vision) with the method itself -- Quranic exegesis can't prove the infallibility of the Quran, given that it assumes it; prophetic visions assume the validity of prophetic vision; a scientific theory assumes a global, consistent external reality amenable to human understanding. At some point, you just stake your claim and let the chips fall where they will."


I suppose it was inevitable in an essay on connections between the singularity and Christian theology that presuppositional apologetics would get brought into the discussion (in substance if not in name).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositional_apologetics

As for what baseline assumptions one invokes, pretty much all worldviews assume a generally consistent observable world. Christianity does so as much as an empiricist/materialist/naturalist.

And supernatural claims are, contrary to the often repeated claim, amenable to scientific evidence so long as they have any observable effect on the physical world. The problem is that they've been consistently contrary to the evidence. This didn't have to have be the case. If we live in a universe, for example, that was created 6 to 20 thousand years ago in the manner of young earth creationist science would have been able to provide abundant evidence to support this supernatural proposition.....reality just turned out to be different.

89:

Geosynchronous satellites are a foolish dream obviously inspired by the Star of Bethlehem. As such, they are a priori impossible. I will stick with the telegraph wire, thank you very much.

90:

@heteromeles 16:

You sure it would have been problematic to have a Russian influence until a few years ago? Because Objectivism got pretty influential during the Cold War, even though its leader was a Russian and even though it owed quite a lot to, of all things, Slavophile thinking. (Of course, when someone wrote a book detailing all this, a lot of Rand followers angrily pooh-poohed it, and Rand herself used to deny that she owed anything to any philosopher since Aristotle, so the odds are good that most of Rand's followers had no idea that they owed something to a Russian philosophical school of thought...which might be true of the transhumanists as well.)

91:

Is there any evidence that METI is also a descendant of Russian cosmism?

I mean, I know it has influenced everything, from Goddard to Sagan and every science fiction story ever set in space, but I wonder if it perhaps motivates the METI promoters like Zaitsev just a little bit extra.

Think about it - why bother doing the hard work of creating the singularity when super-advanced aliens can give you immortality on a platter?

92:

I always associate 'the Omega point' with Tipler, not with de Chardin, though that term has been used to refer to a fairly wide range of different things (of which I consider Tipler's to be one of the craziest). I seem to recall de Chardin being a Catholic and writing along the same general lines as McLuhan about the new skin, etc. and brain uploading (or rather, brain-in-a-vat). I cannot recall which variation of the 'omega point' idea de Chardin was associated with, though I imagine it's probably circling around the earth-superorganism idea usually associated with Lovelock (global superorganism attains the level of introspection associated with a human of that scale on the verge of adulthood, and individual people cease to individuate because of an effort to optimize connections, or something like that)

93:

The classic Buddhist response (at least for Tibetan Buddhism) would be that what the transhumanists are aiming for is a god realm. Fine as far as it goes, but not the ultimate aim. That being trapped in the illusion of being only a separate self inherently creates misery. Some of that misery is so endemic that we don't notice it. But it sucks none the less for that.
One can make that misery as pleasant as possible. A nice god realm (heaven realm) in which one lives stupendously long. But still trapped in the illusion.
Also, that when one finally does fall out of such a god realm, that is one nasty painful fall.
Given that, it wouldn't make sense to put much energy into creating such a god realm. (or demi-god realm, which would be like a god realm but with a lot more fighting and jealousy. The current elite is much like a demi-god realm.
Also, since most Buddhists believe in reincarnation, that makes longer life less meaningful. You are going to live thousands of years (in multiple lives) already anyway.
A more Theravadan (Thai) Buddhist take would be that the whole point is to get off the wheel of reincarnation, so making the wheel turn slower would just increase the suffering.
Having said all that, my personal take is that we now have a new possibility: of both escaping from (maturing beyond) the illusion (first approximation) of being only a separate self AND also living much longer to explore what happens beyond waking up.

94:

The problem with the scientific method is that it has to be applied by scientists, who are human, have preconceptions and prejudices, and don't always have the same criteria for what constitutes good data. There are any number of examples of theories that had major impact on both science and society and which were proclaimed to be proved by careful studies, which turned out to be not just wrong, but hellaciously wrong (Phrenology, anyone?). The good news is that the unfounded orthodoxy of one generation is often the shibboleth of the next, but unfortunately not always.

I have similar concerns to Charlie's about the roots of transhumanism, because it is very possible for a movement to be based on flawed axioms that are never properly re-examined, and for that to result in serious error in planning and acting on the axioms. Also, please note that not all followers of such a movement have scientific training, or the required training in critical thinking to deal with facts that contradict their axioms.

95:

All philosophy is bunk. A way for brains to play with themselves. In ways that can not be disproven.

96:

Things the bunk called philosophy is largely responsible for:

the scientific method
democracy
the concept of human rights
logic (highly significant in computer science to name just one of it's practical applications)

Not to mention the movement called the Enlightenment---the intellectual basis for most of the gains in human welfare of the past few centuries.

And those are just a few examples off the top of my head.

97:

Maybe you ought to read Dennett on evolution or the nature of mind (based largely on research into the architecture of the brain, or Patricia Churchland on neurophilosophy before making such a blanket statement.

98:

"There are any number of examples of theories that had major impact on both science and society and which were proclaimed to be proved by careful studies, which turned out to be not just wrong, but hellaciously wrong (Phrenology, anyone?)."

And what demonstrated this: science did. Unlike other methods of deciding what to believe science (and empiricism in the broad sense) has a good track record of correcting it's own mistakes.

99:

Oh please guys, Lovecraft put the scientists in their place 90 years ago:

“Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous. Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species – if separate species we be – for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.”

(From "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family")

Charlie is a pretty good curmudgeon, but he's a rank amateur compared to the all-time master of cosmic curmudgeonry!

100:

Certainly MLK jr, there's proof that he had sex all over when he traveled.

101:

I can't imagine being an atheist one bullet away from its inevitable nihilistic conclusion.

What do you think is nihilistic about atheism?

103:

It's always hard to tell. I'm coming at it from biology, where that bias does exist.

I studied symbiotic relationships in grad school biology. There's actually a history of the study of symbioses that showed pretty conclusively that communists glommed on to mutualisms and symbioses as "proving" that communism was better, while western capitalists took Darwin to show that competition was the only way to go.

In the US today, there's typically a large and boring chapter on competition. If you're lucky, there's 6-10 pages on symbiosis. Thing is, symbiosis is easy to demonstrate, as most (if not all) multicellular organisms have symbionts, and there's good evidence that eukaryotic cells originated as symbiotic structures.

Competition's actually quite difficult to demonstrate, especially outside the lab. Still, it always gets substantially more space than symbiosis.

If you're thinking this is but one example, you're absolutely correct. However, it does show a pervasive bias that's more implicit than explicit. You're not labeled a dirty commie for studying symbioses, but you don't get much funding, either.

I figure that ideological biases can keep ideas out, even when they're fundamentally right.

104:
And what demonstrated this: science did.

I'm not saying otherwise. What I am saying is that before that demonstration a generation of scientists published and taught the incorrect theory, often without really adequate evidence, and that the general public learned it and continued to believe it for generations afterwards. Most people who don't go into science professionally get their knowledge of science from high-school education, and the people teaching science in public school (in the US, at least) are, even if they are competent and well-educated (not the most common state), got their knowledge a generation before, and it's at least that far out of date as a result.

And just because the basic ideas of a movement were originally promulgated by scientists does not mean that the membership is composed of scientists or of people who think critically, so they often don't know how or that they should examine the ideas they're given.

105:

This is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about when I mentioned the debate about development. The debate about symbiosis, from what I've seen of it, reminds me very much of leftwing politics in the US in the 1960s. The arguments are all snarky appeals to orthodoxy or to "the new synthesis", with a strong admixture of ad hominem and character assassination. It's amazing some of the things that were said about Lynn Margulis, for instance, back before her theory of endosymbiosis was accepted. Some of the things she's said recently are also pretty amazing, as they break with current orthodoxy in ways that don't seem to me likely to be true, but sound like willful contrarianism. Although maybe that's just the curse of the older scientist needing a hobby horse, like Penrose's quantum consciousness, or Schockley's racism.

See, it's the history of science that makes me a little skeptical of the notion that scientists are rational more than about 10% of the time. Of course that's an order of magnitude better than the human average, but still ...

106:
How can one "conditionally" accept a fundamental method for probing reality? Either one accepts or rejects -- it's not conditional, because any means for testing assumes the validity of an empirical testing mechanism, which is the general "scientific method" as opposed to the "revelatory method" or "traditional method".

This makes no sense that I can see. Are you saying that supernatural explanations, appeals to authority, etc., are just as good as the ones generated by employing the scientific method?

No, anura is passing no judgement here on whether the methods are "good" or "evil". Anura is merely pointing out a fallacy, the fallacy of conditionally accepting something which by its very nature has to be an axiom, and a foundational axiom at that — something which one either considers self-evident, or which one has to choose arbitrarily as a starting point, but for which no reasoned argument is possible.

Loosely stated, it all comes down to a single question, something like: "Do you trust your own fallible eyes/ears/reason, or the revealed Word of God, or tradition, or consensus, or ... ?"

Ultimately, you have to answer this question, or one very much like it, before you start to reason, before you even start to assign judgements such as "good" and "evil". Thus you can't use reasoning and judgements of good and evil to answer it, because you don't have those yet when you're answering it. At best, you can reject those answers which are evil by their own terms, but there aren't very many of those around.


It's also good to be aware of these foundational axioms when talking with people who have a different one; if one doesn't realise, one can spend a lot of time talking past each other.

107:

Err, more important, why shouldn't the alternatives to atheism be even more nihilistic?

More specifically, the earliest mentions of the term concern (pan)theists (Fichte being called that way by Jacobi, Christianity called that way by Nietzsche), so one could argue atheism is the opposite of nihilism...

108:

"Anura is merely pointing out a fallacy, the fallacy of conditionally accepting something which by its very nature has to be an axiom, and a foundational axiom at that"

But Anura is wrong that any fallacy is involved in Stross's comment. One conditionally accepts scientific thinking in the sense that one accepts it because science has a good track record of being able to make highly precise predictions about how things work and we continue to esteem science highly as a method of knowing so long as this continues to be the case. If causality suddenly altered in some profound way that left science helpless to continue telling us how things will work we'd stop putting our confidence in it.

That's conditional accepting something in a perfectly sensible way. Acceptance of science is NOT axiomatic. We accept it because it works.

109:

I have the feeling that there are scale-related changes. So that there is local symbiosis amidst general competition. But the large-scale examples of non-competitive problem solving are often using the tools of competitive organisation. Or are they general-purpose tools tainted by their use?

But consider a ship at sea. They're small enough human groups that the crew doesn't need the organisational tools that a State needs. But the hazards of the sea force the development of a command structure. Maybe a hunting party, rather than a tribe?

110:

Ignoring your conclusions, which are no more than unjustified opinions, I would say that your characterization of Buddhism is fairly ignorant.

People are indeed afraid of death, but are --as far as I can see --going to die anyway. The law of conservation of energy, however, gives pause.

What does that mean? I don't know. I doubt you do either.

111:

As far as I can tell from your blog post, there's nothing in Federov's views that has anything to do with the supernatural. He just wasn't quite familiar enough with entropy.

Federov did happen to believe in the supernatural, but so did Isaac Newton.

If you really want to see what transhumanism is based on, read Kurzweil's book and judge for yourself whether his arguments make sense. Don't cast about in history for some religious person who happened to have similar ideas and then use guilt by association.

112:

Tim Connor: this is your yellow card -- you're veering dangerously close to flaming and/or ad hominem attack on M.E. .

Disagreement is fine; personal attacks are not.

Please read the moderation policy before commenting again.

113:

If you really want to see what transhumanism is based on, read Kurzweil's book

Granny, egg-sucking, teaching thereof.

Bleh, I was on the extropy-l mailing list when it chewed over most of the ideas Kurzweil popularized -- five to ten years before he started writing and talking on the topic. I was writing about -- and publishing fiction about -- transhumanism before Kurzweil jumped the bandwagon and claimed it for his own.

I am not going to accuse him of plagiarism because I can't prove that he didn't independently invent transhumanism all by his lonesome -- but I am not impressed by his failure to mention prior sources. Combined with a talent for self-promotion, it displays a rather ugly picture to my eye.

114:

@Charlie re "... But that's exactly what makes me suspicious. Because beautiful visions tend to eclipse the hard reality behind them. (I'm in the business of generating beautiful visions. But I'd like to think I don't mistake them for reality)"

Carl (comment #78) has said exactly what I wanted to say in reply.

Man, you are an artist! You of all people should know that reality imitates art through us. What today's artist can dream and communicate, tomorrow's engineer can build and use. In other words, beauty is often a higher level of truth. We are not blind to hard reality, and this is why we want to change it.

115:

Giulio, in general there are two types of artist:

The first type sees a wild landscape, and paints what they see.

The second type see a painting of a wild landscape, and paint what they see in it.

Most artists are of type 2: they're imitating, adopting conventions established by their original forerunners, and remixing something that someone else saw. It's why we were inundated with second-rate cyberpunk in the late 1980s and early 1990s, why we were inundated with second-rate high fantasy trilogies in the 1970s, why there was so much second-rate nanite wibble-tech in SF in the mid-90s, and so on.

I'd like to think I can aspire to type one work, on occasion (even if much of my writing is derivative remixing of earlier stuff). But part of the quid pro quo for that is looking for something new. Including looking at the well-painted wilderness to see if I can see something that the first guy on scene missed, while my peers are content to churn out copies of his original work.

(You should have noticed by now that I always take a contrarian, negative approach to things I'm investigating as material for fiction. Right?)

116:

Charlie, I think there is also a third type of artists: those who see a wild landscape, and paint a much more beautiful version.

Their work can inspire landscape architects and engineers to turn the vision into reality. Then the result will be looked at and painted by artists of all types...

117:

@Charlie Re "I always take a contrarian, negative approach to things I'm investigating as material for fiction."

Does this mean what I think it means? WOW!

118:

Not exactly ...

Here's all we've said in public so far about The Rapture of the Nerds (due out July 2012).

119:

@Charlie I will buy The Rapture of the Nerds the day it comes out, I hope it will be available for Kindle (I don't buy paper books anymore if I can avoid it).
In the meantime I want to read Jury Service and Appeals Court, but I have only found Appeals Court (and an audio version of Jury Service). Is the text version of Jury Service anywhere?

120:

skeptical of the notion that scientists are rational more than about 10% of the time. Of course that's an order of magnitude better than the human average, but still ...

But the very nature of the scientific process is self-correcting. This is somewhat analogous to evolution which allows for lots of useless variation, but competition prunes the tree for the better solutions.

Scientists do have biases, and their institutions can reinforce those biases, but over the long term those biases can be corrected ... theoretically.

121:

Is the text version of Jury Service anywhere?

It was published online on scifi.com ... who removed their archives a couple of years ago. However, I believe the internet archive has a snapshot.

We'll be releasing the whole novel as a creative commons download on publication day. (But first we have to finish writing it ...)

122:

How about long distance trucking - replace the drivers, you can run 24/7. That's the economic driver.

If you don't want big rigs running autonomously in town, park up at the edge and use local squishies for the final 20 miles - the freeway stuff is still autonomous.

I live in SoCal, too, even Microsoft Driver 1.0 would be safer than 95% of the pissed up morons out on the roads at the moment. Oh, and this:

Sixty-nine percent of the drivers of night time
single vehicle fatal crashes had BAC levels of .10
percent or more. Only 21 percent had no alcohol
in their blood. Thirty percent of all fatal crashes
during the week were alcohol-related, compared
to 53 percent on weekends.

39,000 deaths in 2010 is a pretty big economic driver for automation, no? And 27,000 of them were sober...just crap at driving.

123:
In the US today, there's typically a large and boring chapter on competition. If you're lucky, there's 6-10 pages on symbiosis. Thing is, symbiosis is easy to demonstrate, as most (if not all) multicellular organisms have symbionts, and there's good evidence that eukaryotic cells originated as symbiotic structures.
Competition's actually quite difficult to demonstrate, especially outside the lab. Still, it always gets substantially more space than symbiosis.

I'd put it down to pedagogy instead; while real-life examples of evolution through competition might be harder to come by than real-life examples of symbiosis, demonstrating the idea seems to much more easily done by using competition. It's relatively easy in the U.S. to, for example, picture "best" model as being like the winner of World Series.

And in any event, symbioses still employees the ratchet-and-pawl mechanism of selection through competition, does it not? It's just that the rules of the game, what determines who is the best are a little more subtle . . .

124:
Loosely stated, it all comes down to a single question, something like: "Do you trust your own fallible eyes/ears/reason, or the revealed Word of God, or tradition, or consensus, or ... ?"

But that really wasn't the question now, was it? As someone who put it a little less politely than I did already said, what you're engaging in is apologetics.

The original question was what method gives better answers concerning the real world. So all you are doing is saying that real-world observations are "biased" against Christianity. Which isn't terribly useful. Nor was it what Anura was referring to.

125:
Bleh, I was on the extropy-l mailing list when it chewed over most of the ideas Kurzweil popularized -- five to ten years before he started writing and talking on the topic. I was writing about -- and publishing fiction about -- transhumanism before Kurzweil jumped the bandwagon and claimed it for his own.
I am not going to accuse him of plagiarism because I can't prove that he didn't independently invent transhumanism all by his lonesome -- but I am not impressed by his failure to mention prior sources. Combined with a talent for self-promotion, it displays a rather ugly picture to my eye.

If you want something like the modern form of Transhumanism or the Singularity, whatever you want to call it, I believe it already has a distinguished pedigree that can be traced back to Turing via I. J. Good:

He played chess to county standard and helped popularize Go, an Asian boardgame, through a 1965 article in New Scientist (he had learned the rules from Alan Turing).[7] In 1965 he originated the concept now known as "technological singularity," which anticipates the eventual advent of superhuman intelligence:
Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an 'intelligence explosion,' and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make. [8]
Good's authorship of treatises such as "Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine" and "Logic of Man and Machine" (both 1965) made him the obvious person for Stanley Kubrick to consult when filming 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), one of whose principal characters was the paranoid HAL 9000 supercomputer.[3]

I first heard of Good through a 1978 interview in that classic, Omni Magazine :-) So I'm guessing that this is something like railroad time for Singularity promoters.

126:
Scientists do have biases, and their institutions can reinforce those biases, but over the long term those biases can be corrected ... theoretically.

Exactly. Biases can be corrected, but we have no idea of the timescale required. And as I've pointed out, there's a long timelag (1 to 2 generations) from when the scientific institutions start accepting a change until it becomes a standard part of the popular understanding of science. The thing that concerns me about transhumanism, and about similar applications of scientific concepts to essentially spiritual ideas, is that during that lag a lot of damage can be done to both scientific and other institutions.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. In the last 30 years or so popular understanding of science in the developed world has started to catch up with the discoveries of quantum mechanics in the first half of the 20th century. This has resulted in a vast collection of popular books on the subject, as well as a (probably even vaster) collection of books that assert the mystical nature of quantum physics (or should I say they assert that quantum physics proves the existence of mysticism). Now most scientists reject the latter collection and the association of the quantum with mysticism, but that doesn't stop the ideas from being widely promulgated and widely believed, and doesn't stop them from interfering with the promulgation of other ideas which come out of real scientific research. Many non-scientists who accept the ideas of quantum mechanics do so, not because they understand that the infrastructure of a large part of 21st century technology depends on it, and provides a day-to-day empirical proof of its correctness, but because the mystical frosting put on top of the cake attracts them.

127:
Exactly. Biases can be corrected, but we have no idea of the timescale required. And as I've pointed out, there's a long timelag (1 to 2 generations) from when the scientific institutions start accepting a change until it becomes a standard part of the popular understanding of science. The thing that concerns me about transhumanism, and about similar applications of scientific concepts to essentially spiritual ideas, is that during that lag a lot of damage can be done to both scientific and other institutions.

Suppose this is true. I'm not saying that it is, in fact I rather enthusiastically disagree with it (ironically, it appears to be one of those tropes everyone knows that Just Ain't So that you're decrying), but assume so for the sake of argument.

What, pray tell, do you propose to replace it (the scientific method) with? Especially since your criticism doesn't seem to be particular to that particular system of truth-finding. Quite the contrary, in fact.

128:

I'm not proposing to replace the scientific method at all; I'm proposing to educate as much of society as possible in its use. The problem we have right now in much of western civilization is a lack of familiarity with the notion of empirical evidence and the techniques of critical thinking, even among people who consider themselves technically or scientifically oriented.

129:

...lack of familiarity with the notion of empirical evidence and the techniques of critical thinking, even among people who consider themselves technically or scientifically oriented.

I agree. I am particularly concerned that the rapid growth in scientific knowledge results in increasing compression in the teaching of each key idea. Science becomes a series of facts that are needed to pass a subject test, rather than a process. Lab experiments are demonstrations of technique and known results rather than learning how to think about experimentation. Obviously knowledge is needed, but there is something amiss when real research doesn't even begin until near the end of undergraduate study.


130:

bruce_etc @ 126
No, SOME "new" ideas/paradigms can take a very short time to revise and rework our whole understanding of an entire subjex=ct.
I remember the complete revolution in Geology 1960-70 as a result of (begiining of) the understanding of Plate Tectonics...

S o V & others ...
Empiricism, evidence, testability, reproducibility, self-correction, falifyability. And other interwoven bases for what we call Science.
Yes, it has its' flaws, but it is the very best we've got.
It also consistently produces results.
Which no other method, anywhere does AT ALL.

So, than answer to the previous question: "Loosely stated, it all comes down to a single question, something like: "Do you trust your own fallible eyes/ears/reason, or the revealed Word of God, or tradition, or consensus, or ... ?"
IS
"What works?
What has always worked, what worked last time?
How reliable is this method, and why should we trust it?
TO which the answer for "science" is good, and the "Revealed word of God" is - "How big a pile of dead, innocent bodies did you want?"

131:

Charlie @ 118
You mean you're NOT going to call it, ahem:
NERDVANA ??

132:

One section of Lee Smolin's "The Trouble with Physics" claims that with the over-supply of physics PhDs compared to the number of jobs for them, the more senior physicists are able to more thoroughly control the research chosen by new physicists and that this is slowing down the development of physics.
Whether or not what he is saying is true for physics right now, it is an interesting concept for another route by which social conditions can impede science.

133:

You're forgetting that Plate Tectonics started out with Wegener's theory of continental drift, originally published in 1912. I would count that 40 years from 1912 to the mid 1950's, when geologists started applying paleomagnetic data to models of continental drift as part of the paradigm shift.

134:
Obviously knowledge is needed, but there is something amiss when real research doesn't even begin until near the end of undergraduate study.

Or even later. I've heard of situations where graduate students were given a good deal of the substance of their theses by their advisors, because the work was motivated by the advisor's research program, and the advisor considered the student more a pair of assisting hands than a journeyman scientist learning to be a master. The proliferation of post-doc positions and defunding of professorships that have created a migrant labor class of PhDs hasn't helped.

Another problem, maybe even a bigger one, is the execrable state of science journalism. Aside from the apparent need to tag each story with a prediction of how it will change the face of science, science reporting has been dumbed down considerably in my lifetime. I had a subscription to Scientific American for more than 30 years, and cancelled it a few years ago when I realized that I wasn't getting any useful content from at least 75% of the stories.

135:

...science reporting has been dumbed down considerably in my lifetime. I had a subscription to Scientific American for more than 30 years, and cancelled it ...

I hear you and feel your pain. SciAm used to be a very good magazine, but it is now on a par with Popular Science and its ilk. The acquisition by the Nature Group doesn't seem to have changed anything. It's the same old story of appealing to the lowest common denominator for volume, rather than niche publishing.

Ben Goldacre has also been a consistent critic of science journalism. IIRC, one issue has been the consistent takeover of science reporting by non-scientists (but presumably better writers?) in the popular press.

136:

Popular Science is a book of adds now.
As for philosophy. Nietzsche is maybe the biggest name to drop among that crowd. Do they follow the sick Nietzsche that was re-edited, re-written and just plain made up by his sister Elisabeth and her proto Nazi husband. Who imported English race writing, Jew hate to Germany. Or what he really said. Last I read some time ago, nobody is really sure how much of which is which. Hitler was a big reader of the first when he was younger. Philosopy can do lots of harm. It's not just words as mind games.

137:
How about long distance trucking - replace the drivers, you can run 24/7. That's the economic driver.

Precisely. Also others who drive for work — sales reps and the like. They can do "office work" on the way between clients, file information, write reports, answer e-mail, make phone calls.

138:

Agreed, philosophy (along with religion) is a weapon of mass destruction, as the 20th century so amply demonstrated. Right now Singularitarianism (what an abomination of a name!) gets my vote for the philosophy with the potential to unleash the most destruction in this century.

"First, me must shoot all the philosophers."

139:
The original question was what method gives better answers concerning the real world.

Exactly — but how do you decide which is better? According to the empiricist-rationalists, the better method is the one that can be deduced based on observation to lead to better outcomes. According to the Christians, the better method is via Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I happen to believe that observation and reason do, in fact, lead to better outcomes. However, there is no way to distinguish between them in principle.

So all you are doing is saying that real-world observations are "biased" against Christianity.

Well, duh. If you're choosing among two different criteria of truth, accepting one automatically entails at least a partial rejection of the others.

140:
Acceptance of science is NOT axiomatic. We accept it because it works.

But how do you know that it works? By observation?

If you know that it works by observation, there's your axiom — "observation is the ultimate source of truth".

141:

I always took Singularity -of the technological flavour- to mean much like what it does to physicists. A point in exponential progress where our current framework of understanding fails to make predictions that make sense.

I think this 'rapture of the nerds' awakening of skynet thing is a misunderstanding and pigeon-holing by detractors of what proponents believe.

It seems that the event horizon is getting closer, its as difficult to imagine what computational technology will do to disrupt civilization 10 years from now as it was to look forward 20 years in 1991.

The singularity is the point at which we would struggle to see whats coming 1-2 years ahead or less. Which is a time frame that is highly disruptive to human affairs.

142:
SciAm used to be a very good magazine, but it is now on a par with Popular Science and its ilk. The acquisition by the Nature Group doesn't seem to have changed anything.
Speaking of Nature, Razib blogged that you can get a subscription for a year for thirty-six Standard Currency Units (US Dollar or Euro).

That seems pretty decent. Don't know for how long though.

143:

You should talk to the person to whom I replied.

144:

I'm sure that some of us aren't afraid of death. I've been very close three times and am pretty sure that when the docs want me to use dialysis, I won't.

145:

Well, I somewhat wasn't that comfortable with this, since this might come over as telling somebody his religion is the true nihilism, it smelled somewhat of flame bait[1].

Mentioning this possible interpretation is relation to your post though, I was fine with that.

[1] Not that there is anything wrong with this, especially seeing the speciality of the house is "flamé au gas du nerd", but than, may I remind everyone of T. H. Huxley's "Controversy is as abhorrent to me as gin to a reclaimed drunkard"?

146:

Bruce etc @ 133
Yes - BUT
A workable mechanism appeared - and FRESH data.
The Mid-Atlantic ridge and the reversed-magnetism bandings in the rock, and the realisation that you fitted the continental shelves together, not the coastlines, and the fossil-continuity and .....

d. brown @ 136
"Who imported English race writing, Jew hate to Germany."
I request you retract that.
Jews have had civil rights here since approx 1652, and full rights since the early-to-mid C19th. They were ceratainly able to vote (subject to other restictions, which applied to everyone) after 1832, and probably before that.
If you want the source for "german" jew-hating, I suggest you try Martin Luther
A vile man, but then he was a religious leader....

sabik.eta @ 139, 140
I think you are TROLLING!
Really?
"What works?"
Is a simple question, and simply demonstrated. And you seriously suggest that there are OTHER answers to this?
Religious believers, of course, will ALWAYS evde a practical utilitarian test - I've seen it enough times, and you are just weaselling!
NO, Not "by observation" - by observation AND practice, AND repetition AND utility AND re-testing.
That do, for starters?

147:

SciAm used to be good enough that back in the early-mid-1980s I had a lecturer refer me to an article in it for further reading on a topic in neurotransmitter research. Which in turn gave copious references to the primary literature.

It is sorely missed. I reckon Nature today is about as hardcore as SciAm was, 30 years ago.

(General theory of scientific/technical journals: if your head isn't hurting as you read -- and not due to bad writing -- then it's not stretching you. These days SciAm and New Scientist are just glossy versions of Hugo Gernsback's gosh-wow science ain't-it-marvellous pulps.)

148:

Humph. The subscription offer for Nature for 36 Universal Currency Units works out at 36 pounds sterling, in the UK, plus VAT, for a total of £43-odd.

It's still a third of the regular rate so I bit :)

149:

#122 - No:-

1) You've ignored the possibility of "sober accident" caused by drunk who was not involved to the extent of their vehicle being damaged and who has decamped before "first responder" arrives.
2) There already exist technologies which can inhibit the ignition/starter systems of a vehicle when/if a drunk tries to start it.

150:
Religious believers, of course, will ALWAYS evde a practical utilitarian test - I've seen it enough times, and you are just weaselling! NO, Not "by observation" - by observation AND practice, AND repetition AND utility AND re-testing.

As far as the (particular kind of anti-scientific) true believer is concerned, that isn't weaselling, though. The scientific method must be wrong, from their point of view, because it doesn't take account of the fact that $deity could decide to make snakes grow legs today. As far as they're concerned, the "practical utilitarian test" is completely incapable of testing what they regard as the most important aspect of the situation. For someone who genuinely believes that "goddidit" is a complete and valid answer (indeed, the only complete and valid answer) scientific repeatability and reproducibility are inferior to revelation-by-profitphet because science fails to take account of the fact that god might decide to do it differently tomorrow.

Their viewpoint may be unverifiable, but it is internally consistent. If goddidit, and it wasn't what the believer wanted/the prophet predicted, then that's just part of godsbigplan, which is too complex for humans to understand.

151:

NO, Not "by observation" - by observation AND practice, AND repetition AND utility AND re-testing.

Although this might not be true if we are running in a simulation, or worse, running a recording. Occam's Razor should be applied here, and I believe we should assume we are in reality unless proven otherwise. But if we are not, it could be a problem.

152:
The subscription offer for Nature for 36 Universal Currency Units works out at 36 pounds sterling, in the UK, plus VAT

I should have remembered to check that before posting, sorry. But hey, 36 is still a universal constant!

for a total of £43-odd.

(insert snarky comment about character entities)

153:

I read once that German Jews stayed in the early Hitler's Germany when they could have left because they believed Germany was still the safest place for them in Europe. France was seen as the likely hot spot. And later America simply would not let them it, never mind the Immigration Law. One person in our Sate Department killed a lot of Jews.
FORGTTEN FATHERLAND by Ben Macintyre, says Elisabeth Nietzsche's husband "Bernhard Forster" imported Jew hating English race writing to Germany. It sounds like the Christian Identity Moment that's still strong in America.

154:

"Hence my fundamental proposition to the (religious) belivers: "no "god" is detectable."

Why exactly do you believe that no God is detectable? What is missing from Creation to make you believe there is no Creator?

155:

Hey, it's Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche (note the hyphen, decried by self-described defenders of European civilizational values everywhere). ;)

To be honest, even though her selective edition of Nietzsche's writings and her role in Nazism are serious issues, it's somewhat superficial to blame her for the whole of the disaster that was Nietzsche's reception and interpretation before 1945. And then, I think it's more fitting to view the whole thing with a comedian angle; don't tell me failed teacher founding an utopian, anti-alcoholic and vegan colony (with the cranky bit about the antisemitism, but hell, I buy part of the anti-german critique on anti-imperialism) in South America with the usual organizational, financial etc. fuck-up has no potential. Fits the rumors Förster's suicide was preceded by a little drinking binge. In other news, Berhard's brother Paul was not just high on the antisemitism, but also against vivisection. And according to one dissertation, he was one of the leading members of an organization called "Deutscher Bund der Impfgegner", which translates as "German Union against vaccination"[1]. In other words, err, you get my idea. It's the Nicaragua solidarity group of the NSDAP all over:

http://www.titanic-magazin.de/uploads/pics/Fuehrer_Privat34.jpg

As for Bernhard Förster importing race hate, I guess you're refering to faily biology student Houston Stewart Chamberlain; but when he wrote his "Foundations of the Nineteenth Century", he was living in Vienna; also note the only connection of the two I'm aware of is that both were members of the circle around Richard Wagner, like Friedrich Nietzsche before he had his falling out with Wagner. As for Wagner, well, that guy was an antisemite, too, but when performing 'Parsifal', he choose a conductor called Hermann Levi. Err, as mentioned, the whole subject has quite some comedian angles[2].

But neither Wagner nor Förster nor Chamberlain started antisemitism, there is a whole current of this, starting with religious antisemitism like Luther[3] and later turning to racial antisemitism, with some people somewhat hard to pin down:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Stoecker

And even before that, there were antisemitic riots in Germany:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hep-Hep_riots

One of the first German nationalistic antisemites I'm aware of was Fichte, who is quoted at wikipedia with:

"In regard to Jews getting "civil rights," he wrote that this would only be possible if one managed "to cut off all their heads in one night, and to set new ones on their shoulders, which should contain not a single Jewish idea."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Gottlieb_Fichte

Don't ask me how he got along with Dorothea Schlegel, born Mendelsohn, err.

As for things like this impossible in Britain, err, not necessarily, look for opposition to those:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Naturalization_Act_1753

And for dark sides to people's publications, let's not forget this fellow:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire#Anti-semitism

And to come back to Nietzsche and antisemitism, Nietzsche is heavily, err, un-PC, that's one of the reasons to read him, kinda like Byron[4]. Nietzsche an antisemite? Hell, to the contrary; Nietzsche saying things that are somewhat controversial, well, see 'reasons to read him'. Problem is, AFAIK Nietzsche is big on what could be called intuition and like, so 2 pages after this you have some aphorisms that contradict the first one, since he got another intuition...

[1] Back in the days of usenet, there was always some Hamer fans on the medicine groups:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryke_Geerd_Hamer
Note they also use no morphine in cancer cases; now read about cancer pain; now headdesk.
[2] Can we fet Sir Pterry to write the script?
[3] Protestant Christians painting themselves as more tolerant than Catholicism is, err, funny. Let's just say Christians were all in for BBQs at the time.
[4] Can't you see we're dying...

156:

Read the rest of Greg's post. He has asked believers to design tests to objectively detect the existance of "God(s)", and none of them have ever done so.

157:
He has asked believers to design tests to objectively detect the existence of "God(s)", and none of them have ever done so.

Indeed. But from their point of view, such tests are not only unnecessary but inherently flawed: you can't do anything god doesn't want, god doesn't want to be detected, therefore you can't design a test to detect god. Their worldview is unscientific and irritating, but it is internally consistent. If you want them to accept that they're wrong, you have to prove it from within their system because that's their basis for "reasoning", but by definition you can't prove they're wrong from within their system. This is the whole point of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, after all: once you assert that tests don't work you can believe in pretty much anything (homeopathy, creationism, tobacco as a cure for lung cancer, whatever).

158:

"You can't do anything 'God" doesn't want, therefore you can't detect 'God'". Er, so "God" did want Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin to preside over regimes that committed mass murder?

Either "God" allows free will and you can design a test to detect "Him" or "He" is ultimately responsible for all mass murders because "he" could have prevented them and didn't.

159:

I'm afraid you miss the point. Asking if God exists is the wrong question. The real question should be: is the universe inherently meaningful, does existence exist for a reason. Does "life the universe and everything" exist for a purpose?

And this is where comparisons with orbiting teapots, invisible unicorns and flying pasta break down. None of these endow existence with inherent purpose and meaning.

An accidental universe arising from the Big Bang whould have no purpose, no reason for existing. A universe deliberately created by a Creator would posibly (unless it was all done as a whim or an afterthought) have a purpose.

Of course the question is unscientific, but hardly unimportant or meaningless. Both atheism and theism are philosphical beliefs, not testable scientific theories. A previous poster mentioned being "one bullet away" from atheism's nihilisitc conclusions. I find that somewhat melodramatic.

However, lacking a God, existence in an inherently meaningless universe does imply that an intellectually honest atheist would have to embrace nihilism, or at least would have no reason for not doing so.

160:

...so "God" did want Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin to preside over regimes that committed mass murder?

What part of "This is God's unknowable plan" didn't you understand? ;)
As Chrisj pointed out, the "logic" is internally consistent. It is designed to shut down thinking, maintaining the belief. Unfortunately doesn't get you anywhere if you want to understand nature, and any other similar belief system is equally plausible.

As Clarke said - Only one religion may be correct, but they can't all be.

161:

You would prefer an existence without free will as a mindless automaton?

162:

"Only one religion may be correct, but they can't all be."

I wonder ... In a quantum universe wher relaity can dpend on the observer, why can't they all be true.

IIRC "Stranger in a Strange Land" had an afterlife populated with every relgion's heaven and hell.

163:

I'm fairly sure that I didn't say that.

164:

Philip Jose Farmer's "Riverworld" series has everyone that ever lived in the same afterlife.

165:

Interesting that you raise free will. What makes you think it exists?

166:

I'm no expert on the subject, but I maintain hope:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17835-free-will-is-not-an-illusion-after-all.html

But your observation raises an interesting question.

An atheist will claim that while the universe itself is pointless and without meaning, we our individual selves can create meaning and thus avoid nihilsm.

But if free will does not exist and the Self but an illusion, how an we possibly create meaning?

167:

I read your post as a negative description of free will, it being the source of mass murder.

So I asked if you would prefer its opposite.

168:

Lets take this one bit at a time, shall we?

I'm afraid you miss the point. Asking if God exists is the wrong question.

That depends on what you want to know. And since I was discussing why different people regard that question in very different ways, the implication of your statement is that you have missed the point.

The real question should be: is the universe inherently meaningful, does existence exist for a reason. Does "life the universe and everything" exist for a purpose?

I disagree; that's an entirely unimportant question. The universe doesn't need a reason to exist, and it doesn't matter whether it has one or not. Halley's comet doesn't need a reason to exist, because it's an inanimate object, not an actor. I, as a human being, am[1] an actor - but that doesn't mean I need (or indeed want) a reason to exist imposed on me from outside. I'm quite capable of deciding on my own reasons, thanks very much.

[1] in fact, this is something of a contentious point; see discussions about whether consciousness really exists or is just a useful illusion elsewhere, because I'm not recapping several decades of serious scientific discussion here. But it's entirely possible that everything, including our "minds" is actually deterministic clockwork. Which makes no difference, because even if my apparent decision to take pleasure in the beauty of the red kites circling over the town is an illusion, the pleasure itself is not.

And this is where comparisons with orbiting teapots, invisible unicorns and flying pasta break down. None of these endow existence with inherent purpose and meaning.

An accidental universe arising from the Big Bang whould have no purpose, no reason for existing. A universe deliberately created by a Creator would posibly (unless it was all done as a whim or an afterthought) have a purpose.

Again with the teleological assumption. Why does existence need inherent purpose? What's wrong with the idea of sentient actors like humans deciding on their own purpose, rather than being bossed around by an insane sky fairy? (Also, I've noticed in past discussions that the "inherent purpose" tends to be gods-unknowable-plan at best; more often, it turns out that people think $deity created the universe because $deity wanted lots of little worshippers. This is behaviour I would regard as unacceptable in a four year old human, and I certainly wouldn't regard a being with that attitude as due any kind of worship.)

Of course the question is unscientific, but hardly unimportant or meaningless. Both atheism and theism are philosphical beliefs, not testable scientific theories.

On the contrary; many kinds of theism are entirely scientifically testable. It's just that those theists disregard scientific testing because the results are contrary to their belief system (which is, as I mentioned above, internally consistent). Wherever a religion make concrete predictions about this world, it is scientifically testable.

A previous poster mentioned being "one bullet away" from atheism's nihilisitc conclusions. I find that somewhat melodramatic.

I'm afraid I would go beyond "melodramatic" and argue that it was a sign of mental illness. (Please note that this is not an accusation I make lightly; I have spent a good deal of my adult life on suicide watch for depressive friends and housemates one way and another.) It's also, in my experience, an exclusively religious response. Atheists don't regard atheism as nihilistic because they're too busy getting on with finding their own meaning rather than worrying about whatgodwants.

However, lacking a God, existence in an inherently meaningless universe does imply that an intellectually honest atheist would have to embrace nihilism, or at least would have no reason for not doing so.

On the contrary; as an intellectually honest atheist, I like the freedom to choose what I want. Certainly, people who wish to embrace nihilism can do so, but I look around, and I see people I don't know, places I haven't been to, and questions science hasn't yet answered. There are so many interesting things to do that I really have no desire to invoke unnecessary external causes to do them. A flower doesn't need a reason to be beautiful; it just is. And then I can take macro photographs and see the just-as-beautiful complexity of the individual parts. And talk to a horticulturist and find out about the botanical details, and talk to a biologist about the amazing complexity in the way the contents of one cell can dictate what happens as that cell grows into a full sized tree again. I can give my own life meaning, without needing a deity to give lumps of rock meaning.

169:

But if free will does not exist and the Self but an illusion, how an we possibly create meaning?

Dead easy: we just recognize that whatever meaning we perceive is subjective, rather than an objective characteristic of the universe. I'm a shaved ape: I perceive the universe through shaved ape senses; ergo, I can't ascribe meaning to my observations that aren't intrinsically shaved-ape centric.

What's so complex about that?

170:

A flower doesn't need a reason to be beautiful; it just is.

Flowers aren't beautiful.

Beauty is a value judgement that shaved apes like us apply to flowers on the basis of various cognitive biases -- we like biological structures, we like orderly symmetry and bright colours, we like attractive scents aimed at pollinators, we like eating the fruiting bodies those sessile hermaphrodite genitalia produce when they finish mating. That's because we're descended from some millions of years of diurnal arboreal fructivores.

Compare to our typical reaction to, say, cat turds. We don't think they're beautiful: they're predator spoor and while we can smell them we tend to evince a strong aversion reaction to contact with them. Unlike flowers.

Let me repeat that: "beauty" has no absolute meaning or existence outside of our own heads. And the things we perceive as beautiful are usually things the recognition of which improved our ancestral species' survival fitness, or epiphenomena thereof.

171:

Also:

There's an important difference between the colloquial use of the term nihilism ("nothing is worth doing") and the technical meanings. Technically, an atheist is indeed generally nihilist, because strictly being a nihilist means that you don't believe in externally imposed/innate meaning (or morality, depending on the context). It says nothing about your own decisions on the creation and application of meaning or morality. Indeed, the point is that meaning and morality must be created by humans (or other actors), since they aren't imposed or inherent in the universe.

172:
But if free will does not exist and the Self but an illusion, how an we possibly create meaning?

We can't, but that doesn't matter, because we will perceive ourselves as creating meaning as an inherent part of sustaining the illusion.

Either there is free will, and we can create meaning, or there isn't free will, in which case we can't tell the difference.

173:

This is COMPLETELY OT, but I have to thank you for bringing back the memory of how I was taught that distinction; sitting on the top deck of the midnight bus home being lectured on the technical meaning of nihilism and the roots of Russian anarchism by a thoroughly tipsy fellow at least ten years older than me, who then invited me to his birthday party that weekend. Never met him before or since.

174:

Granted; I should have phrased that more clearly. I better construction would be:

"A flower doesn't need a reason to exist; it just does. And I don't need a reason to perceive the flower as beautiful; I just do."

Although as Charlie notes, there are good evolutionary reasons for humans to regard flowers as a good thing. Come to that, the flower exists because it's an effective way for plants to achieve sexual reproduction without all that strenuous moving about that animals do. But there's no need for a teleological reason for either thing.

175:

As a follow up, you may be interested in the following:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201010/free-will-is-not-illusion

"My criticisms focus on three main points: 1) timing of when a free-will event occurred requires introspection, and other research shows that introspective estimates of event timing are not accurate, 2) simple finger movements may be performed without much conscious thought and certainly not representative of the conscious decisions and choices required in high-speed conversation or situations where the subconscious mind cannot know ahead of time what to do, and 3) the brain activity measures have been primitive and incomplete."

176:

"I disagree; that's an entirely unimportant question. The universe doesn't need a reason to exist, and it doesn't matter whether it has one or not."
and
"Why does existence need inherent purpose?"

I'm sorry but these are nihilistic stances. You are proving my point for me.

"What's wrong with the idea of sentient actors like humans deciding on their own purpose, rather than being bossed around by an insane sky fairy?"

As I mentioned in another post, if free will is an illusion this is not possible, nor is any other decision.

"Certainly, people who wish to embrace nihilism can do so"

Agin, you miss my point. You have no meta-reason not to be nihilistic.

177:

"I can't ascribe meaning to my observations that aren't intrinsically shaved-ape centric"

Without free will you are incapable of ascribing anything. Nihilism becomes inescapable.

178:

but hell, I buy part of the anti-german critique on anti-imperialism

For those not in the know about the fun that is the German, err, radical left (you lucky bastards!), there is an article about them on wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Germans_(communist_current)

In summary, some of the most intelligent idiots I know. And some of the guys I wouldn't piss on in case of fire.

179:

"We can't, but that doesn't matter, because we will perceive ourselves as creating meaning as an inherent part of sustaining the illusion."

How exactly is believing as if we had free will different than believing as if God and the Soul exist?

180:

Without free will you are incapable of ascribing anything. Nihilism becomes inescapable.

Utter nonsense. All you need to do is to proceed as if you have free will. Because it doesn't really matter whether you do or you don't: you're still a shaved ape, behaving in a shaved ape manner.

181:

First of, as already hinted at, I don't see religions as necessarily any less nihilistic, possibly even more; just think about the Cathars as an extreme example. I also think a short reading of the Bhagavad Gita might be of interest, quoting the stuff with the 'those guys are already dead' tends to get people REALLY uneasy.

Second of, anybody saying Claudia Black has to fall for him because life would have no meaning otherwise would be in for some strange looks, a medical examination in the worst case and some strong drinks, a few Afghan Whig songs and a talk and a hug in the best. But we wouldn't take this as a serious argument for Claudia Black really falling for him.

Now the idea of a creator would be more akin to the belief that aeryn Sun would fall for you, unfalsifyable except you open a wormhole, and then you're Crichton and it happens by definition. Let's leave aside the fact, I don't think that is necesarilly more, err, healthy, and here speaks someone experienced with unrequited (and requited[1]) crushes; with the actual person you can always try some confrontation with reality, not that it matters for an erotomaniac, but then, that's what antipsychotics are for; with the object a few thousand light years away, maybe there is a safety pin to the stalker factor, but even then, we get this when the person thinks Claudia Black is really Aeryn Sun in disguise.

It's just I just don't get why this kind of reasoning should be any more valid in matters of metaphysics than it is in matters of your sex life; now, arguing why Aeryn Sun or Claudia Black should fall for you, or what falling for somebody means, or if falling for somebody in the sense of romantic love is really possible(I think not[2]) can all be quite illuminating; it's just that arguing from sentiment is just another name for mental masturbation, and not even that[4].

[1] It's err, complicated. And not just the girl.
[2] To elborate, I think Egan's 'voluntary autist' argumentation in 'Distress' quite convincing; and I know somepeople who think similar[3].
[3] See [1]
[4] Gives masturbation a bad name.

182:
He has asked believers to design tests to objectively detect the existence of "God(s)", and none of them have ever done so.
Indeed. But from their point of view, such tests are not only unnecessary but inherently flawed: you can't do anything god doesn't want, god doesn't want to be detected, therefore you can't design a test to detect god. Their worldview is unscientific and irritating, but it is internally consistent

And that's perfectly okay. But while it's not science, nor scientific by any stretch of the imagination, these people often want their belief system to be treated as if it were. They want Last Tuesdayism to be put on the same footing as evolution, for example, and insist that it be taught that way in school.

That is not okay. To put it mildly.

183:

When dogsitting, I was often of the impression the dog in question thought his, err, digestion products as something of an abstract art form or grafitti tag. Which should have been quite painful for him, given thge fact I was nearby with a plastic bag; guess he thought me something of an overzealous art critic.

Now, sorry for the interruption.

184:
"What's wrong with the idea of sentient actors like humans deciding on their own purpose, rather than being bossed around by an insane sky fairy?"
As I mentioned in another post, if free will is an illusion this is not possible, nor is any other decision.

You're ducking the question by assuming your conditionals. Please don't do that. It looks trollish. And more than a little childish if what you're doing is just insisting that if one person gets to assume the nonexistence of god then the other person gets to assume the nonexistence of free will in the same conversation.

So to repeat: "What's wrong with the idea of sentient actors like humans deciding on their own purpose, rather than being bossed around by an insane sky fairy?"

185:

"All you need to do is to proceed as if you have free will."

How is this different than proceeding as if God exists?

186:

"You're ducking the question by assuming your conditionals."

I assume nothing. Those without free will by definition have no volition. Without volition, decisions are not possible.

So how does a puppet create meaning?

187:
I assume nothing. Those without free will by definition have no volition. Without volition, decisions are not possible.

Sigh. You're trolling. You know full well that I'm talking about you dragging in the assumption that there is no free will.

But since you're just being argumentative and contrary for the sake of attention, well, here's where I bow out.

188:

I took the time to read this stuff.

It's bad science. Absolutely worthless.

The sensation of free will, that we perceive during introspection is a simulation of what's really going on. To call it an illusion is fully justified.

On the other hand, the deterministic view of "it's already decided" is total bullshit as well.

The most important insight of Libet's experiments and the huge follow-up to check and re-check this stuff is that decision-making is localized.

The ultimate decision whether or not you move your finger is computed in the SMA for example. There's afferent input from other parts of the brain (directly and indirectly), including the prefrontal lobe in this specific case.

But this is not digital .

Simplified, a strong signal coming through from the prefrontal lobe in the absence of a strong signal from the limbic system, let's the prefrontal lobe exert "control". A very strong limbic signal (e.g a panic attack) will simply override afferent input from other parts of the brain.

But in many cases, the actual outcome is a close call and determined by individual or micro-factors. Among them the strength of synaptic connection, in itself partially influenced by regular exercise of "self-control".

Among them also the available amount of neurotransmitters in the synaptic cleft. In itself partially dependent on previous transmitted signals, for example the recent exercise of self-control.

To make it more complex, we possess a self-model that may have an opinion about our likely decisions ("I'm such a loser...") and may be connected to memories of similar decisions, that themselves elicit strong emotions (i.e. conflicting limbic afferent input).

And we have moods: a specific amount of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and whatnot in the bloodflow right now.

And worst of all, we may hold a strong belief in free will, again eliciting strong emotions, that somehow gets activated by an ongoing decision-makong process.

This is a clusterfuck of complexity and the idiot's question of "Are We zombies or free-will agents?" really makes me angry.

Sorry, for my rant...

189:

Actualy if you go back and read the thread, this more in depth discussion of free will began with Mr. Stross' comment #165. The assumption was made by him, not me. I merely examined its implications.

190:

But if free will exists, this means my decisions are somewhat indeterministic, which means I can't expect them to adhere to my past experiences with my decisions, which means there is no guarantee that I'm not to decide it'd be a bloody good idea to fetch some of the long knives in the kitchen and go on a rampage; which means I shouldn't make any decisions, because every decision might be the dark side taking over. Argh...

Sorry to say, but this argumentation is much more stringent that 'if there is no free will, there is no decision, so I can do no action', which fails since decisions don't require free will(it might be even clockwork).

On another note, concerning nihilism, one could argue the funny thing is that your post are if not the only, then at least the most nihilistic ones in this thread; you're stressing the point that if not for god or free will, the everyday mundane life as we know it would have no meaning; which is, according to definition, nihilistic. QED. ;)

191:

Beauty is a value judgement that shaved apes like us apply to flowers on the basis of various cognitive biases -- we like biological structures, we like orderly symmetry and bright colours, we like attractive scents aimed at pollinators, we like eating the fruiting bodies those sessile hermaphrodite genitalia produce when they finish mating. That's because we're descended from some millions of years of diurnal arboreal fructivores.

There is a certain level of Kiplingesque "just so story" in this. For example, there is no obvious reason why we should be attracted to certain scents. The fruit our ancestors ate appear after the flowers have gone. Furthermore, we are attracted to scents of flowers wh9ose fruits we do not eat, and never have.
The argument that we like bright colors because that is color of fruit in a forest is, IMO, a result of evolutionary psychologists making such claims ignorant of the facts. Most edible fruits are not brightly colored. The brightly colored ones in the western grocery stores were evolved/bred by humans.
Similar thinking results in the "gardens look most like the savannas we evolved on as plains apes". Why stop there, why not forests that we lived in before? Or holes in the ground? Arguably most people are afraid of holes in the ground, caves and forests.

That we like many flower scents is a fact. Why we like them needs to be more carefully researched.

192:

Let me repeat that: "beauty" has no absolute meaning or existence outside of our own heads. And the things we perceive as beautiful are usually things the recognition of which improved our ancestral species' survival fitness, or epiphenomena thereof.

Which is how I'm coming to think of God nowadays. He probably does not have any objective existence, but neither do beauty, freedom, love, marriage, money, the United States and Great Britain. All of those things are important.

Everything I know about nihilism I learned from The Big Lebowski.

193:

Everything I know about nihilism I learned from The Big Lebowski.

Best laugh of the day. Thank you.

194:

Everything I know about nihilism I learned from The Big Lebowski.

I was kinda surprised nobody brought this up before.

His girlfriend gafe up her toe! She sought we'd be getting million dollars! Iss not fair!

195:

Meaning:

The meaning of life is life.
The red queen's race against entropy.
Grow or die.

196:

They're just nihilists Donnie, nothing to be afraid of.

197:

Hilarious. I just watched that movie again last night. I had forgotten all about the Busby Berkeley bowling dance number.

198:

There's a lot more to the question of free will and intention than just 2 possibilities: unfettered conscious choice and blind determinism. For instance, assume that we're completely determined by quantum physical processes, but not by classical ones. Quantum processes are probabilistic, so it's not as if we'd be run by clockwork, but the choices would be made by elementary particles, not by our minds.

Now suppose instead that our actions are controlled by classical chaotic processes. "That's clockwork," you say, but it isn't because you cannot in principle simulate or model the precise workings of those choices, so you can actually never prove whether or not there's a complete predetermined causal chain of events, or know what it was if did exist.

What we do know is that the human mind is not a single entity, but a collection of a lot of subminds whose influence on brain state and motor operation waxes and wanes with changes in internal chemistry, external events, and even the phase of the moon (well, not the real moon, but a biological timer in the body that keeps a similar rhythm). So even if free will exists, it can't be where we think it is, in that little homunculus just back of our eyes. In fact, if it exists, it probably doesn't exist in just one place, because, really, neither do we.

I think that free, like a lot of philosophical concepts, will turn out, once we know a lot more about how the mind and the body really work, to be incoherent, maybe a category error or simply a misunderstanding, maybe a case of asking the wrong questions about things we were sure were there, but turn out not to be.

199:

Bees love flowers.
Nietzsche said he was not Antisemitic. but Elizabeth Förster took control of everything from a sick dying Nietzsche and redid everything they had time for. As Hilter had put her in charge of the state backed Nietzsche Library that was a lot. Wagner and that crowd said they were not part of her con. So did Nietzsche. She just kept saying they were and that's what people wanted to think.
In the Bismark's Germany, Bernhard Förster was jailed for making a disturbance by yelling at a Jew for not giving up his seat on a bus. That's not a very antisemitic seeming country, I think. And the German Jews did not think so. They believed they were better off there than in the rest of Europe, or America.
In researching the Christian identity Movement, (back in the day) the start I found was a under used English Pastor who read the Jews were great archers. so were the English. So the Northern people must be the true Jews who were driven out of the Holy Land over the Caucasian mountains to England. By those sinking Jews of today. So far as I have found that was the start of big time English race writing. Which is not to say most did not like Jews there already. Or here for that matter.
As for the long history of antisemitic riots, in most places the only way Jews had of making money from outside the ghetto was money lending. So when the rich and powerful owed too much, maybe it was easer to kill the people they owed the gold to than pay it back.
As for free will. I think we are all more meat machines than anything.

200:

To the extent that that is a knock-down argument against free will, it's only so because it is attacking a straw man version - anyone seriously trying to defend free will should recognise pretty quickly that free will conflicts with indeterminism more badly than with determinism.

The real point if I claim free will is not that I'm claiming that my actions are not determined (that's only the equivalent of handing God or the master neuroscientist some dice) - it's that my actions are determined by me and (at least to some degree) only by me. If you want to predict my actions, you may get some distance by staring at computer screens or examining other people. But if you want to predict my actions accurately, you need to concentrate on my words, my actions, my brain-states - and, even so, it will probably often take far less effort just to wait and see what I do. Quite likely totally deterministic, just not particularly predictable unless you use more resources observing me than I do by just being myself.

I accept that what I am defending here as free will may well be regarded as a cheap and inauthentic simulation by andylet - though I have difficulty in understanding how any argument for free will is actually helped by letting an omnipotent and omniscient God into the picture.

201:
it's that my actions are determined by me and (at least to some degree) only by me.

I claim that the question of what determines your actions is essentially meaningless until we have a coherent understanding of what "you" are. That's not semantic quibbling, it's a statement based on the fact that we have no idea as yet what it means for a human being to initiate an action as a result of surrounding events, other than there's a wave of electrochemical activity running from the sensory nerves, the visual system, and other input areas, through various parts of the brain to the cortex, and then out again to the motor nerves to cause some action. So where in all that was a decision made? And where in all that are "you"?

Sure we can point to brain scans and say, "There's a lot of activity right there when we're deciding what button to press in response to a red picture," but that tells us nothing about the process of the decision itself, only that we can identify parts of the brain that support it. To some extent, we're still at the stage of understanding the human mind that physiologists were when they'd proved that blood was circulated around the body by the circulatory system, pumped by the heart. They still didn't understand how complex a system blood is, or that one of its primary functions is as a transport for immune system cells, or even that there are a number of finely controlled feedback mechanisms that maintain many aspects of blood chemistry.

202:

andyet @ 154
YOU ASSUME WITH NO EVIDENCE that the Universe is a "creation" - oops.

ALL (I think) religious believers assume "god" is still around.
OK, so why is it not detectable?
Why, when "god speaks to me" is no message detected?
Why is there no evidence AT ALL, ANYWHERE?

If you aren't careful I'm going to break Charlie's rules and start personally insulting you, unless uyou are actually capable of switching your putative brain to ON.

paws$thot @ 156
My testable proposition is:
"No god is detectable (even if the "god" actually exists)" ...
I got the idea from uncle Albert re. the "luminiferous Aether"
& @ 157, 158
Actually, I've covered that as well.

Ahem:

"Not detectable directly or indirectly. No events or causations exist that are not explicable in the normal course of natural causes and random occurrences. This includes, most importantly, the information-flow that must pass to and from any "god", so that he, she, it, or they can themselves observe, or intervene in "their" universe. If there is any god around, then that information-flow will also be detectable. Where is it?
Please note, even if only for the point of argument : - NOT "God does not exist". That is the viewpoint of the committed atheist, who believes an unprovable(?) negative, with as much evidence, or lack of it, as any deist believes in any sort of god.
This applies equally to any god at all: Marxist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc….
Religions fulfil certain criteria. One of the most obvious is that of unalterable belief in the holy words of the prophet(s), whose word may not be questioned, and whose sayings must be learnt. People who do question these teachings will be persecuted, and possibly killed.
Monotheistic religions, in particular, are mutually exclusive. A maximum of one of them can be "true". Their central beliefs and tenets make this so. The attempt by ecumenicals to blend or blur the distinctions between major faiths and sects, or to say, as they do: "We worship the same god under different aspects", will not wash. This is because the central core beliefs of each religion in the divinity or the divine revelation of their own leader(s), and the secondary nature of "other" prophets make them incompatible. For example: "There is no changing the Quran. The Quran is a perfect guide for humanity. Human law nor science is above Allah". What the relatively enlightened, but deluded people of “faith” are looking at are the common ethical rules that should govern any civilised society. It is not a good idea to kill, lie, steal, or otherwise make one's self obnoxious. But, one does not need any god, or religion, to have these rules.

Believers appear to derive comfort from the statement that science cannot prove the nonexistence of god. They describe any attempt at such proof as an arrogant mistake. We are supposed to infer that an equal weight is assigned to the alternatives of existence and nonexistence, and that a believer is no less reasonable than a non-believer. It is amusing to extend this line of argument as follows by examples. Can a scientist, in his laboratory, perform an experiment demonstrating that there is no such creature as the mystical invisible pink unicorn? No. Can he deduce that conclusion from quantum mechanics, relativity, or the theory of evolution? No. Thus, is a belief in the mystical invisible pink unicorn intellectually respectable? No. Advocates of the science-cannot-disprove gambit are opening the door to an unnumbered host of unwelcome guests. The mystical invisible pink unicorn is only one example; don't forget the tooth fairy, or the Ming-period vase orbiting the Sun in an oppositional orbit, or … "

andyet @ 161
I believe on reading down the page, that Charlie has trashed this particular lunacy of yours, sufficiently well - so I've deleted my comment!
& @ 185
ENTIRELY DIFFERENT
They are separate, unconnected propositions.
But, you have, quite arbitrarily, chosen to conflate them.
I SAW YOU PALM THAT CARD!

203:

Well, I agree it was something of a straw man attack, but then, I tried to show that the argumentation in the post before that was a straw man attack, too, namely that whole determinism nihilism thing.

Problem is, IMHO free will is one of these areas where people are quick with an opinion but don't necessarily think it through; e.g. when judging misdemeanors, many would invoke free choice without question. But IMHO the logical conclusion is that you should give all your money to a known conman without hesitation, or at leat without more hesitation than when you give it to a friend, since both the conman and your friend are only subject to free choice, and there is no reason to think any one more likely to steal it. On the other hand, most people wouldn't let their children go to a known paedophile, but they don't see how this might get you into problems when judging behaviour.

Err, in case that comes over as another straw man attack, it isn't meant that way, AFAIK I'm just trying to show we're in false dichotomy country here here - give me the flyswatter[1]!

OTOH, one could always invoke Kant and say we only see things in terms of determinism and indeterminism because that's the way our reasoning works, and reality is behind some shroud...

[1] Is "Oh, you quoting 'Fear and Loathing' and 'Life of Brian' all the time!" another valid example of determinism?

204:

I make no assumptions. I define the alternatives between a universe that is a meaningless accident and one that is a purposeful creation.

See my comment #159:

An accidental universe arising from the Big Bang whould have no purpose, no reason for existing. A universe deliberately created by a Creator would posibly (unless it was all done as a whim or an afterthought) have a purpose.

205:

Actually Mr. Stross has not responded to my comments (166 and 175) in regards to respected journals (New Scientist, Psychology Today) questioning the validity of claims that we lack free will.

My comment 185 was merely to expose the double standard that allows atheists to disbelieve in God (something that cannot be proven either way)while believing as if we had free will (something that could potentially be tested in the lab and falsified).

In fact, he claims to know factually that we have no free will. So he knows that acting as if we have free will is a blatant lie. That would make him worse than the most devout theist who at least cannot ever be sure if God does not exist. Sorry, but I could not let that hypocrisy pass by without comment.

206:

Actually Mr. Stross has not responded to my comments (166 and 175)

That's because I have this odd habit of going to bed and sleeping, during which time my fingers disengage from the keyboard.

Also, I've got a metric shitload of work on -- in preparation for a month away from home -- so I don't have time to respond to a religious troll who keeps moving the gateposts.

Hint: not interested in having this discussion. Really not interested in having it right now whenever you feel like cracking the whip.

PS: Accusations of hypocrisy won't get you a defense reaction, they'll just get you banned and your comments deleted. Consider this your yellow card.

207:

Err, I don't know if there are any good translations of Nietzsche into English around, also note that when reading one of his books, keep in mind the guy is known to have changed his opinion, see his stance concerning Richard Wagner, first major fanboy, later seing hime as the poster child of decadence, so you have to do some higher criticism. But it might help to read some books by Nietzsche.

In short, imagine him somewhat like Witchfinder Seargent Shadwell in Pratchett/Gaiman's 'Good Omens':

"Shadwell hated all southerners and, by inference, was standing at the North Pole."

That being said, there are texts by Nietzsche like that(I just used the search funtion at http://www.nietzschesource.org to find texts relating to 'jüdisch', or 'jewish', the translations are mine):

"Sünde, so wie sie jetzt überall empfunden wird, wo das Christenthum herrscht oder einmal geherrscht hat: Sünde ist ein jüdisches Gefühl und eine jüdische Erfindung, und in Hinsicht auf diesen Hintergrund aller christlichen Moralität war in der That das Christenthum darauf aus, die ganze Welt zu „verjüdeln“"

"Sin, as it's felt nowadays everywhere Christianity rules or has ruled once; sin is a Jewish sentiment and an Jewish invention, and looking at this background of every Christian morality Christianity was out to judasize the world."

But than, you get things like this:
"Beiläufig: das ganze Problem der Juden ist nur innerhalb der nationalen Staaten vorhanden, insofern hier überall ihre Thatkräftigkeit und höhere Intelligenz, ihr in langer Leidensschule von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht angehäuftes Geist- und Willens-Capital, in einem neid- und hasserweckenden Maasse zum Uebergewicht kommen muss, so dass die litterarische Unart fast in allen jetzigen Nationen überhand nimmt — und zwar je mehr diese sich wieder national gebärden —, die Juden als Sündenböcke aller möglichen öffentlichen und inneren Uebelstände zur Schlachtbank zu führen."

"By the way: the whole problem of the jews is only present inside of the national states, since everywhere their industriousness and higher intelligence, their capital of spirit and knowledge acquired in long sufferings from generation to generation has to come to an overbearance in a measure that is leading to envy and hate, so that in nearly all of the present day nations the literary bad habit takes over, the more so they gesture like national again, to lead the jews to slaughter as scapegoats for all possible exterior and interior grievances."

Which might show it's, err, difficult; in General, Nietzsche is known to be quite anti-christian, but than he is aknowledging he is anchored in Christianity both by personal (he stems from a long line of Protestant priests) and traditional (the whole of Western European philosophy is tied to Christianity, guess where free will is coming from) ties. In the same way, he is apt both to criticize the Jews (Christianity is a kind of bastardized Jewish religion, after all) and to defend it (as the buttmonkey of the Christians making Jewish religion even worse).

He buys part of the stereotypes about jews, like them being good at finance etc., and Nietzsche also has his anti-democratic and anti-capitalistic moments, but than, he thinks these are traits that are somewhat admirable, so it should be nice to incorporate them into his Übermensch ('über' translates to kinda 'above' in English, so 'Übermensch' is literally translatable both to "suprahuman", 'auperhuman', but also to 'transhuman'[1]).

It might be interesting to read the section about the jews from "Human, All too human" above:

http://nietzsche.holtof.com/Nietzsche_human_all_too_human/sect8_a_look_at_the_state.htm

In this context, it's quite understandable he hates antisemites; talk to some Asatrus about certain Neo-Folk bands like 'Death in June'[2].

Problem is, you could interpret this in ways akin to criticizing the Nazis for not being superhuman enough, or countering critics linking extreme 'bioethicists' to T4 by noting they kept teratological case Goebbels around.

As for Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche and the Nietzsche Archive, there is good chance that without her, there'd be no Archive; OTOH, she was perpetuating an image of Nietzsche that fitted her interest; note she is likely to have committed some forgeries about the death of their father, calling it an accidental injury, when in reality there is the possibility he was also a victim to frontotemporal dementia, the second big contender for Nietzsche's, err, condition besides neurosyphillis. Later on, she was courting to Hitler, which was likely a win-win situation, money from Hitler to the Archive, an air of respectability to the Bohemian private from the Archive.

For the incident with Berhard Förster in the tram, as alread said, it was more difficult than that, see

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kantorowicz-Affäre

which links to a pamphlet article from this time:

http://digital.slub-dresden.de/fileadmin/data/314309233/314309233_tif/jpegs/314309233.pdf

Geez, I'm happy I can read fracture[3]...

So, Förster and friends approach Jewish passengers[4], making antisemitic remarks[5]. One of them, a Kantorowicz, takes issue, and we go to a brawl[6]; Förster and friends go for 'help, help, I'm being oppressed' and sue Kantorowicz for assault. Kantorowicz, OTOH, asks Förster for a duell, which Förster denies, arguing Kantorowicz was not able to offer satifaction, since he had made a physical insult and thus had no honour. I'm not that firm in the niceties of German student corporations[7], suffice it to say contrary to popular opinion it's not just drinking good beer and doing the occasional fencing when you're in a 'schlagende' ('striking'), but also history and juridical matters, and the 'Simplicius' reproduced an article where it was noted that was somewhat like calling chicken, since

a) duelling was for sorting out honour issues[8], as verbal and physical insults; saying somebody can't offer satisfaction because he made a physical insult was something like a contradiction in terms.

b) Kantorowicz was a war veteran, so he was of similar standing; technically, he was able to offer satisfaction.

As mentioned, I'm not that firm in the specialities of corporatism, and they themselves are somewhat diverse[9], so the specifices are up to debate.

Surrounding the trial, there are some newspaper articles and letter that defend Förster, see the Simplicius for some examples. Result of the trial, Kantorowicz is sentenced to one moth in jail, the court say Förster et al. provoked him; Kantorowicz makes an appeal, judgement gets commuted to 100 Mark, don't know how much money that was. Förster loses his job at school and loses his officer standing (geez, that happens when you are chicken).

What do we get from ths? First of, contrary to what David Goldhagen might say, given the time and place Imperial Germany was not especially antisemitic; if one looks for eliminatoric antisemitism in the 19th century, one has to look to Eastern Europe, especially Imperial Russia and it's progroms. Also note Prussia had a history of admitting religious minorities like the hugenots and like, provided they were loyal to the state.

Second of, no, that neither means all Jews were really that intergrated[10], as some people say today, usually before lashing out on the integration of muslims, lack of, nor does it mean there was absolutely no antisemitism or that any antisemitism was socially isolated; Stöcker, one of the leading antisemites, was at times quite influential to the later Wilhelm II. AFAIK Bismark was not that antisemitic either, neither was he that much into colonies, but his power base in parliament was a shifting coalition of liberal and conservative parties, and so Stöcker's party became part of his power base. Another problem is Germany was and is famous for it's regionalism, even today the Bavarian and Frisian dialects would count as foreign languages for many Germans, and woe to the Saxonians[11]. The political situation in Prussia was different from Bavaria, and even in Prussia you have differences between agrarian 'junkers' in the East and modern industry in other parts; to make matters worse, many Jews were poor immigrants from the East, not the wealthy established families most people talk about nowadays, so this got mixed up with social problems. Also note that not being an antisemite doesn't mean one doesn't buy the common stereotypes of the day, see Nietzsche, above; being industrious or greed is often just a matter of degree. But Germany was not alone there, in the Simplicius article, Jews are accused of being connected to France; in France, they were thought of as German spies, see Dreyfus.

And then, even if somebody was a rightist antisemite, people often behave in an ideosyncratic way; just think about H. P. Lovecraft and Sonia Greene.

As for British Israelism, well, funny Biblical genealogies are quite common in European history; and as already said, it's much more difficult tan that, some British Israelists were quite sympathetic to Jews, but as mentioned, Christian Identity is a different matter:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Israelism#Politics

[1] "Dead are all gods, so we want transhumans to live."[1a]
[1a] OTOH, Nietzsche would likely loathe transhumanists for being decadent wags.
[2] Yeah, I know it's more difficult with Pearce, too.
[3] Please note the Simplicius article is quite sympathetic to Förster.
[4] To quote the Simplicius, they enter a tram and don't notice 'part of the publicum belongs to a groups where you can guess if not religion, then at least ancestry by the nose'.
[5] No, I have no idea if Mr. Baron-Cohen (the comedian, not the neuroscientist) has read about that.
[6] To quote the article, Förter says "Oh, you're just a jew." and gets one on the head by Kantorowicz. Note again the article is sympathetic to Förster; not nice but then, I guess this guy wanted to do the "danger seeker"[6a].
[6a] "Niggers!"
[7] Well, more than some of the members, but I'll spare you my hubris.
[8] Yeah, there are indications Heinlein liked that.
[9] For example, there are religious divisions concerning catholics; also note while many student corporations stress connection to German culture and language, they don't mention ancestry, though some think otherwise; but then, corporations are worse with splitting than trotzkists...
http://www.thelocal.de/society/20110624-35849.html
[10] But then, one could argue if social democrats, catholics and like were that integrated as well.
[11] Concerning the GDR, you can't take a dictaturship that talks like THAT serious.

208:

[ DELETED BY MODERATOR -- straw man attack on third party target ]

209:

Going back to the free will/no free will thing - yet another point in the scientific method's favor (in the later formulations at least) is that it doesn't matter whether free will or consciousness or intentionality or what have you "really" exists or not. All that matters is the explanatory - or rather, predictive - power of the theory. It doesn't matter whether or not gravity is "really" the product of curved spacetime; what matters is that it can be modeled very accurately as if spacetime is curved. It doesn't matter if atoms are "really" made of clouds of electrons surrounding a dense core of neutrons and protons; what matters is that it's behaviour can be modeled as if that's the case.

Similarly with "free will". Maybe there really is no such thing as that beast (I tend to think that this is the case.) But in my day to day life, I treat my cats as if those selfish, self-centered little beasts have free will, and you know, it's amazing how close to reality a casual inspection reveals that model to be ;-)

Same thing all up and down the scale. I guess that this more or less modern view could be said to have started no later than with Newton and his theory of gravity. AFAIK, he's the first guy to not resort to teleological explanations of objects having their natural place in the heavens which they seek to return to, or anything else of that kind. What he did instead was to give an accurate model of how gravity behaved. Whether gravity was "really" the result of the exchange of spin-2 bosons, or the incessant back and forth tugging of multitudes of angels and demons, or whether the gravitating body was merely attempting to return to it's natural place, it was all one and the same to him. What mattered was that gravity was a force directly proportional to the product of the masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. That's it.

210:

If moving fingers isn't digital, I don't know what is :)

211:

I should add that almost everything I think I know is pre-pc and inter-net. So I may have many areas of ignorance. But anybody can say anything and it's on Google. When only libraries had the inter-net for me, i looked up some words of great men the R/W was passing around. At the time the phony versions were the only ones to be found on the inter-net. If its on paper you can check it. If it says it's on paper??

212:

Since we're now on the topic of Nietzsche and proto-Nazism (why do most conversations eventually converge to Nazism? What is it about this phenomenon that so fascinates us?), I want to randomly assert that a new Nazism that is non-racialist and non-anti-Semitic (as absurd as that sounds) is quite possible. Allow to explain.

Nazism was many things, but fundamentally it was a radical break with Judeo-Christian thinking, the likes of which has never been seen in Christian era. Nazism truly was an outbreak of something "Other". Yet for all its horrors, Nazism was in some respects the most futuristic experiment in human civilization yet attempted. The Nazis were far ahead of their time in many ways, and gave us one glimpse of what a Nietzschean, post-Christian, quasi-Satanic civilization might look like.

I see a strong possibility of a similar ideology becoming very powerful in the 21st century, but rather than subscribing to Aryan racial mysticism, it would embrace scientific Eugenics, strive to create techno-supermen, pursue a New World Order, and perhaps incorporate depopulationist ideas from the extreme Malthusians. And rather than a thousand year Reich, these new Nazis would be inspired by a Millennial vision of a “Singularity” leading to a radically transformed world. Essentially these 21st century Nazis would be people who take their atheism seriously, rather than being godless quasi-Christians like most atheists today.

Anyway, this is a vision I have which has great potential for science fiction stories, at the very least. While Mr. Stross gives us his rather 1990’s visions of a future of gay Muslim cyberpunks, the world is, I believe, moving in entirely different, and much darker directions.

213:

ALL (I think) religious believers assume "god" is still around.

Not Buddhists. And the Dalai Lama is here this week.

214:

The link seems very tenuous. A desire to avoid death and better the human species is pretty old and common so there is probably a long history of similar ideas. Just because similar ideas existed doesn't mean one influenced the other.

Even if it did, you could just as well criticize science for having roots in philosophy and alchemy.

215:

21st century Nazis have great potential for science fiction stories

There's already a novel about people like this. It's called "Iron Sunrise".
If only I could recall the author...
What was it, Strass, Strack, Strauss?

216:

Oh, yeah, that one; that was definitely Strauss :-)

217:

DAVID DRAKE did a couple of old time Nazis around today books. One was "Fortress." It's not bad.
Something that should be a warning is that their Eugenics laws were mostly word for word from a progressive state in the America of the 30's.
Remember the US Supreme Court Ruling about three generates of morons was enough. It was in my school book. She has been found. She was just poor, not dumb. And here old files show that. Someone wanted to cut someone to make a point.

218:

Nazism was many things, but fundamentally it was a radical break with Judeo-Christian thinking, the likes of which has never been seen in Christian era. Nazism truly was an outbreak of something "Other"

Rubbish. Nazism was deeply rooted in Christian thinking -- specifically 19th century anti-semitism with taproots going back to Martin Luther. It was also deeply rooted in German nationalist mystical thinking about "blood and soil"; behind the futurist trappings and design values there were some very messy archaicisms.

Oh, and I'd like to take exception to the use of the phrase "Judeo-Christian thinking". The "Judeo-" prefix is virtually never used by Jews -- because the term "Judeo-Christian" is always used by Christians to stake a claim to a not-actually-existing ecumenicism based on Christian beliefs. In other words, there's almost never any "Judeo-" in it.

219:

Yes! I'm always annoyed when I here someone going on about "Judeo-Christian Values"--especially claiming that the US was founded on them. They're usually talking about the 10 Statements, though there's nothing Christian about them. They were written by Jews for Jews, and don't apply to anyone else. The goyim get the Noahide laws, not that different, mainly skipping all the Shabbes stuff.

220:
Yes! I'm always annoyed when I here someone going on about "Judeo-Christian Values"--especially claiming that the US was founded on them. They're usually talking about the 10 Statements, though there's nothing Christian about them.

Since the "Judeo-Christian Values" seem to be just a vaguely worded appeal to Abrahamic religions, maybe we should say that the U.S. was founded on Judeo-Christian-Islamic values ;-)

221:

The Nazis had a bunch of dumb play science fads that were by nutballs, for nutballs and did not work. They had more real science from before the Nazis and were too dumb to use it.
Germans were thinkers but they had a lot of what I would call play science. What if and then it follows, they were real short on facts. They thought too much with out them. Like people do. What they said they wanted had nothing to do with what could have worked.
There are people who think people should be told what to do. They want to be relieved of the burdens of thinking. And they are not, or mostly, just Nazis.
Oh, people are animals, but not farm animals. We breed to slow. Then somebody has to know what will be superior so they know what to cull.

222:

Since we're now on the topic of Nietzsche and proto-Nazism

Err, technically, we were on the topic of Friedrich Nietzsche and his relation to antisemitism, not on the topic of Nazism; if we wanted to go there, the founding fathers of Nazism, e.g. people blending integrative nationalism and antisemitism as the panaceae to social problems, were around at the day, too, but we'd have to look at people like Dühring (of Engels' 'Anti-Dühring' fame, makes one chuckle when social democrats say Sarrazin's positions are foreign to social democratic politics, no, not exactly, I'm afraid[1]), or more directly, Stöcker's Christian Social Party. So why do I laugh maniacally when Christians accuse Nietzsche, or more generally atheism, as being in fault of Nazism, like this guy here[2]?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Hohmann

And before that, we were talking about nihilism, whatever that is, or, to be more precise, nihilism, atheism leading to. Which means somebody should explain what nihilism is, even though nobody did; it seemed to be a philosophical or theological matter, and since the discussion was on a philosophical/logical level (or better, tried to be), theology didn't seem relevant[4], else if it was a specific term of the sectarian belief system of the applicant, he might have explained it. And well, in philosophy, nihilism is mainly used in two areas, either in relation to a certain group of Russian wannabee revolutionaries, or in relation to Nietzsche. And while many people use nihilism to describe Nietzsche's philosophy, actually it was a term used by Nietzsche as a trend he saw and which he opposed. And more to the point, for him one of those embodiments of nihilism was not atheism but Christianity. Gosh! So pointing that one out seemed relevant.

BTW, on another level, I'm surprised old Fritz isn't coming up in relation to transhumanism more often; as already mentioned, you could easily interpret his 'Übermensch' as relating to transhumanism, with interesting implications. E.g., one of the things old Fritz is big on is 'Eternal Return', e.g. in 'Gay Science'(no pun intended), 341:

'What if a demon' crept after thee into thy loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: "This life, as thou livest it at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all in the same series and sequence — and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever be turned once more, and thou with it, thou speck of dust!" — Wouldst thou not throw thyself down and gnash thy teeth, and curse the demon that so spake? Or hast thou once experienced a tremendous moment in which thou wouldst answer him:"Thou art a God, and never did I hear anything so divine!" If that thought acquired power over thee as thou art, it would transform thee, and perhaps crush thee; the question with regard to all and everything:"Dost thou want this once more, and also for innumerable times?" would lie as the heaviest burden upon thy activity! Or, how wouldst thou have to become favourably inclined to thyself and to life, so as to long for nothing more ardently than for this last eternal sanctioning and sealing?'

Let's just say I'm not aware many adherents of the ancestor simulation are aware what they're in for.

Come to think about it, I'm also surprised fascism isn't coming up in discussions of transhumanism more often, too; some have wondered how some neo- or postfascism could form in appreciation to transhumanism, but in fact, it's as likely to form in opposition to transhumanism; there is a strong antiintellectual current in many forms of fascism, and a tradition of stressing people as organic parts of a group, e.g. corporatism; both of these are somewhat antithetical to the rapture of the nerds. But I disgress.

After that, D Brown talked about some of Nietzsche's opinions, mentioning Hitler in passing, but still, we were not that much talking about Nazism. If we had, I would have talked more about people like Stöcker or the Austrian 'Christian Social Party', whose founder Lueger(which incidentally means 'liar' in German, *g*) was called 'Germany's greatest mayor' by one of his former subject, a certain Adolf Hitler[5].

(why do most conversations eventually converge to Nazism? What is it about this phenomenon that so fascinates us?)

You tell me. As mentioned, we were not talking about Nazism in persona before. But well, you heard about this thing called Godwin's law...

I want to randomly assert that a new Nazism that is non-racialist and non-anti-Semitic (as absurd as that sounds) is quite possible.

As for Nazism, sorry, that's quite a contradiction in terms; when talking about what distinguishes historical Nazism from related political movements, like Italian fascism, the defining features are antisemitism and biological racism, e.g. races exist and they are of different value (racialism is today used in some different way, e.g. merely the belief races exist and are useful concepts, though that was once different http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racialism).

As for neo-Nazism, that would be any political movement that saw itself in a tradition of Nazism, and of course such a movement could strip itself of the antisemitic and racist baggage, but then, it would likely strip itself from the baggage of the Nazi thing, too.

And as for political movements that adhere to the pornography definition of Nazi-like, e.g. I can't define it but i know it when I see it, the established name for this is fascism, without the national qualifier like Italian. Now with this, it is quite easy to see why fascism doesn't have to be antisemitic and racist, early Italian fascism wasn't much of either, there were some early fascists that happened to be Jews, like Aldo Finzi, and with race, even the Nazis stressed it was not just biological race, but also, err, dedication. Concerning fascist Jewish movements, one could at least argue about Betar[6], though I don't know any of their members called themselves fascists and I'd be somewhat sceptical about the claim, knowing the everyone plays wounded gazelle gambit that is played in the Middle East, but nobody would deny they were on somewhat friendly terms with Italian fascists:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betar_Naval_Academy

As for what a radical fascism might look like today, well, I think we should look to the Italian variant again, not only were they first, not only has Berlusconi's party Alessandra Mussolini, who takes after her grandfather not just in surname but also somewhat in politics, but they also have the guy who get's cited by Nouvelle Drot and pseudo-Goth wannabee intellectuals...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Evola

I don't think reading him will give you the blueprint for the New Fascism, but I guess it might be nice to get into the spirit...

Nazism was many things, but fundamentally it was a radical break with Judeo-Christian thinking, the likes of which has never been seen in Christian era.

Short version of answer: The Goldacre Mantra, "I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that..."[7]

Slightly longer version: Oh, that's why Germany adopted a new calendar with different months and got that reputation for indiscriminately persecuting and killing Christian priests, just like the French revolutionaries under Robespierre or the Spanish Anarchists, whom they lauded for that?

Really lomg version: One could answer that on quite some levels; first of, when mentioning the pornography defintion of fascism, I did so since there is a multitude of fascism theories, usually with some drawbacks. Personally, I think they often say more about the intentions of the theoreticist than about fascism.

For late and unlamented Soviet marxism, fascism was the end result of capitalism, never mind fascist rhetorics often attacked capitalism. But when it was capitalism, it couldn't be that there were some eerie similarities between fascism and the real existing stalinism.

For some European right populists, it is antisemitism; never mind that as mentioned, there are plenty of non-antisemitic fascists, but if it has to be antisemitic, they can't be fascists even if they use arguments that seem to be plucked from some bad 30s newsreel. Hey, they like Israel; so they don't have to live with Jews in their own countries.

For right libertarians, it's socialism; never mind fascism was near-universal in its enimity to minstream international worker movements and had quite a tendency to lash out against the degenerate antisocial freeriders that were unfit to live. Also never mind Rockwell's "World Union of Free Enterprise National Socialists", note the free enterprise.

For anarchism, it's about state, never mind it seems there is a historical connection between some strains of anarchism in Italy, namely syndicalism, and fascism, and a certain glorification of political violence.

For social democrats, it's anti-worker and conservative, never mind fascists see themselves as pro-worker; one could argue if they are really pro-worker or just used it to gain power, but then, one could do that with present-day social democrats, too.

For the, err, new social movements, they are the status quo, conservative etc. And they go on to glorify Förster-Nietzsche buddy Rudolf Steiner etc.

And for some, they are anti-Christian and nihilist.

Actually, there is quite some tradition to this interpretation. One of the earliest proponents was one Hermann Rauschning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_Rauschning

There are two problems with him, first of, being a forger hardly qualifies for reliable source. Second of, the fact the guy joined the NSDAP in 1932 raises some issues, namely, he either was a nihilist then, or he himself is proof nihilism was not that important to all Nazis. Also note that in intelligence circles, you have to be somewhat sceptical of defectors, if not only for the fact they have already betrayed their friends once, then for the fact they usually have some issues with their former comrades; that may seem cynical, problem is, there are some converts from Judaism to Christianity that told about ritual murders in the Medieval, some converts from Catholicism to Protestantism in the 19th that talked about monasteries as kinda brothels etc. Which means we need some external corraboration.

But then, this interpretation of Nazism was quite popular in Germany for a time; one of the first programms, the Neheim-Hüsten one, of the CDU, a Christian Democratic party that is part of the present ruling coalition, read like that(from http://www.ena.lu/):

"The CDU is determined to build a new, different Germany. The era in which materialism formed the spiritual foundation in Germany and ruled State, economy and culture must be at an end. National Socialism, too, had its roots in this ideology and took its principles to the furthest extreme."

I goes on about denouncing dissolution of the law, territorial expansionism etc. which is all fine; problem ist, there is a NSDAP program, the 25 points, whicht read like that, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Program:

"19. We demand substitution of a German common law in place of the Roman Law serving a materialistic world-order.
[...]
24. We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: The good of the state before the good of the individual."

Makes one headdesk. But then, conservatives are known to pay hommage to history in a strange way.

For some general discussion of the term fascism, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

In general, fascism is anti-liberal(for enlightenment/human-rights values of liberal), anti-materialistic and anti-individualistic; not necessarily anti-christian. For my personal views, I think one of the main points is fascism stepped in when the traditional monarchies got deposed of; it was not parliamentary democracy, it was not communism, either; there were some allusions to 'more primitive societies', or how the fascists saw them, but fascism was no return to the past either, like some monarchists; to become somewhat melodramatic, fascism is trying to eradicate modernism by modernism; let's start with nationalism, the modern idea of the nation state enters historical reality with the French revolution; guess what historical moment the Nazis said they were annuling at one time? Right, the French Revolution. Go on with democracy, they deride it, but they draw their mandate from quasi-democratic popular sentiment and argue the 'plutocracies' are not really democratic[8].

At another level, we could look at the personal actions of Nazis and Fascists in relation to Christianity; as already mentioned, the NSDAP program mentioned 'positive christianity' as the official stance as the party line, though that may have been a tactical decision.

When looking at the actual situation, the picture gets somewhat complicated. Of course, as Christians are quick to point out, there were some Nazi neo-pagans that wanted to eradicate Christianity, but the stance of the party to those was somewhat ambivalent; BTW note that when calling those guys neo-pagan, you can take some people out of Christianity, but you can't take the Christianity out of some people. Which means that when looking at their socialisation, it'd be better to look at the early 20th century, which was quite heavily inluenced by Christianity, and not at the religious practices of 8 AD in the Teutoburg forest, as running around with upside down crosses, desecrating the host and chanting latin chorals backward is not exactly a sign christianity doesn't matter to you. One of those groups was Ariosophy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariosophy

And then, these guys make me always chuckle[9]:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathilde_Ludendorff

As it is, there is precious little of really Germanic paganism (or Aryan, for any linguistic/cultural/historic value of Aryan) in those, but it's quite akin to typical European occultism. Which is essentially Christianity with some numbers filed of and some nice sigils added.

Add to this those guys were often tied to the völkisch movement, where Hitler wasn't that fond with those guys in "Mein Kampf". And in Hitler's Table Talks, there is this:

"It seems to me that nothing would be more foolish than to re-establish the worship of Wotan. Our old mythology ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself. Nothing dies unless it is moribund."

Talking about the man himself, there are some indications Hitler et al. wanted to destroy Christianity after the war, but then, the Nazis also outlawed Ludendorff's Deutschvolk and Tannenbergbund in 1933, which shows maybe it was more about intolerance to any movements outside of the NSDAP than about religion.

And then, there were quite some Nazis that were Christians; some besides Nazism, some incorporating it, like e.g. the 'Deutsche Christen':

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Christians

As for fascism in General, there is the term 'clerical fascism' for people like the Iron Guard and the Ustase:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Guard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ustaše

That's not to say some fascists weren't quite anti-clerical, see Mussolini's door stopper, 'The Cardinal's Mistress'. But than, who was the guy who signed the concordate between Italy and the Vatican?

And then, there was always that common enemy called 'bolshevism', whatever that was. Again, guess which were the first German and Italian governments the Vatican did concordats with?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concordat

Looking at another level, one could argue that Jesus taught a religion of love and equality, but there are some problems with that; though we know precious little about the guy, it is clear Jesus was a proponent of Jewish Messianism, which is a somewhat ethnocentric doctrine; let's add that this is nothing special, most religions are, people who think of religions as meme complexes propagating themselves are not that surprised. What's interesting, even in this doctrine, Jesus shows little indication of being a dove; when talking to a Samaritan woman, where it would be quite easy to say "and incidently, let's put away with that whole rubbish about you being not real jews and like", a position taken by some parts of modern judaism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritan, he says:

"You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews." John 4

Later on, he gains some followers in the same city, so maybe he viewed them as part jewish. But still, samaritans are an outgroup.

Matthew, OTOH, writes:

"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into [any] city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 10

So Samaritans are clearly not even a part of the 'lost sheeps of Israel' here, when some rabbis seem to think them somewhat more related.

As for "Love your kinsfolk as yourself", well, that's as good a definition of integrative nationalism as any.

Funny thing is, both what was to become Modern Rabbinical Judaism and what was to become Christianity were at this time and some time later members of crown-group Judaism, with most other branches dying of, thank the Romans after Bar Kochba and later religious prosecutions by Jews, Samaritans, Christians and Muslims for that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split_of_early_Christianity_and_Judaism

(BTW, never forget the gnostic element to that, to get a certain glimpse at these times, look at the Yezidi, Mandeans and like. Manichaeism just didn't make it.)

And both grew in no small part through proselytism; now Proto-Christianity had it more easy, since they were more openminded on things converts had to do or not to do, namely circumcission and dietary laws. If one goes by the gospels, Jesus was somewhat liberal in relation to the rules, too; but it was because the 'lost sheep of Israel' could not keep them all, e.g. it was against integrative 'nationalism', if we don't mindusing the term since 'nationalism' is something of an anachronism here. With this line of arguing, Christianity finally severed its ties both with the rest of Judaism as a religion and Jews as an ethnic group because it was more ethnocentric in the beginning. But that's not to say it severed from the whole in-group out-group thing, it just means it changed that one to Christian Non-Christian in practice.

On still another level, one could argue Nazism is the logical conclusion of a certain tendency in Christianity; Christianity always had this little problem that it used all this stuff with the 'Chosen People', but then the Chosen Ones were not that much impressed by it; a good part of Christian antisemitism might have come from this rejection; note Islam has a similar problem in relation to Christianity and Judaism, but is able to solve it by insisting the scriptures are corrupted. Christianity has historically tried to solve this issue by appropiating Jewish scripture and reinterprating it(and being surprised the Jews took issue with that). But then, there were attempts to get a more radical solution.

One of the first was by a guy called Marcion in the 2nd century, a gnostic who thought the Jewish god was not the real god but an imposter, the demiurge; let's just say he failed, but much of what we call Christianity today, e.g. the canon of the gospels, was created in relation to him.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcion

Later on, we got Martin Luther, who thought with Roman Catholicism gone, the Jews would convert. Epic fail, again.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_antisemitism

In the end, what more radical solution to the problem than eradicating the offending evidence? Enter eliminatoric antisemitism.

I see a strong possibility of a similar ideology becoming very powerful in the 21st century, but rather than subscribing to Aryan racial mysticism, it would embrace scientific Eugenics, strive to create techno-supermen, pursue a New World Order, and perhaps incorporate depopulationist ideas from the extreme Malthusians.

Funny thing is, you're aware your ideas are not that incompatible with some forms of fascism, file under "antimasonic/conspiracy theories"? As for Eugenics, the Italians were not that enthusiastic about implementing it, the Swedes were, OTOH, but the ruling party were the social democrats at the time. Also note that even Trotzki had his Eugenic moments.

And with depopulation, well, Nietzsche's 'Too-Many' could just mean mass society; most fascist regimes were very pro-natalist, of course only for the desired group.

IMHO, there is really some danger with fascism, but in a different way; for me, fascism is a modern attempt to do some hacking on the ancient dominant alpha, group aggression and social cooperation layers of our primate algorithms or some later remnants of similar hacking (e.g. religions etc.) in modern times with modern goals. Which is not that extraordinary, most ideologies do; but it is the most extreme attempt.

As for dark future, well, I still have not read 'Rule 34', but I think its future is going to look bleak for some; so they try to better it by hacking some of our primate traits, which incidentally, is what fascism is all about for me.

[1] Yes, I'm in Shadwell mode.

[2] Please note that many of the arguments about him in Germany at the day where about him linking Jews to Bolshevism[3], where one can argue, since he added the fact that they were not jews anymore, but atheists, but nobody objected to the fact that this sorry(exessive rant deleted) excuse and living proof that the problems of the German educational system are not really that confined to immigrants blamed the niceties of 20th century on non-religious people.

[3] From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolsheviks#Composition_of_the_party:
"22% of Bolsheviks were gentry (1.7% of the total population), 38% were uprooted peasants, compared with 19% and 26% for the Mensheviks. In 1907 78.3% of the Bolsheviks were Russian and 10% were Jewish (34 and 20% for the Mensheviks)."
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Russia_and_Soviet_Union#19th_century, Jews were under 5% of the popolation; which shows two things:
First of, yes, jews were overrepresented in the Bolsheviks compared to the general population; if you read rest of the article abou Czarist Russia, you might just guess why.
Second of, compared to other Leftist parties in Czarist Russia, they seemed to be underrepresented inn the Bolsheviks; also note one of their enemies were those guys:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Jewish_Labour_Bund_in_Lithuania,_Poland_and_Russia
As for minorities in early Bolshevism, Latvians aren't too proud of this guy, either:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakov_Peters

[4] That's not unfair to theology, it's just that theologies are quite tied to their specific dominations, and I don't think using terms like dvaita, advaita and aghora would be perceived as fair by non-Hindus.

[5] Recently, there was a call for a way to change his monument in Vienna:
http://luegerplatz.com/ausschreibung.html
Guess a public toilet with the siphon above his head would have been both fitting and practical. Or a public opium den. Or...

[6] "Brit Yosef Trumpeldor"? Harry Potter will never be the same for me again...[6a]

[6a] BTW, when looking those guys up, I found a Lehi publication called, well? "Hamaas". Chuckle.

[7] And that one even without the historian's credo in times of postmodernism, "and if not, we can talk so much about it it becomes more complicated".

[8] It's the same fun you have with some 'alternatives' today, denouncing the decadent morals of today using an extreme reading of certain Western values, but then, when those don't suit them, quick to denounce them as religious bullshit. OK, that is opportunism, but still, no wonder one of th slogans of Italian fascism was "Me ne frego", or "I don’t give a damn". And it makes one wonder if philosophical zombies are really just a theoretical construct.

[9] "She believed that the Dalai Lama was controlling the Jews in their supposed attempts to destroy Germany through Marxism, Roman Catholicism, capitalism and Freemasonry." I knew it!

223:

BTW, sorry for the rant, but I just got carried away. I will try to get it shorter next time.

BTW, there was a little mistake, 'liar' in German is really 'Lügner'; still, close enough to Lueger' to make one chuckle.

224:

I keep wondering what Nietzsche's opinions really were with out his sisters re-work. Years ago, the last I read, they were still trying to figure that out. Like most philosophy it probably is of no real importance.
---"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life." - Adolph Hitler "My New World Order" - Proclamation to the German Nation, Berlin, February 1, 1933

What Nazis were and wanted spun like a top. It all depended on the way to power at the time. Nazism and Fascism were only two of the many things that know the one true way and are willing to make you do the right thing.
"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Benito Mussolini. Urrr, look around. Mussolini invented Fascism and gained power years before Hitler. Mussolini's Fascists in general were anti-Nazi. (I think) There was only so much to go around. And Fascists were more interested in making the trains run on time than Jews. They never did I read, get the trains running on time. They started kissing up to Hitler and things got harder on Jews.
Mussolini was elected and re-elected to power. Who would run against him? But he he did run. And followed the law, mostly. Sometimes it was his law, but still. He was the only one who backed Hitler down early on and was willing to use his Army to do so.
At his start I have a little sympathy for Mussolini. He tried to be a good Socialist for years. I can just see him saying to hell with it and cutting the political knot to get something, anything done. A lot like many feel today. Then he went to hell but was never as bad as Hitler.

225:

Regarding Nietzsche, I'd like to stop the discussion here, provided there was no further discussion about the guy in relation to transhumanism; I'd like to conclude by noting that it was aFAIR our gracious host that said he ceases exclusive ownership of his words the moment he wrote them down, and it was up to the readers to make it up[1]. Also note the whole point here is that philosophy really matters, though it is more of the interpretation than the original works that matter.

A for corporatism, that is not just part of fascism, but also e.g. of Catholic social doctrine, and while that one might be a bad example, not everybody who believes in trade unions doing talks to factory owners is the way to settle things is a fascists.

As for Italian Fascism and Nazism, they were different, as there wer quite some subgroups in both; but still, Hitler started as an admirer of Mussoline, with both later switching roles; as for liking Mussolini, not really, if there is one thing common to all fascisms, it's working best with a leader or duce high on the histrionics...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOv-Ncs7vQk

[1] Has anybody ever thought about the implications of the panopticon society for literature studies? OTOH, many scholars'd be ecstatic, but the sheer volume of date would become a problem. Efficient search algorithms would change that, but than, what's the point of wasting your life in a library when a well behaved expert system answers your questions in a few seconds? For example, imagine the multitude of Kafka scholars going unemployed when the guy's therapy tapes surface, maybe going into politics or stock markets...

226:

As for modern Nazism-equivalents...
I give you two easy starters for 5 points:
Extreme islamic expansionism (complete with lebensraum & jew-killing, and the pure new way and the West is decadent and...)
And, of course, the Tea Party

227:

I agree that islamism fits the trope, problem is that that some of the islam critics do, too:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro_Germany_Citizens'_Movement

Come to think about it, I still think there is only one solution:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_Pogo_Party_of_Germany#Theory_of_Pogo-Anarchism

Yeah, it's racist, anti-rational, anti-everything, go on, call me a...

228:

Authoritarian doctrines almost invariably hate and fear their rivals, except when they're closely compatible, and separated by geopolitical barriers (for example, Hitler's NSDAP and Mussolini's regime).

Even when followers of opposed doctrines make a pact to work together for a while -- the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact springs to mind -- they tend to come to blows eventually.

229:

-----Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.
-Eric Hoffer

I put Nietzsche in this posting as someone who's followed even if the followers don't know who they are following. Killing it seems to be a good idea.

230:

Charlie @ 228
Another frequent example of this is the internecine bloody warfare between christian and muslim sects and "churches" - each side calling the other vile heretics and deviants etc.
It's also one of the signifiers for communism being a religion, because they follow that pattern also.
To mis-quote Prof.H. Trevor-Roper "Heretics are wrong of course, perhaps even wronger, because they KNOW the true way and deliberately pervert it."

231:

I was always amazed to walk down Karl-Lueger Ring and see that his name was still on it as if he was an OK Guy. (And wonder what Karl Renner would have thought about having his name on the stretch of the Ring next to Lueger's.) People from the UK would ask me who he was and why his name was plastered on public buildings, and I'd tell them, and they'd be astonished. It's also pretty incredible that Ignaz Seipel has his name on one of the prettiest squares in the 1. Bezirk.

But I've danced on his stretch of the Ring during an illegal demo, so that's something at least.

232:

Hannu,

Thanks for the recommendation; that looks fascinating, and is winging its way to me as I type this.

And thanks for The Quantum Thief. Two or three more readings, and I might have it grokked.

233:

Just now on American cable news, But not Fox, the editor of News of the World when the tapping was at it's worst, is now the editor of the Wall Sreet Journal. Boy oh Boy. I hope you get him!
I read something that may be why the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact happened. After WW-1 the ruling German Social Democrats were friendlier to the Marxist Socialists of Russia than the West. After the term of a German solder was up, he would take a train to Russia to join the Black Army. And keep training with Russian troops. This kept the size of the German army under the treaty limits, officially.
The German reporter who printed the Black Army story was last seen in a pre-war pic taken in a camp where the Social Democrats had put him. He did not look good.
The USSR supplied war material for the German push west. If Hitler had not been getting old and impatient, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact could have held till the West was cooked.

234:

Err, you sure?

While the Social Democrats were one of the bigger parties of the Weimar Republic and did the president thing from 1918 till 1925, they mainly ruled in coalitions with centre to right parties like the Centre, something like version 1 of the current Christ Democrats, or the DNVP. After 1925, the presidency was with Hindenburg, a WW1 general who didn't belong to a party, but was affiliated with the DNVP, which translates to German National People's Party, or Deutschnationale Volkspartei:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_National_People's_Party

Also note many of the chancellors were from the Centre and other parties, as for details, err, can I get out of this by mentioning that Weimar Republich politics is notorious for being somewhat, err, chaotic?

As for Germany's relations to Soviet Russia, it's something more complicated than "social democrats liked communists", especially since they were not exactly that friendly with German communists:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munich_republic

BTW, note that was "Independent Social Democrats", not "Social Democrats", the split was with the beginning WW1.

And much of the work was done by the army and industry, which were not really that much known for liking anything to the left of the DNVP(think of the DNVP as somethink like American paleocons). For an overview, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet-German_relations_before_1941

It somewhat started in the last months of WW1; Problem was Imperial Germany was doing badly and had to fight a two-front war against France and Britain in the West and Imperial Russia in the West; then there was a revolution in Russia, and that chang.., er not exactly. The new gouvernment decided to honour its treaties and fight on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_Revolution

So somebody in the German military command got this glorious idea of permitting one Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov to cross Germany from Switzerland; note there are rumours he was given some money on the way[1]:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Theses

Well, the guy succeeded and germany could use new troops in the west, buying some time. Not that much, BTW.

After the war Germany lost some territories, especially in the East; it also had some military restrictions:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Versailles#Military_restrictions

A big problem was the ban on aircrafts and armoured vehicles.

Russia, OTOH, had some problems with its Western neighbour, which happened to be the same land that Germany wanted its territories back prom.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish-Soviet_war

Let's just say they fared bad.
Another problem was Western powers didn't like the Commies neglecting their duties against Imperial Germany in the last months of WW1.

So we have Soviet Russia and Weimar Germany, both somewhat isolated with Germany under the statutes of Versailles, and Russia at odds with the winners of Versailles for playing chicken. Both have some problems with a certain country called Polish Republic. So like like Eric Harris met Dylan Klebold, what's more natural than both coming together:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Rapallo,_1922

AFAIK military cooperation was already initiated before, but the treaty was the legal basis. One example was pilot education, always a problem. See e.g. the last days of WW2, you can build as many planes as you like, it takes time to train a good pilot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighter_pilot_school_Lipetsk

As for a Black army,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Reichswehr

the Weimar Republic had another method there; they used paramilitary units

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_paramilitary_groups

which, as everyone who knows Latin America can tell you, is a superb way of stabilizing a country. Not.

As for political affiliation, the Freikorps are mainly known for ending the Munich Soviet Republic and nearly (for debatable values of nearly) ending the Weimar Republic with some putsches:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapp_Putsch

As for the Treaty of Rapallo, initiator was one Walther Rathenau, member of the German Democratic Party, a social liberal party(European and American definitions of 'liberal' differ somewhat, think something like New Deal):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walther_Rathenau

In spite of doing so much for the interests of the German Army, being a jew, Rathenau was a target of the right, and was assasinated in 1922. So much for Nazi thinking, see lack of.

[1] There is a joke the Germans treated Lenin like some kind of biological weapon in this; sealed wagon and like. Maybe the necromancers from the Thule Society (hey, one of the generals was Luddendorff) could tell you more about this. Iaa, iaa...!
Err, you see that was meant as a joke, right?

235:

I have on occasion tried to make the argument that while whether or not free will exists is irrelevant, whether or not people believe they have free will is quite relevant (because it affects things like locus of control, etc.) This gets into pragmatist versus existentialist territory, because it brings up the question of whether or not it is preferable to knowingly and willingly deceive yourself with doublethink in order to improve the quality of life of yourself and others.

It also runs me up against people who like to argue about philosophical zombies and pretend that philosophical zombies are an argument for rather than against qualia, so such arguments rarely end well.

236:

"Err, you sure?" Well pretty sure.. I read some of it in only one book, years ago. But it was full of citations. I think it was called "Before the Deluge." But most things in it I already believed. So the rest looked good to me.

237:

Here are two must read books that emplace federov. he had a profound influence on soviet science, politics(during the 1920s) and their space probram.


Rosenthal, Bernice G. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell
University Press, 1997. Print.

Stites, Richard. Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the
Russian Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print.

the former has a good chapter on federov as well as one on maxim gorky. the latter is literally a catalog of social experiments. basically, it is worthwhile to consider federov's influence on russian social thought.

238:
He was founder of an immortalist (anti-death) philosophy emphasizing "the common task" of resurrecting the dead through scientific means."

I recently read Hannu Rajaniemi's "The Quantum Thief", and I think the above quote reveals what the 'great common task' of the Sobornost is (it's not revealed in the book). Thanks!

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on July 1, 2011 11:29 AM.

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