I am a believer

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Well…in the post below I alluded to the HIV-does-not-cause-AIDS meme. As always, when we bring this sort of thing up someone points to Duesberg. But I have to say, I’ve never followed those links. I’ve never even been tempted. The reason? I know people who know a fair amount about HIV, and they think it is quackery. I know that the overwhelming majority of medical scientists reject this meme. Ultimately, I am a believer in the system, not any specific hypothesis. As such, my worldview and faith in science would not be shattered if HIV did not cause AIDS, scientific consensus can be wrong, it is usually wrong at some point (or less accurate a mapping of the world out there). But it is up to the system of science to methodically expose its own faulty presuppositions. It isn’t a perfect system, but show me something better. My post below was not a plea for any particular system, but rather for the idea that systems as conceived in the Western intellectual tradition have validity. Scratch a modern and you will find a Sumerian magician. I tremble for my people, for even we are susceptible to the temptations of false idols and foreign gods, it is in our nature. Though the Western intellectual milieu is not a sufficient condition for modernity, I believe it is a necessary condition, it is a light unto the nations. We are a nation of priests who witness to a living tradition. We may not always comprehend the mysteries of our three-faced trinity of rationalism, skepticism and empiricism, but we should do our best to follow our Law. The Post Modernists of the Left and Right are false prophets who I believe are leading the people alway from fidelity to Law, which would be a shame, because our god and our Law have no other worshippers and adherents in anything more than false words. As youth were are often reviled by those who see in our heterodox predilictions something profane and peculiar, even our own families often perceive us to be unnatural and abnormal creatures. The temptations of the pagan magical world around us are manifold, and we take comfort in the social systems that allow us to communicate and have fellowship with others of our nation. But I fear that too many foreign gods are being worshipped in our temples, and there may come a day when we will scatter among the nations and be reabsorbed into the peoples from whom we came. The sun of our tradition will set and the demon haunted world will be unchallenged once more.

57 Comments

  1. Why so pessimistic?

  2. While it would not destroy my world view, I am a believer in the HIV-AIDS link; but I guess that is because, since I am more interested in the field, I have read more of the science (no offense) 
     
    Reading the links and bio on Duesberg it strikes me that he suffers from the stresses of being a Wunderkind. He achieved a lot of impressive discoveries very early amd probably felt it only natural to challenge the emerging HIV-AIDS science in the 80s, and his ego won’t let him admit he was wrong. 
     
    This is a problem with some of the ‘high priests’ in our ‘temples’, escape mediocrity early and you cannot simply rest on your laurels and produce mediocre work from then on; or people will think your early excellence a “fluke”.

  3.  
    Reading the links and bio on Duesberg it strikes me that he suffers from the stresses of being a Wunderkind.
     
     
    the problem i have with people relying on duesberg is that scientists are not any less nutty than anyone else. i mean, look at linus pauling, supergenius who kept promoting vitamin C. or konrad lorenz, who helped invent ethology, but enthusiastic nazi. or isaac newton, a certifiable virgin shut-in who was into astrology.

  4. To be clear, I was offering a reason for his nuttiness on the HIV issue. I do believe he is wrong but his bio reveals why he won’t give up on his theory.

  5. I know that it’s mostly playing with words but your religious terminology freaks me out. You make it sound like you believe in dogma rather than believing because it works so far. There is no point in blind allegiance to anything.

  6. Razib: 
     
    Very interesting post. and in my opinion very on the mark. It echos what i have been feeling for many moons. I see around me the signs of the decline of western / american civillization, and trace that to the ascendency of the postmodern/pc culture and the decline of rationalism/skepticism/empericicsm. 
     
    it is profoundly disturbing!

  7. razib, 
     
    What do you think of Nietzsche’s suggestion that modern natural science is esentially animated by motivations other than the will to truth? 
     
    And, to take another tactic: 
     
    In what sense were, for instance, the writings of Plato, Xenophon, and (perhaps) Aristotle “flawed and futile in execution, but inspiring in vision?” 
     
    The latter question is not intended as a reproach; it’s in earnest.

  8. You make it sound like you believe in dogma 
     
    au contraire, true faith always begins with deep doubt. 
     
    but you are correct, i am playing with words. but have you read isaac asimov’s foundation novels? re: pessimism, only one civilization has truly birthed science and (to my eye) a critically rational scholarly culture. in contrast, most civilizations, and most human societies, stumble upon particular motifs and concepts relating to gods and spirits. most cultures have some form of music and song. if we strangled all priests with their own intestines, within a few generations institutional religion would reappear. if musicians were slaughtered by latter day wahhabis, the fanatics’ victory would be temporary. on the other hand, if scientists were all exterminated i am not sure that a scientific culture would quickly reemerge once the social matrix which evolved over the past few centuries had dissolved. inventors and geniuses would still appear, but the human system might have only emerged because of a fortuitous combination of factors which only intersected in europe in the 17th century.

  9. In what sense were, for instance, the writings of Plato, Xenophon, and (perhaps) Aristotle “flawed and futile in execution, but inspiring in vision?”  
     
    well, i actually prefer aristotle over plato because he mixed some empiricism into his world-view and was more pragmatic (peripatetic, whatever). but in any case, the greek intellectuals pushed cognition very far, and to me the fact that they pioneered the mathematical proof is one of their greatest contributions. the vision was the gall and conceit to impose a system upon the world around them, rather than responding to it in a relatively ad hoc fashion as its capricious nature would have implied. most of the greek systems were total garbage, but most of the hypotheses of modern science are total garbage too. 
     
     
    What do you think of Nietzsche’s suggestion that modern natural science is esentially animated by motivations other than the will to truth?
     
     
    such things aren’t a black and white dichotomy.

  10. Razib, don’t you think that a desire for the power of technology would, at some point, drive a movement to reinstate the scientific culture?

  11. at some point 
     
    sure. but how long? technology does not necessarily imply a scientific culture. china had two thousand years of marvelous engineering feats. joseph needham documented multiple “inventions” of (for example) the water clock. if a scientific culture didn’t reemerge before the deaths of those who had seen it with their own eyes, the era of technology would quickly pass into myth and be garbled, so the whole ratchet might have start all over again…and humans might have to wait for another felicitous intersection of necessary conditions….

  12. Hmmm. These thoughts about scientific culture are new to me but I find them interesting. I need to read more history.

  13. razib, 
     
    After reading your responses and rereading my questions, I think I asked them rather poorly and obliquely. 
     
    I’m afraid I simply fail to understand the desire to master nature that seems to lie at the heart of science. What is the aim of science? 
     
    If the aim of science is identical with the professed aim of Descartes and Bacon, namely, to work a certain change in the way human beings are, then, well: Is that change desirable? 
     
    I brought up classical philosophy simply to suggest that modern science is not the only alternative to uneducated opinion. Perhaps it is not the best alternative, either; Descartes, Bacon, Hobbes, and Machiavelli gave up a lot…

  14. I think that if you replace the word “belief” with “trust” you get a better understanding all belief systems (science included). None of us have the time to examine every hypothesis (a point Razib made). Most of the time we just trust the system. 
     
    The system that we tend to trust is the one that our parents trusted. We continue to believe if it “works for us”. How many times have you heard someone say, “it works for me”? That is the bottom line.  
     
    None of this should be understood to deny that there is an objective truth out there, just that each of us judges the system according to the small subset of hypotheses we choose to examine. Most people test the system by asking themselves what their peers believe.

  15.  
    If the aim of science is identical with the professed aim of Descartes and Bacon, namely, to work a certain change in the way human beings are, then, well: Is that change desirable?
     
     
    that is a question answered only after an analysis of norms. i think so, within “reasonable” limits. i’m not particularly concerned with arguing with those who don’t think that change is desirable because they are trivial in the face of rapacious human consumerism and the demand for higher “quality of life.” the tigers are loose, they either eat us, or we ride them onward into the future, i don’t think those who argue that we need to turn the tide back are worth addressing in detail because their vision won’t come about unless oour civilization collapses, in which case, talk is cheap and moot. i don’t presume to suggest that science will answer ultimate questions. i don’t presume that historical scholarship or literary analysis will aid us in our aim at defining some deep ontology or what not. i offer that the amenities (like computers) and services (health care) of the modern world are precious to most humans, and they would impossible with modern western intellectual culture.

  16. Descartes, Bacon, Hobbes, and Machiavelli gave up a lot… 
     
    true, true. but let me make something clear: i think there is a trade off that ‘traditionalists’ need to face, to get back ‘what we’ve lost,’ we will likely have to give up what we’ve gained. i don’t think most people are willing to give up what we’ve gained for what we’ve lost. my issue with people like alistair mcgrath or neo-noble savagists on the left is that they want to keep what we’ve gained and get back what we’ve lost. there is no free lunch.

  17. i think there is a trade off that ‘traditionalists’ need to face, to get back ‘what we’ve lost,’ we will likely have to give up what we’ve gained 
     
    That depends on what you think we lost. I think that what we’ve lost is a feeling of at-home-ness in our world, that results in a feeling of isolation. I think that that can be addressed without giving up what we’ve gained.

  18. I think that that can be addressed without giving up what we’ve gained. 
     
    i concur.

  19. “the tigers are loose, they either eat us, or we ride them onward into the future, i don’t think those who argue that we need to turn the tide back are worth addressing in detail because their vision won’t come about unless oour civilization collapses, in which case, talk is cheap and moot” 
     
    Does the denial of modernity have to take the radical form of the destruction of civilization? Only if one approaches the problems of modernity in that peculiarly modern spirit that demands the total resolution of any problem to which it applies itself. 
     
    The classical philosophy and political philosophy, unlike the modern, does not demand that its ideals become concrete. You don’t take Abita hostage and implement the virtuous state at gunpoint. Rather, you educate people to be open-minded to the criticism of modern natural science and modernity, you try to promote the kind of environment that will nurture rulers who are virtuous and respect thoughtful reflection, and you try to make people take more care for the worth of their own souls than for political movements. And so on…

  20. i concur 
     
    I would very much like to hear your thoughts on this subject, at some point.

  21. Rather, you educate people to be open-minded to the criticism of modern natural science and modernity, you try to promote the kind of environment that will nurture rulers who are virtuous and respect thoughtful reflection, and you try to make people take more care for the worth of their own souls than for political movements. 
     
    i suspect confucian self-cultivation and its various cross-cultural cousins have a role to play in the near future. i simply contend that a ‘counterrevolution’ is implausible, the present must be accepted on its own terms. if you propose incrementalist and pragmatic solutions of values i have no issues with that. 
     
    I would very much like to hear your thoughts on this subject, at some point. 
     
    i should be working right now, so yes, at some point later.

  22. Let the idiots die. 
     
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-charlie29sep29,0,5694731.story?coll=la-tot-promo&track=morenews

  23. I was going to post this on an earlier thread but decided it was off topic. (I didnÂ’t want to distract from RazibÂ’s fight against the Post-Modern deconstruction of scientific thinking.) Seems more appropriate here. 
     
    Would Post-Modern thinking have any traction without support from popular culture? 
     
    Magical thinking pervades TV and movies. Such entertainments occupy a growing share of mindspace. 
     
    Increasing world complexity means that the average person has little comprehension of how his everyday tools and society function. That encourages magical thinking. 
     
    This is the fertile ground in which Post-Modern thinking flourishes. 
     
    How about competing directly against magical thinking in the popular culture? 
     
    I suspect that Sid Meier games such as Civilization and The Sims have a significant impact in shaping worldviews. To the degree that they reflect the real world then they are learning tools to combat magical thinking. They teach that actions have consequences. That society is complex but that improved understanding leads to better success. That plans and work are more important than good intentions. 
     
    Razib: “though the ultimate germ i think lay in the cognitive biases of our species” 
     
    Tools remove innate limitations. Knives are better than claws. Thinking and communication tools are rapidly evolving. Within the decade many people will always be connected to an enhanced Internet. Human thinking and culture will change. Our cognitive biases may shift. 
     
    How can we harness those tools to push culture in our preferred direction? Fight the battles using tomorrowÂ’s tools, not yesterdayÂ’s. (I suspect Ivory Tower thinkers will be pushed to the margins and ignored. Universities and formal education may become less important.) 
     
    I suspect that much of the turmoil we are seeing today is the result of information overload. Our old knowledge systems (newspapers, books, universities) arenÂ’t working due to the torrent of information and the complexity of todayÂ’s world. New tools are needed. 
     
    The Internet allows the creation of more powerful knowledge structures. It is not possible for any human to comprehend more than a small fraction of the worldÂ’s knowledge. But todayÂ’s complex problems required deep knowledge spanning many fields. We need a knowledge structure with multiple models with different difficulty levels and tools to help find the appropriate knowledge model for our background and our purpose. The limitations of the models should be strongly displayed. The relationship between different models of the same phenomenon should be explained so that a person could move from one to another. (Physics as viewed by Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein.) We need tools to continually update and validate the models. The knowledge system would be evolving and self-correcting.

  24. “Would Post-Modern thinking have any traction without support from popular culture?” 
     
    Post-modernism, historicism, and relativism seem to be vulgarized and internally inconsistent combinations of several consistent and powerful insights. Could the vulgar be persuaded to think differently? Certainly. Can vulgarity be abolished? I doubt it. Is technology the way to abolish vulgarity? You say yourself that the propogation of technology serves to obcure natural inequality, breeding contempt among the vulgar for the wise. 
     
    Civilization and the Sims are great ambassadors of modern thought; they purvey the ideas of inevitable historical progress and Smithian capitalism to the many. But is this education?

  25. David Boxenhorn wrote: 
    That depends on what you think we lost. I think that what we’ve lost is a feeling of at-home-ness in our world, that results in a feeling of isolation. I think that that can be addressed without giving up what we’ve gained. 
     
    Interesting, reminds me of what someone recently said, “The only constant today, is change” – which is so true. 
     
    To Razib and others: 
    I wouldn’t dwell over the fall of Western scientific society, as I think it has been promulgated out to the non-Western world, and it in turn will be bolstered by this. So what if the US runs just one leg of a vast relay-race, receiving the baton of progress from Britain, and passing it to a multitude of countries. 
     
    On a more mundane level, I would pay attention to creating and caring for offspring, as this I believe is the only way to feel truely part of the world, and part of the cycle of life. This is what gives you immortality, in a sense. I think that any culture that has strong, positive family values, is likely to succeed against others.

  26. Ross Hunt: “You say yourself that the propogation of technology serves to obcure natural inequality,…“ 
     
    Yes, I do believe technology makes information and concepts that were formerly available to the most educated accessible to the least educated. That contributes to popular distortion and misunderstanding of complex topics.  
     
    Some of that I believe is unavoidable. A child will hear the word “relativity” and begin to build a “relativity” concept based on his limited understanding of the world. By the teen years his conception is far deeper. He may even relate it to time dilation. Assuming he goes into physics his university model will include simple equations. In graduate school heÂ’d be studying complex gravitation equations. Each step is a necessary transition. 
     
    At every level the model is inaccurate, incomplete, and open to distortion. I want an Internet knowledge system that gives a person a knowledge model appropriate for their ability, background, and purpose. I want those models linked with descriptions of the models limitations and linked to alternative models. I want people on the Internet to take-on the task of building those models, keeping them up to date, and correcting them as needed. In that way I hope to maintain knowledge quality and limit distortion as you move from expert to novice knowledge levels. 
     
    Wikipedia is an experiment in that direction. 
     
    The GNXP site with its archives is a knowledge model of human genetic diversity. Restructuring the information to make it more accessible to casual inquiries would make it more useful to the broader Internet audience. Blogger sites could evolve into knowledge model nodes.  
     
    Ross Hunt: “…breeding contempt among the vulgar for the wise.” 
     
    IÂ’m in favor of breeding contempt for the wise. IÂ’ve never liked authority figures or arguments based on authority. Ideas should have to compete on their own merits.

  27. Small point re “post-modernism” from the arty part of the bleachers? It isn’t and hasn’t been all for the bad. Taken hyper-dogmatically as an intellectual theory and then applied from the top on down, it’s a pain in the ass. But taken in a looser, more informal way, it’s been a super development in many ways. “Modernism,” whatever its glories, was autocratic to the max, and resulted in many disasters and absuridities in the cultural sphere — attitudes and creations that were genuinely destructive. (Urban renewal, towers-in-the-park, ways of thinking about music and poetry that put many people off both art forms, etc.)  
     
    What po-mo means (in a loose sense) in the arts is the breakdown of that dictatorship. Let a thousand flowers bloom, etc. If you’re comfy with the idea that the kind of music (or food, or clothes) that you dig is just fine, thank you very much, then you owe that comfy-ness to po-mo developments. If the idea that a work of art can come in a variety of forms is OK with you, well, that’s po-mo too. It’s all culture, after all — and that attitude comes thanks to po-mo, not to what’s sometimes called “authoritarian modernism.”  
     
    Incidentally, from the cultural p-o-v, the computer is often considered not one of the ultimate creations of science but the ultimate post-modern machine. It’s the machine that releases us from being dictated-to by the machine; it’s the machine that bends itself to our will and desires, not vice versa. It’s the machine that transcends machine-ness.  
     
    Interesting to note the direction culture is taking, now that it’s becoming more computer-based. Culture is becoming more tweaked, more mixed-and-matched, more multi-media, and more suit-yourself. That’s the upside. One downside is that it’s becoming all about effects. 
     
    But most of this isn’t a result of breakthroughs by cultural thinkers, most of whom are either ‘way behind, or are doing their best to be the autocratic guru figures of post-modernism, or deconstruction, or whatever. Most of it has been practical. People started hating towers-in-the-park. Artists got tired of composing and/or performing in self-consciously “difficult” ways. People generally got tired of the self-important carrying-on of the artay intellectual modernist class. 
     
    Interesting that one of the arts that’s been most open and most lively throughout all these changes has been cooking. Despite the awful supermarket crap, there’s fabulous food all over the place these days. And a generally changed attitude towards it too. Back in the ’40s and ’50s, the only “serious” food was stuffy old-style French. These days, we all choose from a huge menu, and even the foodiest of foodies digs good barbecue, soul food, burgers, as well as the chic avant-garde stuff.  
     
    But food, unlike many of the other arts, has never lost its connection with its audience. People always have to eat, after all. And if they simply won’t eat what you’ve come up with, well, then it’s up to you to adjust. So the creative food people are always working with what works for people (even if they’re attempting to expand minds and open palates up a bit too). A good model for all the arts, as far as I’m concerned…

  28. michael, 
     
    all things in moderation are good…except for nonsense of course! :)

  29. “super genius who kept promoting vitamin C.” 
    razib, not to be a bore on the subject, but are you dismissing research in vitamins, phyto-nutrients and non-allopathic approaches to healing as “magical thinking?” have you ever read such research? talked to anyone who has studied or practied it seriously?

  30. In the arts, even nonsense has its place! In moderation, of course…

  31. i was specifically talking about the vitamin c hypothesis. my understanding is that the data is pretty muddled (though the antioxidant logic seems like it should make sense). but pauling was pretty much a fanatic about it. but perhaps he just like oranges?

  32. fly wrote: 
     
    I suspect that Sid Meier games such as Civilization and The Sims have a significant impact in shaping worldviews. To the degree that they reflect the real world then they are learning tools to combat magical thinking. They teach that actions have consequences. That society is complex but that improved understanding leads to better success. That plans and work are more important than good intentions. 
     
    Interesting that you mention these games, as I am a huge fan of Civilization (and now FreeCiv) and think that in a subconscious way it does indeed make you very aware of the reprecussions of bad choices you make. I think Nusapiens mentioned previously that he played Civilization too.

  33. razib, 
     
    I was of the opinion that Pauling was into Ascorbic Acid in powder form, rather than oranges.

  34. “..but perhaps he just like oranges? 
     
    never thought of it that way! Linus orange-seed.  
    To be honest, vitamin C never worked much for me, but other vitamins/nutrients have. Muddled it has indeed been, but this article may clarify the latest research:  
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/sardi/sardi43.html 
    does seem to vindicate him. 
    “The latest study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms the work of Nobel-Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling who conducted cancer research in the 1970s with vitamin C. Dr. Pauling’s studies were discredited at the time by poorly conducted research studies at the Mayo Clinic. 
     
    Unlike cancer drugs, I.V. vitamin C selectively killed cancer cells, but not healthy cells, and showed no toxicity. The ability of intravenous vitamin C to kill lymphoma cells was remarkable ? almost 100% at easily achievable blood serum concentrations. 
     
    For inexplicable reasons, NIH researchers continue to maintain high-dose oral vitamin C can produce a limited increase in serum vitamin C concentrations. However, their earlier study published in 2004 clearly showed oral-dose vitamin C can achieve three times greater blood concentration than previously thought possible, a fact which negates the current Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin C. [Annals Internal Medicine 140:533?7, 2004] NIH researchers refuse to issue a retraction of their earlier flawed research which mistakenly claimed humans cannot benefit from high-dose oral vitamin C supplements.  
     
    The NIH also offered no explanation why it has taken 35 years to confirm the work of Dr. Linus Pauling.”

  35. Anonymous, 
     
    “Ideas should have to compete on their own merits.” 
     
    If we’re going to compare ideas to biological organisms than I would like to suggest that isolated cultivation of ideas would be a better idea than an indiscriminate sowing of scientific oats. 
     
    But I think that making all human beings equally the judge of what is right and wrong is not the tactic most likely to produce a consensus that settles on the truth. 
     
    “I?m in favor of breeding contempt for the wise. I?ve never liked authority figures or arguments based on authority.” 
     
    ‘Ni dieu ni maitre’ is not an admirable slogan.

  36. I believe that the dialectic law, unity and struggle of opposites, is true at the meme level. The meme of enlightened rationalism has evoked the anti-meme of revanchiste irrationalism in all its many modes. ‘Twas ever thus. The struggle is no less fierce or important for being historically necessary. Attempts to find a middle way are as doomed as they alway were before.  
     
    Synthesis will come in ways we cannot predict and should not ignorantly attempt to achieve; that is “the denial of the antithesis” and down that road lies the OGPU and the gulag.

  37. Ross Hunt: ?If we’re going to compare ideas to biological organisms than I would like to suggest that isolated cultivation of ideas would be a better idea than an indiscriminate sowing of scientific oats. 
     
    But I think that making all human beings equally the judge of what is right and wrong is not the tactic most likely to produce a consensus that settles on the truth.? 
     
    ?Isolated cultivation of ideas? is good. GNXP provides a safe haven to discuss topics that are verboten in the mainstream. 
     
    I don?t favor giving random ideas equal mindshare. Nor do I believe all opinions should be given equal weight. Even here on GNXP there has to be a balance between inviting new ideas and minimizing the noise. 
     
    The Internet is evolving methods for building trust. Some sites (SlashDot) rank comments. Those with high ranks get more visibility. Other sites rank the people who make comments. Those with high ranks get more visibility (or more weight when comments are scored). Ideas are open for criticism. (Being CEO of your company or a Nobel Prize winner doesn?t make you immune.) 
     
    The blog referral network acts to find and spread the best ideas and commentary so that good voices are amplified. 
     
    The Internet can support many separate trust networks, so competing worldviews can be nurtured. Even if a final consensus isn?t reached, it should possible to elevate the level of discussion.

  38. fly 
     
    some truths are by their very nature self evident….. to some, and unfortunately not evident at all to some,….what to do ?

  39. Vic: ?some truths are by their very nature self evident….. to some, and unfortunately not evident at all to some,….what to do ?? 
     
    My personal experience is that few people see the same the truths I see as self-evident. As long as I don?t push my truths on them and they don?t push their truths on me, I have no problem. There is room for many worldviews. 
     
    At times I am affected by the truths of others. Usually I have the right to state my own beliefs and attempt to gather support from others. If I can?t sway the group and I can?t abide by the group consensus I leave the group. At times I have to live with group decisions I find distasteful. While democracy (with minority rights) is imperfect, I know of no better way to make group decisions. 
     
    Some belief systems are intolerant and aggressive. (Western culture is aggressive in that it intrudes on other cultures, but is tolerant and does extend rights to other cultures.) In such cases I would fight to ensure that Western culture prevails. (I have no problem with Western culture co-opting the best from other cultures. I like Japanese anime and Chinese Kung Fu movies. Nor would I mind if the world community rejected the worst parts of US culture.) 
     
    With regard to Internet knowledge systems, I believe there is room for many belief systems. There might be a collection of knowledge nodes pushing creationism. Some religions might encourage their believers to only visit those sites. As long as people can freely choose, I wouldn?t have a problem with it. I want a competitive marketplace of ideas. I believe that in the long run science-based ideas will flourish in such a market. Especially if scientists and engineers and like-minded individuals keep creating tools that make science more effective. 
     
    I have many beliefs. Some are wrong. I believe it is usually best to allow others to be wrong as well.

  40. pc conroy is right about this: 
     
    “On a more mundane level, I would pay attention to creating and caring for offspring, as this I believe is the only way to feel truely part of the world, and part of the cycle of life. This is what gives you immortality, in a sense. I think that any culture that has strong, positive family values, is likely to succeed against others.” 
     
    I think the West is failing in this regard, and no culture that fails to reproduce itself can reproduce itself. Of course, things could turn around, but only if all the smarties stop moving to the cities and not having babies.

  41. Rag Time, 
     
    Glad you agree with me.  
     
    I think the US should allow new mothers more time off, say 3 months minimum, and pay for it at say 75% of current salary. 
     
    Also, better managed and supervised daycare, with infant/child developmental standards. 
     
    I think though that a peoples’s sense of place and purpose strongly infleunces their willingness to have children or not – all other things being equal. When that sense is strong they have kids, when it weakens or becomes confused they don’t. I know for example confidence in Ireland is running very high, and there is a mini baby boom there. All my cousins – who are professionals – have on average 3 to 4 kids each. This is very high for a developed society. At the other end of the scale is Germany and Japan who have lost their sense of purpose to some extent and just as their economies flounder, so too do their birth rates dwindle. The question is which comes first, moral or economic erosion? 
     
    I myself don’t need any transcendental explanations of the universe or peoples purpose in it. To me it’s obvious when I look in the eyes of my 2 year old daughter, and get that sense of being and oneness. This is the mystery of life, this is it. 
     
    IMO our only purpose here is to reproduce and care for some of our own kind, and we have been programmed by evolution to do that and find solace in it. To not do so, leads one away from nature and ultimately into a nihilistic abyss.

  42. To Scottm: 
     
    The aging wunderkind phenomenon you mention may be a good insight into Duesberg. Consider that other famous wunderkind, paleontologist Robert Bakker. When Alvarez Pere e Fils finally answered the big question in paleontogy – what killed the dinosaurs? – Bakker could not accept it. He still can’t. 
     
    Duesberg like Bakker is just wrong. They were/are both brilliant scientists but they are both wrong. Time pasted them by. 
     
    Here in the SF Bay Area in the early days of AIDS there was a strong political impulse to find a cause for the “Gay Plague” that would exculpate male homosexuals. Gay apologists were desperate for a value neutral cause. They very much wanted a theory that diverted attention from their personal behavior. Robert Gallo provided just that theory at just the right time. 
     
    Duesberg was sceptical early on at least partly because the HIV theory was so convenient politically. I think scepticism at that time was a scientifically appropriate attitude.  
     
    Later it came out that Gallo was something of a crook and his associates were worse. Furthermore the virus was posited to act in a new and rather peculiar way. It was good that someone questioned all this. 
     
    However that was then, this is now. The arguments for Pauling’s Vitamin C theory and Gold’s Deep Earth Gas Hypothesis and Duesberg’s No Virus AIDS Theory were all very suggestive at one time. None of them happened to have panned out. Many people wanted Vitamin C to cure the cancer. Many people wanted oil to be inexhaustible. Alas those theories didn’t work out. Many people wanted HIV to cause AIDS – that one seems to be supported by the evidence. Political groups advance hypotheses that they find attractive but in the long run evidence matters most.  
     
    Currently there is another similar kind of controversial political theory – the MBH98 Hockey Stick theory of Global Warming. In this case there is a constituency for a theory that that proposes that Western Civilization is at fault. Al Gore, the IPCC and most Democrats want this theory to be right. We’ll see. 
     
    To Razib: 
     
    There is a strong political bias in Needham. He was virulently anti-American and anti-Western. He admired the Chinese communists. He may be the ultimate authority on Chinese technology but his judgements are not to be trusted. When there is an unclear record of an invention or idea that appears to have emerged simultaneously in Europe and China, he always assumes that the origin was in China.  
     
    You are of course completly right about scientific culture being fragile and being Western. The record of Chinese innovation demonstrates that, but crediting China with too much is just a modern politically correct fashion. Consider for example the invention of firearms. Nothing could be clearer than that the Gunpowder Revolution swept from the West to the East. Yet pop culture and Needham insist that China invented gunpowder and firearms.  
     
    Many people gain an odd sort of comfort from the notion that China “invented” firearms (or the printing press or the crossbow or cast iron). China has a real record of accomplishment it doesn’t need its reputation gilded by Needham writing to an audience of self loathing post-modern Western liberals.  
     
    I don’t mean that you are part of that audience of course. But it bothers me when people cite Needham as if he were a disinterested ideologically neutral scholar. This is akin to not noticing the theology that is permeates Al Gore’s writings.

  43. pat, 
     
    thanks for pointing that out about needham. i actually know about his marxism, and i generally cite him because though he’s a bit gung-ho, my reading of other authors on china does suggest that the general pattern is correct (ie; china had less of a technological ratchet effect than the west). but, i guess it is important to flesh out these background assumptions since many readers wouldn’t have known that.

  44. “I think though that a peoples’s sense of place and purpose strongly infleunces their willingness to have children or not – all other things being equal.” 
     
    But PConroy, there seem to be an awful lot of directionless youth out there, with no place or purpose, who are having lots of babies. (Are some other things not equal?). I think the reason for West has created a society that is not very conducive to raising children. It’s too commercial and impersonal, not enough community cohesion and group pride – IMO perhaps the result of a little too much focus on money and the rat race. It’s made things too difficult on adults to raise children. Or at least that is the impression of a lot of childless young people with whom I speak. They worry they will not be able to raise their children properly, or that their children will just bring them heartache, so why bother.  
     
    “IMO our only purpose here is to reproduce and care for some of our own kind, and we have been programmed by evolution to do that and find solace in it. To not do so, leads one away from nature and ultimately into a nihilistic abyss.” 
     
    True more for women than for men. But for men also, just perhaps to a lesser degree. I don’t understand women who don’t want to have children, create families and communities. Seems like a natural role. Then again, that role is more easily played when there are ready ways to create cohesive communities, and young mothers are not stuck in a box all day with screaming kids. 
     
    I wonder what community life is like in Ireland.

  45. Rag Time, 
     
    I was really addressing my comments to the readership of this blog, whom I presume are well educated, high IQ individuals – for it is this group that seems to have the fewest children in the US and elsewhere. 
     
    IMO directionless youth who have children, do so as a byproduct of unprotected sex, while under the infleunce of something or other. 
     
    I also think parenting skills should be taught to expectant parents, just like LaMaze Classes etc., where parents would be expected to pass an exam. I think a lot of parents are just clueless about what it means to be a good parent.

  46. I don’t know if I agree with you pconroy. Those with more education often seem to wait until things are stable before having kids. However, it is the people with fewer economic opportunities that often have more kids. I wonder if this is because people with fewer opportunities are having kids to inject meaning in their lives.  
     
    Perhaps people with more opportunities have the luxury of planning and waiting with the expectation that things will get better while they pour energy into their career. 
     
    These thoughts just off the top of my head.

  47. “The arguments for Pauling’s Vitamin C theory and Gold’s Deep Earth Gas Hypothesis and Duesberg’s No Virus AIDS Theory were all very suggestive at one time. None of them happened to have panned out. Many people wanted Vitamin C to cure the cancer. Many people wanted oil to be inexhaustible. Alas those theories didn’t work out. Many people wanted HIV to cause AIDS – that one seems to be supported by the evidence. Political groups advance hypotheses that they find attractive but in the long run evidence matters most.” 
    Agreed Pat, but, excuse me, did you see my comment above? It’s puzzling really, that so many of us purport to despise “authorities” telling us what to think, and yet when anyone does valid research not totally promoted by said authorities, they are relegated to the ranks of wacko, and even those who take them seriously are termed wacko. GNXP certainly know about this phenomenon. 
    Everybody knows politicians and their scribes, the journalists, lie in the line of work, and with good reason; and yet, question them, research for yourself–and you become a “wacko.” I dunno. It’s a strange, ironic world. 
     
    The most recent research does appear to vindicate Linus Pauling: 
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/index.php?newsid=12154 
     
    and http://www.lewrockwell.com/sardi…di/ sardi43.html 
    one of the articles ends with:  
    “The NIH also offered no explanation why it has taken 35 years to confirm the work of Dr. Linus Pauling.”

  48. Karl, 
     
    I agree with you, but I’m neither young (42 yo) nor at the beginning of my career. When I referenced cousins in Ireland, I was referring to similarly aged people, who are research scientists, doctors, surgeons, veterinarians, writers, business managers and the like. 
     
    What I’m commenting on is the phenomenon that many people in the US and elsewhere, at similar socio-economic status, age, success, wealth, etc. are not having any/many children – and what this may do to their psyche.

  49. Pat: ?None of them happened to have panned out.? 
     
    Here is an article from last year that suggests there is evidence from Gulf Coast oil fields that Dr. Thomas Gold?s theory may have substance. (I don?t follow this topic so I don?t vouch for the source or the claims.) 
     
    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=38645

  50. pconroy: 
     
    “I think the US should allow new mothers more time off, say 3 months minimum, and pay for it at say 75% of current salary” 
     
    soonds really good and right and pious and all that…. problem is – a salary is compensation for productive labor, so if someone takes three months off at 75 % salary, this money doesnt grow on trees. so who pays. to my mind it is very simple.. this is a zero sum game…if the prego is getting a free ride… someone is paying by uncompensated work.  
     
    so who should pay????

  51. Fly: 
     
    i think you missed my point 
     
    postmodern relativism aside, there are SOME truths ( maybe more than just some) which while truths are not evident or self evident to many. 
     
    so should the truth or truthfullness of a proposition or argumant be detrmined by reason or by majority. 
     
    obviously, I have my bias on this ( obviously because I am right all the time), but i see an increasing trend towards majoritarian ( and perhaps idiotarian ) resolution of the truthfullness of argumants. 
     
    maybe i am a fucking fascist, but i see major problems doen the line if these trends continue. 
     
    too much democracy will ultimately always lead to the most crass forms of populism.

  52. pconroy: 
     
    “What I’m commenting on is the phenomenon that many people in the US and elsewhere, at similar socio-economic status, age, success, wealth, etc. are not having any/many children – and what this may do to their psyche.” 
     
    Did anyone ever consider that modern western techonological society may actually be finally giving some people freedom from their dawkinian ” selfish gene”

  53. Vic: ?too much democracy will ultimately always lead to the most crass forms of populism.? 
     
    In graduate school one math prof would have the class vote on whether propositions were true. Helped get the class involved. The final truth of the proposition was determined by mathematical proof and not the class result. 
     
    The math class shared the same worldview and agreed on a mathematical process to resolve mathematical questions. Other groups wouldn?t share that worldview and wouldn?t agree on a mathematical process to answer a question. If a dispute arose between groups a process that all accept is needed to resolve the dispute. In some places force is used to resolve disputes. Or authority granted by birth or position. Or wealth. My preference is democracy. Democracy doesn?t guarantee truth but it does help resolve conflict. 
     
    ?too much democracy will ultimately always lead to the most crass forms of populism.? 
     
    Democracy can take many forms. I don?t like complex issues being reduced to sound bites that are mouthed by charismatic spokesmen in order to win a popular vote. Perhaps better methods will evolve as social network and communication technologies advance. If I trusted someone I might transfer my voting right to that person. Perhaps groups could organize around specific issues and solicit people?s votes concerning those issues. Intelligent people should be sufficiently persuasive to garner support for their beliefs.

  54. fly: 
     
    speaking a little toungue in cheek 
     
    how about an Iq weighted democracy?

  55. sorry fellas, my typing/spelling are terrible!

  56. ?how about an Iq weighted democracy?? 
     
    Maybe?but Noem Chompsky?s IQ is likely higher than mine. I wouldn?t want him making my political decisions. 
     
    Actually I believe we already have an IQ weighted democracy. IQ correlates with the wealth, power, and position that strongly influence US democratic practice. High IQ people are more persuasive at every level. Other factors such as wealth might be weighted even more, but IQ counts. 
     
    While I wouldn?t use IQ, I might weigh votes based on issue awareness. A voter should at least understand the question or have a minimal awareness of a candidate?s background. (Even this could be abused. Suppose I wanted increased funding for fusion research. The issue partly depends on the likely success of the project. The people best informed on this topic are also those most likely to benefit from increased funding.)

  57. The problem with any belief system is it becomes reified into dogma. And that is what the current institution of “science” has become. A set of unchallengeable axioms about what is true, no longer a method of inquiry.

a