Tuesday, 30 September 2014

True gratitude is Heaven - From Thomas Traherne

It was His wisdom made you need the Sun. It was His goodness made you need the sea. Be sensible of what you need, or enjoy neither. Consider how much you need them, for thence they derive their value. Suppose the sun were extinguished: or the sea were dry. There would be no light, no beauty, no warmth, no fruits, no flowers, no pleasant gardens, feasts, or prospects, no wine, no oil, no bread, no life, no motion. Would you not give all the gold and silver in the Indies for such a treasure? Prize it now you have it, at that rate, and you shall be a grateful creature: Nay, you shall be a Divine and Heavenly person. For they in Heaven do prize blessings when they have them. They in Earth when they have them prize them not, they in Hell prize them when they have them not.
They are deep instructions that are taken out of hell, and heavenly documents that are taken from above. Upon Earth we learn nothing but vanity. Where people dream, and loiter, and wander, and disquiet themselves in vain, to make a vain show; but do not profit because they prize not the blessings they have received. To prize what we have is a deep and heavenly instruction. It will make us righteous and serious, wise and holy; divine and blessed. It will make us escape Hell and attain Heaven, for it will make us careful to please Him from whom we have received all, that we may live in Heaven.
Wants are the bands and cements between God and us. Had we not wanted we could never have been obliged. Whereas now we are infinitely obliged, because we want infinitely. From Eternity it was requisite that we should want. We could never else have enjoyed anything: Our own wants are treasures. And if want be a treasure, sure everything is so. Wants are the ligatures between God and us, the sinews that convey Senses from him into us, whereby we live in Him, and feel His enjoyments. For had we not been obliged by having our wants satisfied, we should not have been created to love Him. And had we not been created to love Him, we could never have enjoyed His eternal Blessedness.

Thomas Traherne (1636?-1674)- Centuries of Meditations 



Note: Perhaps we are incarnated so as to have needs, and made mortal so they are sharper and more pressing? Our wants are, properly, ligatures to God and our fellow Men. We must choose our basic stance and attitude concerning Life: gratitude for our blessings, or resentment for their incompleteness. Choose to be happy in Life - or odious:

The misery of them who have and prize not, differeth from others, who prize and have not. The one are more odious and, less sensible; more foolish, and more vicious: the senses of the other are exceeding keen and quick upon them; yet are they not so foolish and odious as the former. The one would be happy and cannot, the other may be happy and will not. The one are more vicious, the other more miserable. But how can that be? Is not he most miserable that is most vicious? Yes, that is true. But they that prize not what they have are dead; their senses are laid asleep, and when they come to Hell they wake: And then. they begin to feel their misery. He that is most odious is most miserable, and he that is most perverse is most odious.  

Two very different pictures of the origins of life

The question of the origins of life has become neglected in biology, low status; and is now the interest of a really tiny minority. This is probably simply an index of the catastrophic decline of the subject of biology, rather than active hostility - but there are some fundamental questions raised by the origins of life which are disturbing. 

What is life? For 'cutting edge' biology since Schroedinger it has implicitly become focused on reproduction of organisms, replication of genes - and the process of natural selection. That which is subject to natural selection is 'life' even when the entities are not 'alive'.

So, from a biological perspective, the first 'living' things were non-biological - were some kind of inorganic molecules replicating themselves, transmitting their structure or patterns of interaction to 'offspring' - growing in numbers and spreading by copying or extension of their structures or processes.


Insofar as the origins of life are treated from a biological perspective I think it would be fair to generalize that by the mainstream modern biologist, the problem is seen as one of creating a 'breakthrough organism' - either one or a few - which then expanded and evolved to fill the planet, branching-off into sub-types to make the many types of organisms visible today (plus those which have become extinct).

So the picture in the mind is of an inverted pyramid - a few instances of life at the origins at the base of the pyramid, the breakthrough organisms - supporting a vast variety of later later which came later in evolutionary history.

And the reason the pyramid has a small base is that the origin of life is seen as rare and difficult. THE big problem is getting-replication-going: of creating a breakthrough organism.

Therefore, the 'classic' picture is that it is difficult for entities to replicate - but once replication is established, then it becomes easy for replicators to fill the planet and be naturally-selected to make many types of organism.

In brief summary, the mainstream biological view is: hard to make life, easy to sustain life. And especially easy to sustain life in the primitive world of the earliest forms of life, where there was so much less competition.


I suggest we may have this the wrong way around. And that it is easy to make life, but hard to sustain it.

And it was especially hard to sustain in in the primitive world of the earliest forms of life, where there was so much less competition and constraint. Because (biologically) competition and constraint is good!

Competition helps build organisms that can sustain themselves over multiple generations, because competition maintains the integrity of the replicators (by eliminating corrupted replicators) and without competition rapid extinction is extremely likely.

Thus competition - of particular types - is usually necessary for the survival of a species (a replicating entity) beyond a few generations.


So instead of an inverted pyramid, the picture of the origins of life I would like to paint is more like...

a globe sparkling with many random dots of light, sparks of life - life flashing into brief existence here, there, and (almost) everywhere - but almost immediately extinguished.

Extinguished by mutational meltdown, because the populations are small and the lineages of life have not evolved a mechanism for purging mutations (random variations) from each generation. Life can form, but it cannot keep its integrity, cannot keep its structure, cannot maintain the networks of communication.

The information being replicated or propagated is corrupted by error (entropy), like making an analogue audio-tape recording from an analogue tape of an analogue tape... after a few cycles there is nothing left but noise. Life easily emerges, and as easily goes extinct.

Until after a while a population devises a way of dealing with this tendency to extinction and maintaining its information intact for enough generations, to make a big enough population, that it is protected from extinction, and can devise a wholly effective way of purging errors (e.g. deleterious mutations) from each generation of its system of replication: so errors do not accumulate and this intrinsic cause of extinction is abolished. 


So, when viable life originates, on the globe, a spark does not flash out of existence, but becomes a steady point of light which grows and changes and leads to more growth and change. This happens here and there until the whole globe is covered with light of many hues - flickering and competing (growing, pulsing in size, or receding to nothing). 


Of course, new and viable life is then confronted by all the other causes of extinction upon which biologists have traditionally focused - change in climate or environment, pressure from predators and prey, within-species competition and so on. But that can only happen after solving the primary tendency for life to self-extinguish, to be a mere spark .


Monday, 29 September 2014

The Neolithic high civilization of England - a religious golden age?

View from the White Horse at Uffington beside the Ridgeway; Dragon Hill in left foreground

England has many extraordinary Neolithic remains (Neolithic = New Stone Age - dated approximately 4000-2500 BC and not culturally-terminated by the following 'Bronze Age'); including some of the banked enclosures commonly known as 'hill forts'.

Recent archaeological reconsideration (as well as common sense about the logistics of living on top of hills) suggest that many so-called 'hill forts' did not start-out as permanently inhabited military structures, nor even temporary refuges - but were most likely sites for 'ritual' gatherings, probably religious.


Therefore, perhaps a better name for these early hill-top sites would be Hill Top Temples which brackets them with the more famous stone circles; and clarifies the truly stunning aspect of Neolithic life in England - which is that vast landscapes seem to have been progressively transformed into complexes of Temples: stone circles, hilltop enclosures and flattened arenas, valleys and clefts, causeways, burial sites of various shapes, and some conical ('pyramid-like'?) mounds both small and very large indeed.


These hill-top enclosures are frequently found in both Somerset and Northumberland, those places where I have lived most, many remain un-excavated and barely-explored, and they are still being found so there must be many more yet undiscovered.

For instance, yesterday I visited one of the lesser known, and only half-visible, hill top enclosures beside Bolam Lake in Northumberland - only dated a Neolithic in the late 1990s. There is another similar, also partial, structure looking out over the plain - about a mile to the west. Perhaps this was part of a network extending North into the Cheviots and adjacent hills - and related to the vast amount of 'rock art' in this vicinity.

But the best known Neolithic ritual landscape is that in the South of England which links the stone circle structures such as Avebury and Stonehenge, Hill Top Temples, and huge man-made mounds such as Silbury Hill and its very recently dated 'sister' structure of Marlborough Hill.


What seems to emerge from all this is that:

1. There was a High Civilization of Neolithic times in England, which in engineering terms far surpassed anything else achieved until the Roman era of about three thousand years later

2. This society was large scale - stretching over many scores of miles in large units of thousands of square miles.

3. This implies it was sufficiently cohesive and peaceful to enable very large scale cooperation over many hundreds of years.

4. This also implies it had a sufficiently large agricultural surplus (above subsistence) to allow probably thousands of people at a time to be working on making landscape structures.

5. The nature of these public works, the vulnerabilities involved in constructing them, their un-defensibility, the lack of military structures - all these imply a long era of peacefulness across large swathes of England, of freedom from fear of invasion.

6. All the above would seem to entail that there was a unitary and cohesive religion that united Neolithic England, and that this existed without significant schism or apostasy or abrupt revolutionary changes for many hundreds of years - and furthermore that this lost religion was devoutly held by much of the population. This is really the only plausible basis for such astonishing and large scale peaceful cooperation as observed in Neolithic England.


An amazing thought! A Neolithic religious golden age in England - only beginning to be rediscovered during the past couple of generations!

 Prop portrait from the astonishing 1970s children's TV series Children of the Stones

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The intellectual's delusion (to which I am prone)

That by means of language (the right words in the right order), he can get a grip on the nature of things, and find the balance point at which exactly the correct phrase can be inserted at the correct moment - and flip reality over to the way he wants it. (Like a judo expert throwing a much larger opponent.)

Stated thus, it is clear that we are talking about magic - and the archetypal intellectual was and is the magician, the sorcerer, the scientist of the super-natural.

...In itself a hazardous thing to be - highly vulnerable to corruption by Faustian pacts (e.g. 99.99 % of modern 'research' into whatever).

But there is the possibility of becoming instead a wizard. A wizard could be defined as a religious magician - one who subordinates magic to god.

Thus, the truly secular intellectual is almost certainly evil in effect (and often in intent); but the religious intellectual may do some good; not least in battling the enemy's sorcerers.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Common sense may be rare and getting rarer - and cannot be taken for granted


I have tended to assume that common sense is something which pretty much everybody has - excepting the intellectual elite and psychotics - but which in our modern mass media has overlaid and overwhelmed.

But this is to take common sense for granted. Common sense is in fact a complex functional adaptation to (something like) 'survive and reproduce and raise offspring on earth', and complex adaptations can be lost. Indeed there is an inbuilt tendency to lose them.

Insofar as common sense is a gift of God; it can be lost by rejection of God. Insofar as common sense is a Good, it can be lost by subversion, inversion and the destruction of Good.

Insofar as common sense is a suite of evolved adaptations it can be destroyed by loss of adaptations - from mutational damage to the genes which make the structures which implement the common sense.

(All this on top of the fact that what was common sense in the ancestral evolutionary environment may be mis-matched to the modern environment and may function as common nonsense.)


So, until recently, I have assumed that when the mass media and the crazed, self-hating and suicidal structure of Leftism destroys itself or is destroyed, and brings down the material structure of modernity - we will 'at least' be left with common sense to help survival and rebuilding. Common sense and common experience - in a phrase I used.

But maybe I was being over-optimistic (!).

Common experience depends on intelligence, and average intelligence is falling so rapidly that it seems likely that people after the collapse will not able to learn from experience in the way that was normal through most of the past millennium or so: they will not be as quick nor as able to learn.

And if widespread and cumulatively-severe genetic damage from mutation accumulation is a major element in the decline of intelligence, as now seems to me (unfortunately) highly likely, then common sense will be much weakened and destroyed to a lesser or greater extent.

This seems inevitable as a consequence of accumulation of deleterious mutations which get worse with each generation, and which act like a shotgun blast against the genome - each 'pellet' smashing a gene, and the mass of pellets breaking functions here and there. Each new generation inherits the genetic damage and adds more damage.


The key point here (as Michael A Woodley realized in our conversation yesterday^)  is that in mutation accumulation it is not only adaptations which are transmitted from the parent and inherited by offspring, but non-adaptations, broken adaptations, wrecked and useless remnants of adaptations.

Parents do not just transmit 'fitness' to their offspring, but also the accumulation of unfitness. Common sense is - or was - presumably, to some significant extent, a suite of interconnected and mutually-supportive adaptations supported by genes; and therefore damage to common sense may have a genetic cause, and will be heritable.

The 'nightmare scenario' would therefore be a human population which not only lacks the intelligence to sustain and operate complex modern civilization, but lacks the common sense to function even in simpler societies.


The main message is that although common sense used to be near universal and something which could be taken for granted - and which would re-emerge in situations of crisis - this is much too complacent a view. We cannot just assume that the people who survive crisis or collapse and re-emerge from the rubble will be armed with the levels of intelligence and common sense which we take for granted from history. Common sense is vulnerable, at the biological level.


(^Note: Michael Woodley's insight yesterday concerned the difference between on the one hand heredity of functional and fitness-enhancing adaptations, which has always been the focus of evolutionary theory, and the way that modernity has selected-for non-adaptation, for broken adaptations. And furthermore, damage, hence dysfunction, is not merely inherited but is added-to with each new generation - with each generational wave of new and un-purged mutational damage, with each failure to eliminate the cluster spontaneously occurring deleterious mutations. This is not a matter of offspring inheriting fitness from their parents, but inheriting 'anti-fitness'; and it is not only inherited - because offspring will differ from their parents in having novel and added and extra forms of heritable anti-fitness. In is not an adapted genome which is being selected-for, but a broken genome. In sum, modernity has not selected for a population who are 'adapted' to modern conditions; but for a population whose adaptations are being  destroyed, progressively and generation upon generation. Modernity has not selected for fitness, not even for a new kind of fitness - but modernity has selected for a lack of fitness - for the destruction of complex functional adaptations. And this loss of fitness, of adaptations, is objective and in principle measurable and quantifiable. Such a situation may be unique to human society in the modern world - where humans created an artificial environment which destroyed a critical mechanism for purging deleterious mutations from each generation, and therefore both allowed the survival off, and also positively selected in favour of, high-mutation-load humans who could not sustain that artificial environment which allowed them to survive and reproduce. Clearly the situation is not stable - is meta-stable as WD Hamilton said. We are, at present, in the lag phase when the inertia has allowed modernity to continue after the fundamental basis for its continuation has gone. The uniqueness of this situation, enabled by the truly massive effect the human species has had upon the environment for the selection of the human species during the past few centuries, could explain why the phenomenon has apparently not been previously noticed by biologists - not even the greatest ones. Nonetheless, this is a fundamental attribute of natural selection - http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/the-primacy-of-red-queen-or-what-does.html.)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Why do we need 'purpose' in our lives?

But first: do we really need it?

Yes. Absolutely we need it. Because purpose is necessary to meaning - our lives cannot have meaning without purpose - purpose is what enables meaning.

Purpose is the organizing principle. A so-called-meaning without purpose just reduces to a sensation, a feeling, a state-of-being - coming from nowhere, leading nowhere.


If your life has no purpose, then it has no meaning. To put it harshly - your life is pointless. This is just a fact; and it doesn't matter what you happen to think about it; it doesn't matter if you tell me you are happy, or that you don't really need a purpose... You are a free-spinning cog: going nowhere, going nowhere.. 

So we must have purpose, and purpose must come first.


This could, probably should, be a way of sorting-out your spiritual and religious life; and of combing-through and evaluating the multitudes of wise men and gurus and advisers which are available, which assail us.

What is the purpose of it all? - is what we need to ask. If there isn't a purpose to what is being proposed, it should be rejected as inadequate. If the purpose is lame, confused, self-contradictory - then likewise it must be rejected.

But how to compare the purposes - several religions do have a purpose, and it is coherent - how to compare them


Ask: is the purpose adequate? Here people will indeed vary.

One may find a purpose adequate that another finds insufficient. For myself, I cannot find adequate any purpose which allows only the reality of this mortal life on earth and denies other life. All such notions seem to reduce to no purpose at all.

And on the other side, I cannot be satisfied with a final purpose that renders our mortal life erroneous and superfluous and places all value elsewhere. If Paradise, Heaven, or the Platonic forms are the only real and Good reality - then why bother with mortal life at all? We should not be messing about here on earth; we should Go to Heaven - Go directly to Heaven - Do not pass Go - Do not collect 200 pounds.

Furthermore, I find inadequate an ultimate purpose which is static and involves the annihilation of my-self. If the purpose is that the self is to be annihilated, absorbed - they why bother having a self in the first place? Makes no sense to me.

And I have no use for 'perfection' (in any absolute, infinite, unqualified sense). Happiness - yes; Healing - necessary; Joy - of course. But 'perfection' is stasis... see above.


However, different people really have different priorities for their purpose; and no purpose will be wholly-coherent and wholly-satisfying; because some insufficiencies, some unanswered questions are part of the human condition.

(The human mind, human society, can generate questions a hundred times faster than answers - because while answering one question another hundred can be generated - especially when not listening to the answer.).

But really, everybody must have one - nobody ought to be satisfied without one.

And a state of permanent distraction from the question by serial over-stimulation, busy-ness, numbness and intoxication really doesn't make the slightest difference to the reality of the situation.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Tolkien's five best poems


The primacy of the Red Queen. Or, what does natural selection mainly explain? Yes Speciation and Adaptation; but primarily it *Prevents Extinction*

There seems to be a built-in bias in evolutionary biology, which related to the original purposes of Darwin - and what he was trying to explain.

Darwin was trying to explain two things - the adaptation of species to their environment; and the origin of new species - and he argued that both used the same mechanism: natural selection. In other words, adaptations continue until they lead to new species; new species are explained by adaptation, so by Darwin's account adaptation is primary and speciation secondary.


The context of these enquiries was a late world, a world full of various and competing species of many types, each seemingly fitted to its niche - but with on-going extinctions and a turnover of species across time.

Also, from Darwin's time the major selection pressures are assumed to be external and other than the organism itself: the organism's 'environment', its niche or adaptive zone  - geography, climate, other species - including parasites and prey species.


However, this context implicitly assumes that species are reproducing (as we would say, their genes are replicating) - this is taken for granted. And it takes for granted that the tendency of an organism to self-destruct (with ageing) and to fail accurately to replicate (to produce genetically defective offspring to due to new mutations and other forms of stochastic, entropic informational corruption) are not a significant problem - at most only modifiers of the basic story concerning adaptation and speciation.

In other words the external environment is regarded as primary, and the organism's internal environment - its integrity, cohesion and self-identity - is relegated to subordinate and secondary

But this is a late evolutionary perspective which takes for granted the preconditions of a world with reproducing and adapting organisms - it is a secondary, second-order account of natural selection.

The primary account of natural selection needs to explain how organisms do not become extinct; this problem of extinction must be overcome before adaptation can occur, and the possibility of speciation.

So the primary problem for a lineage is to avid extinction, and the problem of extinction due to internal causes is proximate and powerful. In a nutshell, any lineage will tend to decline in fitness and become extinct, due to the natural tendency for damage to the integrity of organismal information and to errors in information replication - unless natural selection first overcomes this innate tendency.

Thus, Natural Selection is primarily a Red Queen phenomenon, in which the problem for all organisms is to stay in the same place - against the natural tendency towards extinction.

Mutational damage and other forms of entropic damage to organisms will spontaneously occur and accumulate - therefore each lineage is on a treadmill sweeping it backwards towards extinction; and the basic and minimal function of natural selection is to keep the organism moving forwards at least as fast as the treadmill is tending to sweep it backwards.

But even when the Red Queen problem has been solved, the problem remains - underground and always operative. This perhaps is the best way of explaining the most basic original observation by Van Valen which led to the Red Queen idea - all species, no matter how long they have been in existence, are continuously vulnerable to extinction.

I interpret this as being the surface appearance of the underlying treadmill of mutational accumulation; always present, always operative, and so significant that it is always able to sweep any species to extinction if its control mechanisms fail too quickly and completely (although this extinction takes longer when the species has a large population, or enters a more favourable environment).

So, before adaptation, before speciation, first and foremost - Natural Selection must Prevent Extinction; and the organism's primary and unavoidable selection pressure that will lead to extinction unless counteracted is internal, not external.

Children who visit Heaven and have Christian visions

I have recently become aware of the phenomenon in the USA of reports of children who claim to have visited Heaven, or had Christian visions. These accounts have no equivalent in the UK, nor have these stories and significant visibility over here - but it seems clear that there is large scale appreciation of these accounts in the USA, to judge by mass media impact and personal testimonials.

Such accounts are easy to reject, and I certainly would have rejected them when I was an atheist - unless there is a basic openness to the possibility.

If it is regarded as possible that children may be chosen as (minor) prophets - then one or more such reports may be essentially valid - and then, since child prophets are not a normal feature of Christian history, we need to make sense of the phenomenon from a perspective of God's purposes in our time.

Why might God choose children to communicate revelations?

1. One reason is that in modern society only children are open to revelation - God uses children because there is nobody else suitable. This may imply that in our faith life modern people need to be more like children.

2. Another might be that adults are more inclined to believe a child than another adult (because the child is less likely to have an 'agenda' - although his parents may).

3. Another is that the simplicity of a child's messages - which God may judge to be the kind of message that we most need. I particular, God may be telling us that we need, more  than anything else, to live in hope and expectation of Heaven.

4. Another reason may be to indicate the kind of place that Heaven fundamentally is (exact details not vital) - at least to a newly-arrived visitor. I think (?) one common theme of these accounts is that Heaven a place of personal relationships, including being reunited with loved family and friends - and meeting Jesus face to face.

That's about as much as I can say from my very limited acquaintance with the genre.

How would we know if modern people were of lower 'fitness' (due to mutation accumulation) than people in the past?

Fitness (the probability of reproductive success) is something which has so many aspects that - except with the obvious case of extreme low fitness leading to rapid death - relative fitness can only really be evaluated in practice, in situ, in an environment.

So to compare the fitness of adults in 1800 with adults in 2014, the best method would be put people of 2014 into a functional equivalent of the conditions of 1800 - with the same kind of diet, diseases, housing and working conditions; the same lack of medicine, lack of hygiene, lack of cocooning provision; lack of contraception and safe abortion; lack of formal education and the mass media, and the rest of it - and see how well modern people reproduce under these conditions.

It would not be the same! since eight or nine generations have passed with major changes in selection pressure - so moderns would either be significantly better, or they would be significantly worse at reproducing under 1800 conditions.

If moderns are worse at producing viable offspring under 1800 conditions, moderns could reasonably be considered to have declined in fitness - unless it was asserted that moderns have evolved new adaptations in eight generations; which is implausible.

(Implausible because the process of losing adaptations is much faster in generational terms than the incremental building of adaptations - and because the strength and nature of selection pressures would appear to have been changing very rapidly over the past 200 years.)

Alternatively, genetic samples of modern ties could be compared with those of 1800, and compared in terms of the proportion of what seems to be dysfunctional, cumulative mutational damage.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

No resistance to anything anymore - This is not adaptive: this is pathology

It strikes me that one problem is that the West is sick.

I don't mean 'sick' as a metaphor but really diseased, suffering from diseases - perhaps especially Britain which is the most advanced modern society because it was the first. Here there is no resistance to anything anymore. But other places are little better and on the same road.


This is the only adequate explanation for how little resistance there is to lies, nonsense, and the crude inversion of good and evil. People have always spouted lying, meaningless evil rubbish; but in the past they weren't believed, they were not cooperated with, they were resisted and fought

Here in the UK, the majority of young beautiful women choose to vandalize themselves with tattoos; half the population are drunk or drugged half the time (and most of the rest wish they were); the population is almost sterile, by choice, and are being replaced by random others - centuries of culture is being dismantled before our eyes, and the destruction is celebrated.

Multiple millions of people do no work or insignificant amounts of work - ever. The people who are productive and do something useful are despised and harassed and demoralized by armies of politicians, manager, administrators and regulators who are professional saboteurs - actively and unceasingly trying to stop them doing anything useful. The highest aspiration is retirement (not working but getting plenty of money to do what you want) and travel (high status serial distraction with the hope of cheap drunkenness and sexual adventures).


We have been hit by major disasters: the London race riots locked down the city for days but the cause was concealed and nothing was done; Sir Jimmy Savile - the most praised celebrity of all time - was revealed as a sexual abuser of epic proportions whose depradations were widely known but nothing was done; slavery and trafficking slaves has been reintroduced to the nation which first abolished it and nothing is done; organized systematic rape gangs were known about for more than a decade but nothing was done.

There is nothing, nowadays, big enough or bad enough to galvanize the British to deal with it - or even to remember it.


Why? Why have people given-up - en masse?

In the past people were often in scary, dangerous, fatal situations - much worse than now - but they didn't give up. Modern people give up in the face of microscopic pressures; they don't even have enough energy and motivation and integrity to complain! Anything and everything is met with mumbling, grumbling acceptance.


Part of it is that the UK is nominally Christian but there are hardly any Christians, and hardly any of the self-identified Christians are real, and hardly any of them are solid.

But even among real and solid Christians there is very little/ no resistance. There are too few in any one place, with too little interaction between them; they cannot support each other enough to make a real difference.

Nobody among the British will just say NO, and stick by it.


Yes there is 24/7 propaganda for mostly bad things. yes there is soft power - vilifying, shaming, fines, sackings. But why are we so vulnerable to this stuff? People in teh past faced prison, torture, executions without yielding. Why does almost-everybody consent to the system and the vile, destructive fashions?

Why do we despair and do nothing about it.


What this increasingly looks like is a sick society of sick people. An old society, a society of millions on invalidity benefit, tens of millions dependent on drugs - whether they need them or not, of chronic diseases - mental and physical. 

I am not making a Nietzschian point here, I am not yearning for a nation of vigorous blond beasts; I am not despising or hating the sickness of old sick people (after all, I am one of them!). (Modern society is already filled to overflowing with resentment and hatred - it is just that the resentment is feeble, futile, evanescent - hence deniable.)

I am simply stating that there are strong indications that the population of the oldest industrialized society in the world is maladaptive; as individuals and at a group level.

Why? Well all the above is consistent with widespread, near universal, genetic damage; mutation accumulation due fact such as the child mortality rate has fallen from about half to about one percent, and that for six to eight generations the people with the least mutations have had the least children, and those with heavy mutations loads have had the most - also that for several decades the average fertility is well below two children per woman for all classes, and the population of British is shrinking. This is a recipe for eventual mutational meltdown, but on the way to that increasing pathology is inevitable.

So we in Britain, we in the West and East Asia, are a sick society of sick people; and there is nothing that we can realistically do to prevent it; not least because it is caused by what was probably the greatest boon of the industrial revolution - the near abolition of child mortality - which throughout human history has been a major cause of human misery. 

However, it makes a vast difference; it makes all the difference in this world (and the next) how we respond to the facts.

We do not need to be - we ought not to be - what we are now; which is a society of death wishers, a society of time-servers, a passive society of unmotivated hedonists. That we have just given up is because we have as a nation and as a society turned away from God, forgotten God, hate God - and this puts us into a position of weakness unprecedented in human history.

We know in our bones that we are dying, personally and socially - because genetically. We know too that disaster looms. But it is unacceptable to respond by simply trying to get through the intervening time with as as much fun and as little unpleasantness as possible. This attitude doesn't work, it makes everything worse; and it is evil because it not only acquiesces in the destruction of all good things (marriage, family, beauty, honesty etc.) but actively (albeit feebly) promotes evil (sexual hedonism, the marring of beauty and imposition of ugliness, hype and lies and fake denial).

In such circumstances it is not hard to imagine a suicide cult taking hold - even a cult of humane murder on a massive scale; spun as being the only reliable way to avoid future suffering for yourself and those you care about. Because modern secular people regard death as a full stop, an oblivion, and they like the sound of that better than a world of suffering, fear, starvation, disease and violence (which is the world they are working hard to enable).

Therefore, if it is not to become a cult of death, a culture that is dying needs to look beyond death. There is no alternative. Only by looking beyond death can we put a life of disease and decline into a meaningful and purposeful context.

We can only live well in a sick society in the time that remains us (indiviually and collectively) when our mortal lives are seen in context; and context means as not-the-whole thing but a part and a preparation for the whole thing.

No matter how bad things become, and the quantitative scale of a modern collapse would dwarf anything humans have experienced so far, from the individual perspective there can be no suffering or loss that Men of the past have not already experienced - and which some of them have transcended by their faith in God.


Where does it begin?

It can only begin with individuals, individual choice, by opening-ourselves to God. We are not going to be rescued; we are not going to have God forced-upon-us and the future mapped-out and ourselves carried-passively-along. 

It all begins with a change of fundamental attitude. Anybody can do it. You don't need to be young, healthy, high status. You can be old, sick and despised.

No matter how sick you are, you can open you mind, you can say yes. You can repent the evils of our time and in yourself. You can recognize the side of Good and join it.

It makes all the difference: the difference between living the cult of death, and living in expectation of eternal life.


A note on the concept of 'adaptive'.

The idea here is that modern men have lost some of the most basic and significant adaptive behaviours due to mutant accumulation, due to substantial relaxation of natural selection against mutations. In biology, adaptation is (roughly) that a stimulus leads to behaviour which is (on average) beneficial to survival and reproductive success. Thus, pathology/ disease is pretty-much behaviour that is not adaptive - behaviour that does not contribute to survival or reproductive success.

Adaptations are not natural nor are they spontaneous, but they evolved. Therefore random damage will nearly-always destroy adaptations. What is left when adaptations have been destroyed (partly or wholly) is not another form of adaptation, but is disease - it is (biologically speaking) no good for anything - just as cancer (which is precisely a loss of adaptation) is good for nothing (not even for the cancer itself, in the long run).

Mass maladaptation, mass disease, is possible because of the society of growth in peace, prosperity and plenty. But mass and increasing maladaptation is incompatible with a society of growth in peace, prosperity and plenty; because p,p&p are an achievement, unusual in the history of the world (not the default!) - and because mutation accumulation (maladaptation) cannot even sustain p,p&p but will instead destroy it.

For a while, society has been living off the inertia from the major achievements of the past - but the achievements dried up, and have been first parasitized then actively destroyed.

I am suggesting that in the vast majority of modern humans in Britain - and other developed countries - with respect to many, many of their attitudes and actions, people en masse violate adaptive, evolved behavioural rules which could have been taken for granted at any previous point in history; and this is evidence of multi-system disease; and the situation is getting worse. And that understanding the basic cause of this implies matters will continue getting worse until the basic current form of society (modern society, based on growth I productivity of necessaries) will come to an end.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Secular Right, Alternative Right, Neoreaction, Dark Enlightenment, Manosphere is an Antichrist ideology


The word Antichrist refers to an evil phenomenon that is a fake Christianity, something that takes some elements of Christianity but either omits Christ, or else makes him into something other than Lord and Master. An Antichrist may be a person such as any modern mainstream politician in the West advocating Christian language or concepts, or a movement/ ideology such as communism.

The Secular Right movements listed above are Antichrist phenomena because they take elements of Christian morality - especially related to social organization - as a basis for gaining support from Christians, and to make their agenda seem Good.

But at root the agenda is simply a different blend of Leftism - the Secular Right is anti-Christian, pro-pride and with a bottom-line hedonic moral calculus (i.e. good is what makes you feel good, evil is what causes you pain and suffering). Since it is Secular - their ultimate weapon, the One Ring, is hatred (the second most powerful motivator in the universe, but the most powerful one available to secular ideologies): and it will not long resist deploying it.


The Secular Right uses Christianity as a means to an opposite end; similarly some Christians hope to use the Secular Right as a means to Christian objectives. Both strategies will fail, both will end in disaster, and of the same (secular) variety.

The Secular Right (ie. the common-sense Left) hopes to use the impending collapse of modernity to grab power from the socialist pathological-altruism Left, with the help of Christians and other religions whom they then intend first to enlist then to betray, when that becomes expedient. (Obviously betray! since they don't want a religious society.)


How do you know which you are?

Easy - Ask yourself what comes first: what is your priority; is it religious or political; is it repentance and revival, or is it swift and tough action to stop the rot?

(Is it not-of-this-world or this-worldly?)

Simple question: unambiguous answer.

Now you know which side you are on.


(And the pressure to focus on 'this world' as the first priority will only increase as the crisis deepens.)


Note: Commenter Ingemar (below) has dubbed the Secular Right, Alternative Right, Neoreaction, Dark Enlightenment, Manosphere blogplex by the name: 

The Boromirosphere 

with the attributed mission statement: 

"Hey lads, let's use the One Ring to fight Sauron!" 

Reviewing the current Doctor Who - Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor


Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor in the current series of Doctor Who. Not surprisingly I think he is excellent as a Doctor. 'Not surprisingly' because I have always liked Capaldi as an actor, having followed him since he starred in one of my favourite ever movies Bill Forsyth's Local Hero.

Indeed, although I haven't personally met him, my several of my old Glasgow friends and relations (by marriage) knew him via his early job as an artist in the graphic design department of the BBC. So I operate under the covert delusion that Peter Capaldi is some kind of distant cousin, or something.

Anyway I was delighted when Capaldi was cast in the iconic role - and it is already apparent that he could become one of the best ever Doctors; with a very well focused, uncontrived and convincing character (as contrasted with the superficial and manneristic performances of some exponents - who rely on a silly costume and contrived catch phrases).

(Capaldi is presumably some kind of method actor, as well as a master of his craft, because his best performances seem to come from within; as contrasted with the virtuosic surface sparklings of David Tennant - who always seems to be admiring his own stunt-pilot brilliance.)

From the five episodes so-far it is clear that Capaldi can rise to any occasion the stories demand - from very funny to very scary to joyous or nostalgic: the theme being inner toughness. Indeed, the only thing that could hold him back are the scripts/ direction, which so far - and with the exception of 'Listen', which was a near-miss as a classic - have not been really satisfying.

The problem is that there is not enough of the Doctor and far too much of his companion Clara and her Chick Lit life of fashion, romance and being 'feisty' - at times the Doctor is reduced to being a sidekick. This is pandering to the female audience, of course; but even in her own right, Clara is just not a very interesting character - merely a standard, off-the-peg, pretty perky young woman of the Jennifer Aniston-role type - but not so gifted an actress.

(In that respect Clara is a step-back from Amy Pond; who at least had a sufficiently distinctive look and accent - although her romantic life also was given ridiculous and tedious prominence in the scripts, and the character distorted the show's integrity with her typically modern/ shallow - and unchallenged - sense of pseudo-empowered, lipstick-feminist entitlement and self-assertion. The Doctor in space with a stripper: I ask you!)

The political correctness is a problem too, of course - as in all mainstream entertainment; but somewhat worse since the post 2005 revived series was deliberately contrived as Saturday teatime family propaganda for the sexual revolution; with the crass and anti-mythic strategy of (very-obviously and very crudely) subverting and sexualizing the story-arc doctor-companion relationship and insetrting the most banal of current affairs, culture wars, Leftist 'political points'.

The big problem is that in our era, due to the ever-increasing polarization between the secular and religious world views, lack of clarity over metaphysics has become impossible to carry-off^. Things are coming to a point, you are either on one side or the other; you must either alienate the secular majority or the religious minority; and the sides are hard to blur - even by the most skilled writers.

The early Doctor's unstated but vaguely-Christian, quasi-Stoic morality has become impossible. Consequently, the revived series's interminable scripted moral hand-wringing over whether the Doctor has 'done the right thing' or is 'a good man' cannot go anywhere, nor yield any dramatically-satisfying conclusion. (Inconclusive public hand-wringing over ethical dilemmas is what passes for deep morality nowadays.)

The script-editors/ writers themselves, however talented, are what CS Lewis called 'Men without Chests'. (Indeed some of them appear to be genuinely evil - in the sense of actively and deliberately normalizing sin and subverting virtue; strategically propagandizing moral inversions for an under-age audience.)

At bottom the makers of Doctor Who apparently only believe in positive virtues of kindness and happiness, and the inadequacy of this was seen in this week's jarring double deployment of what the characters believed to be a personal suicide device, used to escape a horrible semi-death from a mind-sucking beast. This was treated as merely common sense and unproblematic matter of reducing suffering, although sad. The idea of the Doctor (the doctor) carrying-around and dishing-out suicide devices to those who 'need' them, is horrible in a way that the scriptwriter and editor did not seem to appreciate.

It is exactly as philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre described in After Virtue way back in 1981; at bottom modern secular morality is just a matter of opinion; which sets a limit to how good, how deep, a script can be.

In this light, it is interesting that the explicitly Roman Catholic author Frank Cottrell Boyce has been hired as a writer - this means that there is at least the potential (if the bosses allow it) for a coherently moral story, with a morality more deeply rooted than 'doing this is what makes me feel good'. (Some media reports say Capaldi is also a practising Catholic, but I don't know if they are true; and anyway he is so gifted an actor that it makes no difference either way.)

As so often, we will probably have to be satisfied with glimpses and hints of something Good and Hope-full; and these I am sure Capaldi will give us. The Doctor is a real archetype, and the basic character has repeatedly shown-himself able to transcend all manner of limitations and distortions; as memory edits-out the failures, the dullness, the duds.

But if a really strong script comes his way, and if it is allowed (big if!) - this Doctor has the capacity and range to touch dramatic greatness. 


Note: ^It is not a coincidence that the best, deepest, most edifying novel of recent years (by popular acclaim and in my judgment) - the Harry Potter series of 1997-2007 - was distinguished by a mostly-implicit but solid Christian underpinning. (Although the author JK Rowing has since become apostate and increasingly anti-Christian.)  Christianity was not what made the books good (there are plenty of 'good' books): but it was what made them great.  

Monday, 22 September 2014

Why do so many modern women chose NOT to reproduce at all? Mostly pathological, but partly adaptive (specifically, group selection)


Why do so many modern women choose not to reproduce - especially women of high intelligence?

The average woman in a modern society has considerably fewer than the replacement level of fertility, with only one-point-something children per woman.

Probably about a third or more of women college graduates have zero children - and among the most intelligent women (IQ in about the top couple of percent) the proportion is even higher, and average fertility is something like 0.5 children per woman.


The reason why so many women have zero children is essentially pathological, and related to things such as the secularization of society, decline of parental choice and influence concerning women's fertility, the high prevalence of contraception and abortion (allowing sex without fertility), Left wing ideology propagated in the mass media and so on.

But these are amplifiers - and amplifiers must have something to work-on - something to amplify; and if women were evolved towards 'reproduction at any price' then cultural and technological factors would not have had anything like so large an effect.

Therefore, it is probable that women have some baseline tendency not to reproduce at all under certain conditions; in particular not to reproduce when a suitable mate is not available.


In other words, it seems likely that women have to some extent and under some conditions been 'hard wired' by natural selection that it is better not to reproduce at all, than to reproduce with the wrong man or men.

And if this is true it implies some significant degree of group selection - in the sense that women may be safeguarding the integrity of the group gene pool rather than taking a chance on their own specific reproductive success.

In particular, I am suggesting that women have evolved such that (on average) they would rather not reproduce at all than have offspring with a man who has signs (cues) of carrying a heavy load of genetic mutations - which would correlate with very low attractiveness - which comes from very low status, evidence of significant chronic disease, evidence of developmental or congenital disorders, and even very advanced age - and so on.

All of these are correlated with a higher probability of a significant mutational load. This would, of course, reduce the probability of successfully rearing offspring - but for a women confronted with zero reproductive success, even the slimmest chance of bringing up one child would increase here genetic representation in the next generation more than voluntarily having no children whatsoever.


So, I conclude that the very high proportion of women who choose to have zero children in modern society is mostly a product of social pathology (facilitated by technology) - but that this has been amplified from an evolved tendency of women not to mate with men who are likely to introduce a significant mutation load into her lineage, or genetic grouping of relatives.


NOTE: An alternative strategy to not mating, is what might be termed deliberately sterile mating. It is possible, indeed likely - according to WD Hamilton (Narrow Roads to Gene Land, Vols 1-3), that group selection mechanisms would favour varieties of sexual behaviour that eliminate high loads of mutated genes from the relevant gene pool. This might favour self-willed death (passive or active suicide), self-chosen sterility (as described above), sterile matings (with infertile mates, elderly mates, same-sex mates, or non-human or non-living mates)  or alternatively assortative mating in which low fitness/ high mutation load individuals are attracted to other low fitness/ high mutation load individuals - such that either no offspring or only unfit offspring - unfit, that is, under 'natural conditions' - will result; and the mutational load of both partners is eliminated in a single generation. Hamilton suggests that organisms can sense, internally, the problems due to a high load of deleterious mutations, and infer the high probability of group fitness damage from their own survival and/or reproduction - and adjust their motivation and behaviour accordingly. If correct, this would predict a higher mutational load among those members of the population who pursue sterile mating strategies, especially those who choose sterile mating strategies.)

Top-down and bottom-up ideology and what counts as evidence

All ideology is top-down - but some top-down ideologies include the assumption that only bottom-up factors count as evidence.

These 'bottom-up' ideologies are therefore logically self-refuting when they do not acknowledge that the ideology is itself an exception to its own rule. Nonetheless, the dominant ideologies of our day are exactly of this sort - top-down ideologies which deny the validity of top-down ideologies.

Consequently, human life is (on ideological grounds) chopped-up into discrete phenomena which are (a priori) according independence.


For example, the sexual revolution has proceeded by chopping human sexuality into discrete sex acts, and by implicitly denying that individual acts of sex add-together to make up a larger issue of sexuality which itself is a part of Life.

When each sexual act is judged as if it was a discrete event, it loses meaning to such an extent that any prohibition seems meaningless. Any sexual act under consideration seems so small and insignificant a thing, that to disallow it seems like nonsense.

Of course, any advocacy or positive evaluation of any sexual act of lifestyle is likewise rendered meaningless; but it is at this point that the logical self-contradictoriness of bottom-up ideology becomes useful - because the frame of evaluation is expanded for positively-valued sex acts (positive value being accorded to anything-other-than sex considered in the normative context of real marriage and family).

So only for sex considered as part of the sexual revolution are matters of happiness/ suffering/ freedom/ equality/ spirituality and religion asserted to be important; whereas for any disapproved sexual act or philosophy the context is narrowed down to the act itself.

However, the choice of approval versus disapproval, the underlying assumption, the matter of where the burden of proof lies - which clearly must originate from a top-down ideology - is never discussed and denied if raised.


But the problem is much wider than the sexual revolution. It encompasses all of life.

Modern man is alienated; and a reason why he is alienated is that Modern Man has an ideology which assumes that he is alienated; an ideology which explains-away any evidence that he is not alienated.

When Modern Man perceives a pattern to life, perceives that he is not alone in the world but always in communication, and bound to other people by invisible bonds, and that his life has shape and direction; when he perceives that life is not bounded by death or that consciousness is to be found more widely than just among some humans; when modern man perceives a destiny, direction, meaningfulness in his life  - Modern Man is pre-immunized against any and all such experiences with a debunking ideology which explains that any and all such experiences are merely random, subjective, pathological or pathetic examples of wishful thinking.

Having pre-assumed the futility of Life - Modern Man then announces this as a discovery!


Yes, everybody lives by a top-down ideology; only some people deny the fact; and in doing so deny themselves the opportunity ever to discover their own denial.

Why does God need to communicate in a dream - why is deliberate and open meditation (sometimes) necessary?

Reading scripture, it is striking how often God communicates important message in a dream - and chilling to realize how such communications would almost certainly be ignored altogether, and not given even a moments consideration, in the intellectual climate of today.

Presumably revelations may come in a dream, or in states of dream-like altered consciousness, such as trances or meditations - because that is the only time that God can get our attention. Our minds are, as a rule, so purposive and/or distracted that we are turned away from divine communications, try to ignore them as a distraction - at any rate, cannot hear them above the hubbub of everyday life.

If this was the case in ancient times such as the eras of Scripture - how much the more so in modern times.


Even in solitude our minds are likely to be 'working overtime' or else in some way deliberately impaired (eg intoxicated); and if we regard revelations as subjective, as nonsense, as random events, as wish fulfilment, as self-deceptions - well then although we may get them, we won't perceive them.

That seems to be the way things work - and for reasons which may be understood: Men have the power not to receive communications from God, if they choose not to receive them.


But this 'refusal' of revelation may be indirect - a Man may live such that in practice the divine revelations cannot penetrate the wall of distractions he has erected about himself, or has chosen to allow around himself. A Man may be unable to perceive revelation because of what he insists must dominate his life and his attention.

And this may be true even if a Man says to himself that he is open to revelation, seeking revelation, searching for the meaning and purpose in life...


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Synchronicity of obscure significance - could it be isolated pages from the complete story?

Synchronicity is defined (sometimes) as 'meaningful coincidence' - but that begs the question as to what is meaningful. (Plus, of course, when something is meaningful, it is not coincidence - but somehow causally linked - purposive.) In particular, meaning may only become apparent later, or may only become apparent under certain circumstances.

So coincidences that seems so unlikely they can hardly be coincidence, may nonetheless be apparently rivial or bizarre and difficult to regard as either significant communication. The may indeed soon soon be forgotten (although if the synchronicity events had been understood they might well have been remembered).

My analogy is the dream images and frangments mentioned in Tolkien's Notion Club Papers, pages 189-191 -

- which evoke in the character Ramer a strong 'feeling of hidden significance' - the nature of this significance remains hidden until much later; when he realizes the scenes are fragments of a larger story.  


And that strong feeling of hidden significance in remembered fragments: my experience now, though it is still very imperfect, certainly bears out my guess, as far as my own dreams go. My significant fragments were actually often pages out of stories, made up in quieter dream-levels, and by some chance remem- bered. Occasionally they were bits of long visions of things not invented.

 'If long ago you'd either read or written a story and forgotten it, and then in an old drawer you came on a few torn pages of it, containing a passage that had some special function in the whole, even if it had no obvious point in isolation, I think you'ld get very similar feelings: of hidden significance, of lost con- nexions eluding you, and often of regret.'

 'Could you give us any examples?' asked Jeremy. Ramer thought for a moment. 'Well,' he said, 'I could have done so. I've placed several of my fragments in their proper setting now. But the difficulty is that when once you've got the whole story, you tend very soon to forget which part of it was the bit you used to remember torn out. But there are a couple that I still remember, for I only placed them recently; and I still remember my disappointment. The whole stories are often not particularly good or interesting, you know; and the charm of the fragments is often largely in being unfinished, as sometimes happens in waking art. The sleeping mind is no cleverer than itself; only it can be less distracted and more collected, more set on using what it has.

 'Here's one case: it's only interesting as an illustration. A row of dark houses on the right, going up a slight slope. Their backs had little gardens or yards fenced with hedges, and a narrow path behind them. It was miserably dark and gloomy. Not a light in the houses, not a star, no moon. He was going up the path for no particular reason, in a heavy aimless mood. Near the top of the slope he heard a noise: a door had opened at the back of one of the houses, or it had closed. He was startled and apprehensive. He stood still. End, of fragment.

 What would you expect the emotion to be that this aroused?' 'Like going round to the back-door after closing-time and hearing that just being shut as well?' suggested Lowdham. 'It sounds reasonable enough,' agreed Ramer with a laugh.

 'Actually it was a happiness that brings tears, like the thrill of the sudden turn for good in a dangerous tale; and a kind of dew of happiness was distilled that spilled over into waking, lasted for hours, and for years was renewed (though diminishingly) on recollection.

 'All my waking mind could make of it was that the picture was sombre. It did rather remind me of - or rather, I identified it, in spite of some misfit, with a row of cottages near where I lived as a small boy. But that did not explain the joy. And, by the way, if it had really been a picture of that row, there should have been a pump just at the top of the slope. I put it in. I see it now in dark silhouette. But it was not there in my earliest recollection, not in the original version. Also, I was only the he of the scene in the way one does (or I do) identify oneself variably with this or that character in a tale, especially with regard to the point of vision. The scene was observed more or less from his point of view, though I (the producer) was just behind (and a little above) him - until he stopped. At the emotion-point I took his place.

 'The story that scene came out of is known to me now; and it's not very interesting. Apparently it's one I made up years ago, somewhere in the fifties, at a time when, while awake, wrote lots of things of the sort. I won't bother you with it all: it had a long and complicated plot, mainly dealing with the Six Years' War; but it wasn't very original, nor very good of its kind. All that matters at the moment is that this scene came just before a lovers' reunion, beyond the hope of either the man or the woman. On hearing the noise he halted, with a premonition that something was going to happen. The woman came out of the door, but he did not recognize her till she spoke to him at the gate. If he hadn't halted, they would have missed one another, probably for ever. The plot, of course, explained how they both came to be there, where neither of them had been before; but that doesn't matter now. The interesting thing is that the remembered fragment, for some reason, ended with the sound of the door and the halting; but the emotion left over was due to part of the story immediately following, which was not remembered pictorially at all. But there was no trace of the emotions of still later parts of the story, which did not finally have a happy ending.


So, the fragments get their significance, apparent meaningfulness, their from the surrounding and narrative which links and continues the snapshots of memory.

Perhaps unexplained synchronicity-type coincidence will likewise yeild meaningful content at some future time - if we pursue their meaning and are alert to the clues. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

What comes first: that something *feels* true, or that it *is* true? How to approach Christian evangelism and apologetics

Truth should feel true and be true - subjective and objective - but which comes first?

'Postmodern' thinking says that feeling true is all that can be had - so all truth is personal, and also labile (changing over time, with mood etc) and temporary (everybody dies, and truth dies with them). This is self-refuting - but also a counsel of hedonistic despair.

Some traditional religion has it that truth is true and it doesn't matter what we feel about it - because feelings are personal, labile and temporary (as above). But, if it doesn't matter what we feel about it, truth is incapable of motivating us, incapable of providing a meaning or purpose to our lives. At most we could passively (and miserably) obey....

So we must have feelings and also objective being - but which comes first?

Traditional Christian evangelism and apologetics has it that objective reality comes first - logic and facts then feelings will follow; but traditional apologetics doesn't make converts.

Evangelical Christians and Mormons say that feelings come first - based upon personal experiences such as revelation and miracles; and then facts and logic come-in to back up the feelings - and evangelicals (including Pentecostals and Charismatic churches) and Mormons are the only ones who are getting significant numbers of converts (especially among the young, especially in China, Africa and South America).

So, the lesson for this, our time and situation, is: we need both feelings and logic-facts: but feelings should come first.


Walt Whitman's Specimen Days

This book of prose diary jottings is my favourite thing of Whitman's - and the covert origin, I suspect, of much 'experimental' American writing of the mid-twentieth century (Kerouac, for instance).

The journal starts with the Civil War, but my favourite parts of the later 'pastoral' idylls and everyday life settings.

For a while, before I became a Christian, Whitman's attitude here was my ideal as an approach to Life - the ideal of (at least from time to time) losing myself in this euphoric, pantheistic, animistic reverie.



1876, '77.—I find the woods in mid-May and early June my best places for composition. Seated on logs or stumps there, or resting on rails, nearly all the following memoranda have been jotted down. Wherever I go, indeed, winter or summer, city or country, alone at home or traveling, I must take notes—(the ruling passion strong in age and disablement, and even the approach of—but I must not say it yet.) ...
Dear, soothing, healthy, restoration-hours—after three confining years of paralysis—after the long strain of the war, and its wounds and death.


As every man has his hobby-liking, mine is for a real farm-lane fenced by old chestnut-rails gray-green with dabs of moss and lichen, copious weeds and briers growing in spots athwart the heaps of stray-pick' d stones at the fence bases—irregular paths worn between, and horse and cow tracks—all characteristic accompaniments marking and scenting the neighborhood in their seasons—apple-tree blossoms in forward April—pigs, poultry, a field of August buckwheat, and in another the long flapping tassels of maize—and so to the pond, the expansion of the creek, the secluded-beautiful, with young and old trees, and such recesses and vistas.


So, still sauntering on, to the spring under the willows—musical as soft clinking glasses-pouring a sizeable stream, thick as my neck, pure and clear, out from its vent where the bank arches over like a great brown shaggy eyebrow or mouth-roof—gurgling, gurgling ceaselessly—meaning, saying something, of course (if one could only translate it)—always gurgling there, the whole year through—never giving out—oceans of mint, blackberries in summer—choice of light and shade—just the place for my July sun-baths and water-baths too—but mainly the inimitable soft sound-gurgles of it, as I sit there hot afternoons. How they and all grow into me, day after day—everything in keeping—the wild, just-palpable perfume, and the dappled leaf-shadows, and all the natural-medicinal, elemental-moral influences of the spot.


...But to my jottings, taking them as they come, from the heap, without particular selection. There is little consecutiveness in dates. They run any time within nearly five or six years. Each was carelessly pencilled in the open air, at the time and place. The printers will learn this to some vexation perhaps, as much of their copy is from those hastily-written first notes.


Did you ever chance to hear the midnight flight of birds passing through the air and darkness overhead, in countless armies, changing their early or late summer habitat? It is something not to be forgotten. A friend called me up just after 12 last night to mark the peculiar noise of unusually immense flocks migrating north (rather late this year.) In the silence, shadow and delicious odor of the hour, (the natural perfume belonging to the night alone,) I thought it rare music. You could hear the characteristic motion—once or twice "the rush of mighty wings," but often a velvety rustle, long drawn out—sometimes quite near—with continual calls and chirps, and some song-notes. It all lasted from 12 till after 3. Once in a while the species was plainly distinguishable; I could make out the bobolink, tanager, Wilson's thrush, white-crown'd sparrow, and occasionally from high in the air came the notes of the plover.


May-month—month of swarming, singing, mating birds—the bumble-bee month—month of the flowering lilac-(and then my own birth-month.) As I jot this paragraph, I am out just after sunrise, and down towards the creek. The lights, perfumes, melodies—the blue birds, grass birds and robins, in every direction—the noisy, vocal, natural concert. For undertones, a neighboring wood-pecker tapping his tree, and the distant clarion of chanticleer. Then the fresh-earth smells—the colors, the delicate drabs and thin blues of the perspective. The bright green of the grass has receiv'd an added tinge from the last two days' mildness and moisture. How the sun silently mounts in the broad clear sky, on his day's journey! How the warm beams bathe all, and come streaming kissingly and almost hot on my face.
A while since the croaking of the pond-frogs and the first white of the dog-wood blossoms. Now the golden dandelions in endless profusion, spotting the ground everywhere. The white cherry and pear-blows—the wild violets, with their blue eyes looking up and saluting my feet, as I saunter the wood-edge—the rosy blush of budding apple-trees—the light-clear emerald hue of the wheat-fields—the darker green of the rye—a warm elasticity pervading the air—the cedar-bushes profusely deck'd with their little brown apples—the summer fully awakening—the convocation of black birds, garrulous flocks of them, gathering on some tree, and making the hour and place noisy as I sit near.
Later.—Nature marches in procession, in sections, like the corps of an army. All have done much for me, and still do. But for the last two days it has been the great wild bee, the humble-bee, or "bumble," as the children call him. As I walk, or hobble, from the farm-house down to the creek, I traverse the before-mention'd lane, fenced by old rails, with many splits, splinters, breaks, holes, &c., the choice habitat of those crooning, hairy insects. Up and down and by and between these rails, they swarm and dart and fly in countless myriads. As I wend slowly along, I am often accompanied with a moving cloud of them. They play a leading part in my morning, midday or sunset rambles, and often dominate the landscape in a way I never before thought of—fill the long lane, not by scores or hundreds only, but by thousands. Large and vivacious and swift, with wonderful momentum and a loud swelling, perpetual hum, varied now and then by something almost like a shriek, they dart to and fro, in rapid flashes, chasing each other, and (little things as they are,) conveying to me a new and pronounc'd sense of strength, beauty, vitality and movement. Are they in their mating season? or what is the meaning of this plenitude, swiftness, eagerness, display? As I walk'd, I thought I was follow'd by a particular swarm, but upon observation I saw that it was a rapid succession of changing swarms, one after another.
As I write, I am seated under a big wild-cherry tree—the warm day temper'd by partial clouds and a fresh breeze, neither too heavy nor light—and here I sit long and long, envelop'd in the deep musical drone of these bees, flitting, balancing, darting to and fro about me by hundreds—big fellows with light yellow jackets, great glistening swelling bodies, stumpy heads and gauzy wings—humming their perpetual rich mellow boom. (Is there not a hint in it for a musical composition, of which it should be the back-ground? some bumble-bee symphony?) How it all nourishes, lulls me, in the way most needed; the open air, the rye-fields, the apple orchards. The last two days have been faultless in sun, breeze, temperature and everything; never two more perfect days, and I have enjoy'd them wonderfully. My health is somewhat better, and my spirit at peace. (Yet the anniversary of the saddest loss and sorrow of my life is close at hand.)


Sunday, Aug. 27.—Another day quite free from mark'd prostration and pain. It seems indeed as if peace and nutriment from heaven subtly filter into me as I slowly hobble down these country lanes and across fields, in the good air—as I sit here in solitude with Nature—open, voiceless, mystic, far removed, yet palpable, eloquent Nature. I merge myself in the scene, in the perfect day. Hovering over the clear brook-water, I am sooth'd by its soft gurgle in one place, and the hoarser murmurs of its three-foot fall in another. Come, ye disconsolate, in whom any latent eligibility is left—come get the sure virtues of creek-shore, and wood and field. Two months (July and August, '77,) have I absorb'd them, and they begin to make a new man of me. Every day, seclusion—every day at least two or three hours of freedom, bathing, no talk, no bonds, no dress, no books, no manners.
Shall I tell you, reader, to what I attribute my already much-restored health? That I have been almost two years, off and on, without drugs and medicines, and daily in the open air. Last summer I found a particularly secluded little dell off one side by my creek, originally a large dug-out marl-pit, now abandon'd, fill'd, with bushes, trees, grass, a group of willows, a straggling bank, and a spring of delicious water running right through the middle of it, with two or three little cascades. Here I retreated every hot day, and follow it up this summer. Here I realize the meaning of that old fellow who said he was seldom less alone than when alone. Never before did I get so close to Nature; never before did she come so close to me. By old habit, I pencill'd down from time to time, almost automatically, moods, sights, hours, tints and outlines, on the spot. Let me specially record the satisfaction of this current forenoon, so serene and primitive, so conventionally exceptional, natural.
An hour or so after breakfast I wended my way down to the recesses of the aforesaid dell, which I and certain thrushes, cat-birds, &c., had all to ourselves. A light south-west wind was blowing through the tree-tops. It was just the place and time for my Adamic air-bath and flesh-brushing from head to foot. So hanging clothes on a rail near by, keeping old broadbrim straw on head and easy shoes on feet, havn't I had a good time the last two hours! First with the stiff-elastic bristles rasping arms, breast, sides, till they turn'd scarlet—then partially bathing in the clear waters of the running brook—taking everything very leisurely, with many rests and pauses—stepping about barefooted every few minutes now and then in some neighboring black ooze, for unctuous mud-bath to my feet—a brief second and third rinsing in the crystal running waters—rubbing with the fragrant towel—slow negligent promenades on the turf up and down in the sun, varied with occasional rests, and further frictions of the bristle-brush—sometimes carrying my portable chair with me from place to place, as my range is quite extensive here, nearly a hundred rods, feeling quite secure from intrusion, (and that indeed I am not at all nervous about, if it accidentally happens.)
Many such hours, from time to time, the last two summers—I attribute my partial rehabilitation largely to them. Some good people may think it a feeble or half-crack'd way of spending one's time and thinking. May-be it is.



Oct. 20.—A clear, crispy day—dry and breezy air, full of oxygen. Out of the sane, silent, beauteous miracles that envelope and fuse me—trees, water, grass, sunlight, and early frost—the one I am looking at most to-day is the sky. It has that delicate, transparent blue, peculiar to autumn, and the only clouds are little or larger white ones, giving their still and spiritual motion to the great concave. All through the earlier day (say from 7 to 11) it keeps a pure, yet vivid blue. But as noon approaches the color gets lighter, quite gray for two or three hours—then still paler for a spell, till sun-down—which last I watch dazzling through the interstices of a knoll of big trees—darts of fire and a gorgeous show of light-yellow, liver-color and red, with a vast silver glaze askant on the water—the transparent shadows, shafts, sparkle, and vivid colors beyond all the paintings ever made.

I don't know what or how, but it seems to me mostly owing to these skies, (every now and then I think, while I have of course seen them every day of my life, I never really saw the skies before,) have had this autumn some wondrously contented hours—may I not say perfectly happy ones? As I have read, Byron just before his death told a friend that he had known but three happy hours during his whole existence. Then there is the old German legend of the king's bell, to the same point. While I was out there by the wood, that beautiful sunset through the trees, I thought of Byron's and the bell story, and the notion started in me that I was having a happy hour. (Though perhaps my best moments I never jot down; when they come I cannot afford to break the charm by inditing memoranda. I just abandon myself to the mood, and let it float on, carrying me in its placid extasy.)


Friday, 19 September 2014

WD Hamilton on the inevitability of declining fitness in modern human populations


Edited, and with emphasis added, from a lecture of 1996 entitled 'Between Shoreham and Downe: seeking the key to natural beauty'


...Both the externally driven infectious-disease version sex theory that I support, and that more internally-driven (and at present better accepted) pure mutation-elimination version, lead to a similar conclusion, that a high level of selective death of zygotes has been a normal and necessary part of the maintenance of the health of species.
The only escape from this for our own is either a level of genetic engineering and cellular intervention that is at present not remotely in sight, or a series of technological fixes after or before birth for both all the old diseases of humanity and the new ones that will increasingly appear and accumulate.
The problem is not only with the major new infectious diseases or the major gene defects. There will also be needed physiological fixes for all the small bad mutations that are constantly being added to the human gene pool.
The natural system of life was to arrange deaths after some sort of testing through competition.
Generally in a species with parental care these deaths will evolve to occur as early in life as their effects can be made to appear.
Such deaths eliminate multiply bad and/or currently inappropriate genotypes. The multiply disadvantaged genotypes are constantly being created by [sexual] recombination along with other “clean” genotypes that are likely to survive in their place. The idea that the elimination of the former class is natural and even eugenically necessary, of course, runs much against our humane instincts and it is doubtless partly for this reason that genetics is sometimes referred to as “the gloomy science.”
In the face of such a bleak outlook of constant deterioration, our instincts are almost guaranteed to be pre-set to tell us: “Even if that may true in general, of course it doesn't always apply and surely anyone can see it doesn't apply in my wonderful family.”
But according to the old system, which the new one of medical tinkering is very far as yet from being able to replace and perhaps, even in principle, never will replace (and certainly won't before the Malthusian crunch begins to make medical progress much more difficult), death must cull from almost every family.
No family is so intrinsically healthy against all infections or so shielded from mutations that it is not being carried steadily down hill, in need not at all of the “Rassenhygiene” [i.e. a Nazi term for 'racial hygeine'] of our mistakes of the past; but, as the least, of just a natural wild culling of badly endowed foetuses and neonates.

(End of quotation)


My notes and comments:

Hamilton misses at least three major factors from this account (mostly because their significance was not appreciated in 1996):

1. That for the past 200 years (in Britain, anyway) there has been positive selection to amplify the proportion of mutated genomes - since assortative mating and an inverse relationship between fertility (thus, in the modern world, reproductive success) and fitness indicators such as intelligence, level of education, health, longevity and occupational social class. In other words (except for lethal or very severely-crippling mutations), with each generation the group of people carrying the heaviest mutation loads have left behind a larger proportion of offspring in the following generation, and vice versa.

2. That the population in Britain (and other developed nations) has for several decades been shrinking in the sense of having lower than replacement fertility. This amplifies the concentration of mutations in each succeeding generation.

3. When he says 'death must cull from every family - this 'must' is probably correct in a context where an average women would be expected to have considerably more than six conceptions -with some ending early in development. But the culling falls very unequally - going from a 100 percent cull in some to a much smaller fraction of this - maybe guesstimating fifteen percent? - in others.


Viewed from Hamilton's secular perspective; even despite his implicit devotion to objective transcendental values of truth and beauty, this is an utterly horrible vision of Life.

What is missing from Hamilton's vision is an objective transcendental sense of virtue as something more than mere presence of pleasure/ absence of suffering - but absent far more significantly more than even this is a faith in the reality of Love as the primary reality in Life.

All the above may be factually correct - and I believe it probably is - yet in ultimately reality, properly-speaking, at the end of the day and as the bottom-line: all the above is no more (nor less) than a context for the operation of divine Love.

This is the situation: now Love.

See also Adam Greenwood's meditation on this theme: